Comment: Families are unwilling to give up on holidays

Designer Travel’s Amanda Matthews says creativity is key to securing valuable bookings

Family holidays are a big deal here at Designer Travel, representing more than 35% of our business. Many of our 150 home-based agents have their own families, which means they are well-placed to offer expert advice and can really understand the needs of families.

Over the last few years, the family landscape has changed quite a bit for us. We are seeing families wanting to go on more-adventurous holidays, go farther afield and even try new things like cruising. We try to inspire our families and we always throw in a ‘wild card’ with all quotes, which quite often will lead families to consider new experiences they hadn’t previously thought of.

Recently, we’ve been finding that families would rather shorten their stay a little to get their perfect hotel, instead of going for longer in a hotel that doesn’t quite tick all their boxes. We are seeing a lot more business going to the likes of Ikos Resorts and Grecotel for shorter‑than‑usual durations in the summer.

Prices have been a challenge for many families and we still have a large percentage who we know are waiting for a late offer. Prices for families are currently looking competitive for this summer, with many suppliers offering free places and other family special deals. We also try to offer our families options for the next season and advise them to lock in their prices with a low deposit, which helps with our forward sales during lates.

Ample room

Space is another important factor, with more and more families wanting ample room for their children, especially as they get into their teens. Many of the new hotels and existing hotels are reacting well to this trend by opening up more family rooms and interconnecting options.

As we all know, any travel advisor worth their salt can really help a family make the most of their special time on holiday together. Good agents are adept at establishing a client’s needs and then finding the perfect options for them. At Designer, our repeat booking levels are over 90%, which shows we build a strong rapport with our clients from the offset. We hope this will be bolstered further by the recent launch of our ‘Fab Bank’, our in-house system in which we all share our secret tips and recommendations with each other. Knowledge is power in the travel industry and harnessing over 150 experienced experts’ knowledge is already proving to be invaluable in helping to close sales.

Extra training

Another feature we have launched in May is ‘In the Spotlight’, where we take two market sectors or destinations per month and do lots of extra training and social coverage around them. In May we are focusing on families and the Indian Ocean, as the Maldives and Mauritius have been really popular with our families over the last few years, but there’s always scope to improve. We work hard with Beachcomber Tours for Mauritius and Ozen and Atmosphere Hotels for the Maldives, which all have amazing family offers and great room options and offer affordable deals in the summer for families. Many of these go into the mix as our aforementioned wild cards and end up converting into bookings, as families rarely seem to know their budget stretches to such destinations.

Africa has also been a big hit with families so far this year, along with family cruises. Our family cruise business has doubled and the vast majority of these bookers are new-to-cruise. This trend has been for families with 10-year-olds up to late teens.

Various agents and operators have reported a mixed picture when it comes to the family market this year, and while it’s something the industry must keep an eye on as consumers battle with rising costs, I am confident it will pick up again in time. After all, there have been numerous studies that suggest holidays are sacrosanct: the one expenditure families are simply not willing to give up.

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