By developing local experiences and dreaming up whimsical amenities, hospitality brands are finding new ways to surprise and delight even the youngest travelers, while cultivating deeper, more meaningrul experiences for the whole family.
By Stirling Kelso
T+L Travel Advisory Board member Keith Waldon kept getting requests from clients for trips that would immerse their children in other cultures while, crucially, keeping them entertained. In time, he began to realize that there aren’t many travel operators that serve, as he describes it, “parents who don’t want to drop their children off at a kids’ club or have their teens yawning through a three-hour lour of the Colosseum.” He partnered with travel consultant Christie Holmes to create Global Community (global communitytravel.com), a tour company focused on designing itineraries that educate and engage children and adults alike.
It’s a smart move, considering family and multigenerational travel now represents about a third of all leisure travel-a market worth more than S200 billion in the U.S. alone. Kids are also more involved in vacation planning, notes Rainer Jenss, president of the Family Travel Association. (For more on the trend, see “The Rise ofTweenOirected Travel” on page 51.) All this has spurred innovation across the industry and led companies to reconsider how they can appeal to young travelers. For one, tour operators are going farther afield. Hands Up Holidays (liandsup liolidays.com), whose bespoke trips always include volunteer activities, is adding IO new destinations this year. In Sri Lanka, for instance, children can work on elephant and loggerhead-turtle conservation. Hotels and resorts are developing programming that families can do together and including kids in traditionally adult activities. Aman (aman.com) has rolled out programs like family yoga at its Utah property, Amangiri, while Six Senses (sixsenses.com) is introducing children lo mindfulness through meditation and regional arts and crafts. Even standard lobby practices are changing to cater to little ones: Four Seasons (fourseasons.com), long a leader in family-f iendly luxury, introduced a children’s VIP check-in area at its Boston location, where kids receive a welcome gift and a questionnaire that the concierge will use to design their dream itinerary.
Kids’ amenities, too, are getting an upgrade. As part of the new family program at JW Harriott (jwmarriott. com), youngsters receive an interactive booklet on architecture, cocreated
for each location with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Every Rocco Forte property (roccofortehotels. com) gives its young guests a replica passport and a stuffed animal with a corresponding storybook upon arrival.
New parents aren’t being left out, either, with some properties taking all things infant lo a new level via offerings like chef-prepared purees at Portugal’s Hartlnhal sagres (martinhal.com/ sagres) and baby concierges like those at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarlt (va/larta. grandvelas.com), outside Puerto Vallarta, who can wrangle supplies or arrange a first haircut. So while family travel still has its challenges, the hardest part now might be coming home.