Although a growing number of families are eager to travel together, convincing them to shell out big bucks for seemingly dry experiences is a difficult task. Tour operators therefore need to create lively environments for children to make their trips more appealing to the lucrative market.
Tour operators specializing in luxury cultural trips – many of which take travelers to places such as art museums and top archeological sites – have long focused on attracting older guests through their heavy use conference-style presentations.
But these companies are increasingly targeting young travelers and families with young children by turning away from such professorial talk while emphasizing the use of technology. The change comes as more people express a post-Covid interest in traveling with loved ones. Seventy-six percent of respondents to a recent consumer survey from seven countries said they plan to travel more with their family in 2022 than in 2021.
“There’s a really growing segment of travelers and a younger age group who really want to have these empowering cultural experiences.” said Adam Sebba, CEO and co-founder of new UK tour operator The Luminaire. The company surveyed travelers around the world with a combined value of $4.4 billion before its launch.
“I think the proportion of people wanting to (just relax on vacation) has gone down and been replaced by a growing segment of travelers wanting to go to Antarctica and see climate change with climatologists and educate their kids.”
Sebba said he noticed a huge increase in requests for educational experiences in a previous position. He declined to provide a figure on how many trips The Luminaire has booked for families, but said the company is seeing strong interest in family trip bookings for summer 2022. The first booking request from The Luminaire came from a father and teenage son planning to travel together.
“If you are going with family or a group of friends, you want to have a shared experience. If you just sunbathe or lay by the pool, you won’t have those shared experiences,” Sebba said. “When you learn something from an expert, you all come together with memories and a common bond. It can be a very powerful experience to have.
But how do companies active in the sector strive to make their trips more attractive to a younger population? June Chin-Ramsey, CEO of US-based Context Travel, said her company featured videos of its offerings with shorter sound bites instead of promoting teacher-style presentations.
“People want to know that it won’t be a boring conference that will put them to sleep,” Chin-Ramsey said. She added that while older guests might not have a problem listening for between 60 and 90 minutes, that format is generally not appealing to many younger guests who want more interaction during tours.
Similarly, Sebba said the Luminaire plans to create augmented reality and virtual reality content with its experts. He added that the company aims to use technology to bring historical sites, such as the Colosseum in Rome, to life with historical figures.
While Chin-Ramsey thinks it’s appropriate to take children as young as four on tour, Sebba acknowledges that it can be difficult for very young guests of that age to engage with items that they will encounter, like a sculpture or a painting. But The Luminaire plans immersive experiences on its tours that Sebba considers captivating for children. He provided, as an example, his company’s upcoming trip to a paleontology camp in Wyoming, where guests can dig for a dinosaur.
“The interactive experiences are for both adults and children,” Sebba said. “But we see immersion as an essential part of the child engagement process.”
The growing desire to provide educational opportunities for children extends to hotel choices. Sebba revealed that the company had learned from the survey before its launch that the most important criteria travelers had for a hotel was the ability to educate children and the opportunity to have meaningful experiences there.
“For me, it was definitely a penny drop moment,” Sebba said.