Catering to families has proven to be a smart move for many a travel brand, and there’s growing evidence that even in these tough economic times the family vacation has become more important than ever—with families working hard to find more value for their travels, rather than sacrifice the idea of taking a vacation.
As brands continue to target family travel, there’s a growing emphasis on talking directly to kids in both marketing efforts and product delivery. All of which makes sense, since a survey done by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts found that 7 of 10 kids age 6–15 say they actively help their family plan where to go and what to do on vacation.
In talking to kids, it’s important to remember that today’s youth are part of Generation Z, the first generation of true digital natives where computer technology has been ever-present. They are heavily engaged in social networking, well educated, exposed to boundless amounts of information and used to learning through games and other interactive learning models. They are skeptical about traditional ads and, like their parents, are more likely to trust friends and others in their social network.
West Virginia is one of those travel destinations that’s working to reach beyond parents and talk directly to kids. It has created a website at www.wvtravel4kids.com that’s designed to specifically appeal to young travelers and includes facts about the state, places to go, things to do, current events, puzzles, games and more. It’s a useful and engaging resource not only for creating interest in the state, but also as a planning tool for anyone already committed to coming to West Virginia. An important reality, since a recent Mintel study on family travel found that more than one-third of family vacationers say they do research after they’ve arrived at their destination.
Another interesting nod to the value of talking to kids in a language they’ll understand is on display at LEGOLAND Windsor, just outside of London. It has assembled a team of six boys and six girls, between the ages of 8 and 12, to serve as concierges that will advise their peers on how to spend their free time and enjoy the park. Who better to share a kid’s perspective and joy than another kid.
Which brings me to Great Wolf Resorts which, not surprisingly, really does seem to listen to and understand what keeps kids (and, ultimately, their parents) excited and happy. I guess when you build your whole business around family travel, you understand that kids themselves are a vital target audience. Taking advantage of the complete convergence of technology, it has introduced photo sharing that’s triggered by RFID wristbands that guests get at check-in. When you visit any one of the photo stations (Paw Posts) spread across the property, you simply scan your wristband, pose for pictures and have them instantly uploaded to Facebook.
What West Virginia, LEGOLAND and Great Wolf are all doing is acknowledging the central role kids have in the family travel experience. What are you doing to leverage this reality and create ways to engage kids at every point of the planning, booking and experience journey?
Talking to your customer has always been core to creating great marketing and memorable product experiences, but when was the last time you reached out and talked specifically to the kids who are using your product? Or created a little advisory group of this target audience to give you their unique view on your marketing, services and experience and how they could all be made better? It’s a perspective that you’d be wise to increasingly listen to and factor into your planning and business approach.
Giving kids a voice. It’s an essential step in getting them to engage you and your brand.