Family holidays are booming but agents are being encouraged to think outside the all-inclusive box. Lee Hayhurst reports
There’s no doubt all-inclusive has been the star of the show for family holidays in recent years, but specialist agents and operators report increased demand for more-adventurous options.
Family bookings for this summer are growing at double the rate of the market as a whole, with almost two-thirds of family packages being for all-inclusive holidays.
But as holidaymakers look for more experiences while they are away, and working parents place higher value on family time, agents believe they can be tempted to broaden their horizons.
Luxury travel consultant Pauline Stoneman, of specialist online agency Take The Family, said: “It’s a shame people always want all‑inclusive.
“They’re afraid of how much it’s all going to cost. But if there’s a hotel offering B&B or half-board, look at the difference and ask ‘are they really going to spend all that on drink and food per person?’
“Most of my queries come from wives who understandably don’t want to self-cater, but you could make a rule that you eat out in the evenings and do a help‑yourself lunch or breakfast.
“It’s trying to talk them through the options. Even in places like Greece people still want all-inclusive, which is such a waste.
“Eating out in Greece is part of the adventure, and you can do it quite cheaply. I would love to encourage more people to think outside the all‑inclusive box.”
Gary Whelan, manager of The Family Holidays Company, said all-inclusive remains the most popular holiday as families like to budget in the wake of the pound’s post-Brexit slump.
But he said clients were seeking flexible accommodation as well as more-active holidays.
Asked what the modern family is demanding, he said: “A separate sleeping area for the kids, as a client of ours said ‘why do we want to share with our kids on holiday when we don’t for the other 50 weeks of the year?’
“The most popular holiday in the last two years is a self-catering villa in the grounds of a hotel with amenities such as a kids’ club.
“And more parents are enquiring about hotels with sports facilities such as football academies rather than just kids’ clubs.”
The Family Adventure Company, part of Intrepid Group, has seen a 25% increase in sales this January compared with January 2016.
To meet increased demand for adventurous and experiential family holidays, it has increased departures by more than a third and the number of itineraries has gone up from 40 to 47.
It has also introduced active holidays in Croatia and Slovenia, a 12-day trip to Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, and increased the number of its Comfort range of departures, which offer higher standards of accommodation and transport, from 14 to 52.
Managing director Michael Edwards said: “Our top sellers are Vietnam and Costa Rica, indicating families are willing to travel farther afield for a memorable experience and fantastic value for money.
“With Ofcom finding British children are spending at least five hours a day on their smartphones, tablets and TVs, families are looking for more-active holidays to tempt kids away from gadgets.
“There’s a great opportunity for agents to capitalise on the demand from families for an alternative to a fly-and-flop holiday.
“Going on an adventure holiday doesn’t have to mean roughing it or missing out on chill-out time. Nearly all our hotels feature pools, and each day has a mix of adventure and free time.”
Intrepid said single-parent families are an increasingly important market for its group trips as it offers ready-made travelling companions.
But Stoneman said she’s been amazed by how many larger families there are due to parents on second marriages and multi-generational families.
This group also lends itself to the growing market for non-hotel rental-type accommodation, driven by the likes of Airbnb and HomeAway.
“It’s difficult to find the right hotel accommodation especially in peak season because families want interconnecting rooms,” she said.
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