The multigenerational holidays sector may not be attention grabbing but offers agents real potential says Steve Dunne, chairman of the Brighter Group

The travel sector is constantly inundated with theories of what the next big thing is going to be.

Wellness, luxury, adventure and the “silver generation” are commonly held up as the segments to watch.

But history tells us that often the most important and significant trends are so obvious that they go almost unnoticed. Like a lazy river, they move slowly, almost imperceptibly, developing under the industry’s radar – less a revolution, more of an evolution. And yet it is these gentle but shifting currents that have a real transforming effect on the market.

Having recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise, I believe that I have seen a phenomenon that I know many in travel will claim to have long been aware of – yet I don’t hear as much about this sector as I do about wellness, culture, adventure and luxury.

Extended families

The trend I’m talking about is the multigenerational holiday.

It’s a sector that may seem less glamorous than others, but travel brands and destinations that ignore it do so at their peril.

On my cruise, the multigenerational family was very much present. I saw many groups that were made up of grandparents, parents and children; I even met two family groups that had great-grandma in their line-up too.

The cruise line catered for the group as a whole but also had activities aimed at the different age groups.

For the grandchildren the kids’ clubs kept the youngsters occupied all day and much of the evening; great-grandma had bingo and quizzes; grandparents had enrichment lectures and excursions; and parents had surf simulators, rock climbing and dance sessions.

Another benefit for the parents was that having grandma and granddad on holiday provided an instant and trustworthy babysitting service.
Societal shift

From talking with families on holiday and doing some research, I have since discovered that the multigenerational family is a product of a shift in our society, our economy and our culture.

Many of those I talked to lived together as multigenerational families.

A casual search of published research and studies underlined how powerful this segment is. According to insurance company Aviva, there are 1.5 million UK households with three or more generations of the same family – a figure predicted to rise to 2.5 million by 2025.

Furthermore, 3.8 million people aged between 21 and 34 will be living with their parents by that year too, an increase of 33% on today.

There are an estimated 14 million grandparents in the UK, half of whom have a living parent – so living family lines are getting longer.

And this is not just happening in Britain. In the US, 18% of the population – about 57 million Americans – share a home with older generations in their family, more than twice as many as in the 1980s.

Those figures potentially dwarf anything that luxury, wellness or adventure travel present.

So before we focus too much on one of those ‘in vogue’ sectors, it might be worth examining the multigenerational family segment.

While it may be less attention-grabbing as a sector, it could be where the real riches lay for travel agents, tour operators, cruise lines and destinations