In the highly competitive tourism business, hotels need to find ways to differentiate themselves in order to attract guests. Many hotels have seen success through marketing themselves to “niche” target markets, with one of the fastest growing segments being families.
Families with dependent children represent a significant proportion of the travelling population and are an important market for tourism providers. To attract them, hotels must make a point of appearing “family-friendly”, attracting parents through property descriptions, photos and videos. This doesn’t have to mean water slides and pirate or princess-themed rooms, but it does mean offering an experience that will firmly place you as a “family-friendly” contender.
Having researched what it is families are looking for when choosing holiday accommodation, we have found 15 of the best ways to entice more families to your hotel:
1. Kids Club
Parents love the idea of a kids club, which allows them some much needed time out to explore the hotel surrounds or simply enjoy a book by the pool. But they don’t just want any old kids club. Parents are looking for:
- A quality, safe facility that has been approved by a professional organisation and offers up-to-date standard operating procedures (SOPs) in security and safety.
- A wide range of activities to excite and keep children entertained without risk of boredom. Club sessions should include a mix of indoor and outdoor play, crafts, games and other innovative ideas.
- Engaging, polite and happy staff that are well-equipped to handle children during tearful moments.
- A kids club that caters for all ages and not just the over 4s. Many parents are happy to pay extra for a baby/toddler creche.
- Flexible hours. Let Mum and Dad mix it up by dropping the kids off in both daylight and night. The longer the opening hours, the more appealing it sounds to parents needing a break!
- Multilingual staff. If your hotel attracts a number of tourists from a certain country, be sure to have a member of staff that can communicate with the children.
2. Early sittings for lunch and dinner
What family of young children doesn’t like the idea of a midday nap to rejuvenate the kids after a good morning of swimming or exploring? Flexible food times mean families can fit meal times around their children and activities and an early dinner sitting means Mum and Dad can feed the kids, drop them at Kids Club and then go off for a meal themselves. A great kids menu won’t go astray either.
A kitchenette is a fantastic facility for families, especially for those with fussy eaters. Even the most basic of kitchenettes allow families to pack the cereal, make some toast or microwave the baby’s bottle.
4. A family-geared website
Treat your website as your storefront window and centre the focus on families. Include lots of pictures of kids having fun, show off your family-friendly amenities and include reviews from parents of different aged children.
5. Form family-friendly partnerships
Value-added packages can make a family choose you over the competition and a healthy partnership doesn’t have to cost you much. Offer deals, such as “Book a Family Suite and Receive a Family Pass to Seaworld” or “Stay 3 Nights and Receive a Family Meal Deal from A Slice of Heaven Pizzeria”. In exchange you can offer free advertising throughout your hotel.
6. On-site store
When you leave the house with kids in tow, you’re sure to leave something behind and parents like the comfort of knowing they can purchase some extra suncream, nappies, chips and muesli bars. You can also go further by offering a hire service for strollers, high chairs, bottle warmers and baby baths.
7. Friendly customer service
We all know that in the hospitality business, customer service is key. Parents want to see their child’s allergies taken seriously and staff interacting with kids of all ages. Offer fresh towels at the pool, provide timely service in the restaurant and ensure the front-desk staff are well-schooled on local family-friendly activities.
8. Promote your family-friendly status
There are a number of ways to promote yourself both online and in print as a family-friendly hotel. Highlight your property as a family-friendly hotel on TripAdvisor, share online reviews, make use of social media and advertise in parenting magazines.
9. Innovative kids activities
Just because you don’t have a kids club, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with the kids during their stay. Invite child guests to enjoy a complimentary cookie-making class with the chef on Thursday’s, throw a pajama party on Saturday night or hire a magician for Sunday.
10. Offer group bookings
Many families enjoy travelling as a group, be it with friends, grandparents or other family members. Offer deals for multiple room bookings and offer packages for a family reunion or birthday party. Interconnecting rooms can be helpful too.
11. Offer something warming
Show families that you love children in your hotel by offering something simple, yet heart warming. You could do this by offering a free cookie and glass of warm milk at bedtime or a welcome pack complete with crayons and colouring in pages, a disposable camera and a drink bottle.
12. Special offers and happy hours
Entice families to visit off-peak by offering incredible deals they can’t refuse. Offer a suite upgrade, “children stay and eat free” deal or half price gelato/sundae bar from 2pm-5pm.
13. Check out the competition
Check out other hotels in your area to see what they’re offering but also don’t forget to look further afield. More and more hotels are getting creative with their family-friendly ideas and there’s a whole lot of inspiration out there. The Ritz Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation offers kids the opportunity to become a water scientist for a day, the Hawks Cay Resort offers a dolphin connection program and the Mohonk Mountain House in upstate New York provides a Junior Naturalist Experience.
14. Don’t forget the teens
While catering for the little ones is important, the not so little ones are equally important when it comes to a family holiday. Many parents are looking for family-friendly accommodation that will see their teens happily join them for a holiday before they turn “too cool”. Consider offering console game hire, a dedicated under-18 hang out spot, teen “learn-to-surf” classes, SUP hire or a movie lounge with a wide range of DVDs.
15. Create a WOW factor
Identify what it is that attracts families to your hotel and market the hell out of it. If there’s not one thing in particular that stands out, create something. You need to have a wow factor that will stick in the minds of parents browsing online and this can be anything from the location to the swimming pool.
About the author
Mags Huggins has worked in the tourism industry for over 20 years and currently specialises in creating the best experiences for family holidays in the Gold Coast, Australia at Focus Apartments. You may contact her at [email protected].