By Eileen Ogintz and Kyle McCarthy Sun, sand and happy kids. Just make sure the little ones don’t eat the sand. Maybe your family would rather be hiking in a national park or exploring a foreign country. Wherever you go this summer, all of us want the same thing: The chance to relax and make happy memories, Vacation memories, families say, not only last a lifetime but are among the most important they have, helping them to get through the tough times. Just thinking about the vacation ahead can put the fun back in everyday life, Disney Consumer Insight Team’s Amy Foster told the attendees at the First TMS Family Travel Summit in Orlando. “Fun is not frivolous,” she said. “Fun is precious.” According to new research from MMGY Global reported by Peter Yesawich at the Summit, the vast majority of family travelers want time to relax, unwind and spend time together. Eighty percent want to see new places (forget customer loyalty) and 75 percent want an easy to get to destination. Supervised kids clubs aren’t so vital to these time-starved families said Yesawich, with 78 percent of families opting for free WiFi over kids programs on their last vacation. Digital media in all forms was tasked with making the travel research and booking process easier and less confusing for families, who want to be assured that their needs for connecting rooms and adjacent plane seats will be honored. With demand for family-friendly summer vacation destinations and multigenerational accommodations and organized tours at an all-time high, according to industry sources, those attending our first TMS Family Travel Summit looked at what “family travel” really means today. For the instant summer vacation marketing guidelines that emerged from TMS Family Travel Summit, and you can read more in our report. The 35 Summit attendees from around the country lapped up the data points, generating 54 million-plus #TMSOrlando impressions throughout the weekend by sharing insights with their followers. Marketers take note: • The classic married couple with two kids represents less than half of all American families. • Single parents run 16% of all households in the industrialized world and, social media statisticians would have us believe, moms control everything—including vacation planning. • Grandparents rock—especially when it comes to vacations. More than a third of grandparents who are active travelers have traveled with grandchildren just in the past year, according to the 2013 Portrait of American Travelers • Generation C -- the collectors, creators and curators among us-- are driven to share every experience on and offline. • American families now average a shorter length of stay on vacation --2.73 nights – but are still traveling as the economy recovers, According to research by D.K. Shifflet, The group cited social media’s potential for broadening the family market, from helping less affluent families to find vacation values to sharing advice. At the same time, Dorothy Dowling of Best Western International notes that with women managing their own incomes, their household expenses, and the finances of their own parents, the “sheconomy” controls approximately two-thirds of America’s wealth. How has this affected family travel? It has put women and moms in the driver’s seat when it comes to making vacation planning destinations. One of the most important trends identified at the Summit was the need to satisfy Generation C. Their constant need for stimulation and new experiences means the travel industry must provide activities to satisfy every age group, and make those experiences photogenic as well, so that guests will share them. Social media, researchers and attendees agreed, is the sales tool that can share those memories and turn happy family vacationers into brand evangelists. Here are seven ways Summit attendees—leading travel media and marketers—believe can improve the family travel experience: 1. Offer vacations in all price ranges so that less affluent families can afford to vacation. 2. Empower today’s maker families to book trips themselves by keeping it simple and transparent.
 Make getting to your destination easy and fun. 3. Welcome diversity in staff and guests . 4. Make guests feel like everything they do is new and unique. 5. Give them free WiFi and encourage them to share memories about you. 6. Arrange activities for all ages together. 7. Have your photographer and filmmakers on hand to record the fun. Makes sense to us.

News release: Family Travel Influencers at 5th TMS Family Travel Conference prove to be case study in travel industry content paradigm shift to social media

KANSAS CITY, MO – Family travel influencers gathered in Kansas City for the fifth TMS Family Travel Conference (held Oct. 16-18) proved to be a case study for what speakers were emphasizing-the emergence of social media engagement as key to successful travel  marketing.

The  70 conferees engaged with nearly 600 off-site family travelers to share Kansas City’s many family-friendly attractions, generating tens of millions of social media impressions by using the #TMSKC tag over the three-day event.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the record social impressions realized at the TMS Family Travel conference, and we are tremendously proud that our destination and organization could play a role in that success,” said Ronnie Burt, President & CEO of Visit KC. “The TMS Family Travel Conference was an important group for us to attract and host.”

The professional development conference was organized by Travel Media Showcase and Family Travel Consulting and hosted by Visit KC. TMS Family Travel also produces an annual summit, scheduled for April, 2016 in Sandestin, Fla; the 2016 Fall Conference is scheduled for November in Amelia Island, Fla.

Major travel brands including Disney, Southwest Airlines and trivago, destinations ranging from Costa Rica to Cabarrus County, NC and hotel groups including Great Wolf Lodge sponsored workshops about producing quality content and how media  can work  directly with brands to make their messages resonate in the family travel space. That space now includes all varieties of families–millennials without kids traveling with their families, single parent and LGBT families and multigenerational families.

Speakers included Catharine Hamm, travel editor of the Los Angeles Times and incoming president of SATW, and Kevin Smith, Deputy Director of the Ohio State University Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.

“Ultimately this conference allows our team to share our knowledge and best practices while gaining valuable insight into the ever evolving world of travel media,” said Linda Rutherford, Southwest Airline’s Vice President of  Communication & Outreach.

“High-quality, engaging content that people spend time consuming is the biggest key to SEO success,” said Veronica Stoddart, the long-time travel editor at USA Today who now works with brands at VS Content Strategies. She added that content marketing is entirely different than traditional advertorials, with brands dedicating large teams to creating authentic content. GE and IBM are publishing more content each week than Time magazine did in its prime, Stoddart said.

“It must be authentic, inspirational, experiential, relatable, targeted and relevant, with curated images and video,” said Jeffrey Eslinger, Sr. Director Account Services at D.K.Shifflet, who advises destinations on the importance of new-style branded content.

The topic of travel now has tremendous power on social media, said Steve Cohen, VP, Research & Insights, MMGY Global, noting that one in three travelers use social content for travel inspiration and planning; 73 per cent post to social networks at least once a day while traveling, and 75 per cent use social media to continue sharing their adventure after the trip.

“We learned that 90 per cent of consumers find sponsored content to be useful, and since #TMSKC was focused on creating better and more engaging blogs, images, videos and social media to enhance all family travelers’ experience, it’s a win-win for everyone,” said Joanne Vero, of Travel Media Showcase,  the conference producer.


About Travel Media Showcase

For its  17th year, Travel Media Showcase will bring together leading print and broadcast travel media with tourism representatives from around the world to showcase new regions for media to cover, and connect destinations with qualified leads, in Grapevine, Texas, August 2016.. Both Travel Media Showcase and the TMS Family Travel brands are a division of J. Vero & Associates, a conference production and management firm based in New Jersey.

About Family Travel Consulting

Family Travel Consulting is the collaboration of Eileen Ogintz of Taking the Kids, the nationally syndicated travel column with millions of readers; and Kyle McCarthy of Family Travel Forum, the vacation planning resource that’s The Wall Street Journal’s “Best for Grandparents” and a Forbes “Favorite.” FTC provides strategy, marketing, digital and social know-how to travel and family products, and hosts the TMS Family Travel Conferences and Summits for media reaching the family vacation audience.