NEW YORK — The first Family Travel Conference, which convenes at the Omni Berkshire Hotel Feb. 3-4, underscores what parents, and some in the travel industry, have known for a long time: Family Travel is big business.
Family travel now accounts for well over 100 million trips a year and is one of the fastest growing segments of the leisure travel market with hotels, cruise lines, even adventure companies offering an ever growing array of programs and amenities for families. More than a million children now cruise each year; Baby Boomer grandparents increasingly are part of the equation. No parent or grandparent any longer apologizes for bringing a child, even to the toniest hotel. On the contrary, today’s family travelers expect the travel industry to cater to them and their children.
“That’s totally different than when I started reporting about family travel more than two decades ago,” said Eileen Ogintz, creator of the syndicated column Taking the Kids™ and ttk-old.o2dev.net, a leading national expert on the subject. “There were only a handful of us even asking questions about traveling with kids and no one considered it an important market. It’s wonderful to see how that has completely changed with a 30 per cent market share.”
Today, scores of writers and bloggers are turning their attention to family travel as the travel industry works to please increasingly sophisticated young travelers with everything from junior gourmet menus to cooking and language lessons to multi-million dollar kids’ and teen clubs. Despite this economy, families still put a high priority on vacationing together.
“Visiting families to Orlando tell us how increasingly important it is to them to get away as a family and really nurture their relationships with one another,” said Susan Lomax, a spokesman for the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau. Orlando ranked number one as the most visited U.S. destination in 2010 with nearly 50 million visitors. “Families want to be entertained, amazed, excited and rejuvenated and they really want help planning it all. Conferences like this will help keep key influencers informed on how to help family’s make the most of their time together.”
This two-day conference has been organized by Eileen Ogintz, Kyle McCarthy, creator of FamilyTravelForum.com, , Kim Orlando, founder of TravelingMom.com and JoAnne Vero, who produces Travel Media Showcase every year. A select group of A-list family travel bloggers and writers will participate in workshops on how they can hone their craft in this 21st Century media marketplace and discuss the latest family travel trends.
“The Family Travel Conference just makes sense: Moms make the majority of the family travel decisions and they have specific needs when they plan a trip,” said Kim Orlando. “We will meet to improve how we get relevant information to parents.”
Sponsors include major national and smaller New York-based travel providers—from Walt Disney World, the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau, Norwegian Cruise Line and Omni Hotels to Camp Broadway, NYC Passes, and Virgil’s Barbeque Restaurant. “The family travel market continues to grow and is an important segment of our business,” said Anne Marie Matthews, spokesman for Norwegian Cruise Line, which sails weekly from New York City. “Norwegian’s involvement with the conference is the perfect opportunity to connect with the industry’s most influential travel writers.”