Kids enjoying the beach at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai
I just got back from a whirlwind week at the annual International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) show in Cannes, France. This invite-only event for the luxury travel community brings exhibitors (hotels, destinations and service providers) together with buyers (travel agencies and tour operators) to dialog about the latest and greatest trends and offerings in luxury travel.
I attended ILTM as media to cover our beloved space, Family Travel. I’m thrilled to report that the luxury travel community absolutely has families on their mind.
The reason? More and more luxury consumers are bringing their kids along for the ride from weekend getaways to multi-stop itineraries to multi-generational gatherings. There’s a heavy international focus at this show and interestingly, there seems to be no geographic limitations on where people are traveling with kids.
Kids rice planting program at Mandarin Oriental in Chang Mai, Thailand
Evolution of Luxury Travel Consumer
The Future Laboratory kicked off the week with an analysis of the current luxury consumer. Today’s luxury travelers are all about the experience. They want to engage with destinations (not just observe them or feel removed from a sense of place within a hotel) and to experience places in a memorable and fresh way. As a result, there’s less focus is on material goods (“gold taps”) and more focus on an enhanced state of being.
There’s a growing demand for craftsmanship and sustainability. Simplicity can be luxurious too — it’s no longer about excess and flash.
In short, luxury consumers are seeking more authentic travel experiences.
One & Only Le Saint Géran’s KidsOnly Summer Garden Program
How Do These Trends Impact Family Travel?
Luxury-focused suppliers must find ways to enhance the travel experience for children, not just their parents. Pint-sized robes and slippers in the room are no longer sufficient. To attract families, hotel brands are putting serious thought into creating meaningful interaction for every age.
I saw evidence of this in spades as I interviewed exhibitors. Even hotel brands from whom I expect kid-friendly lip service seem to have something truly special up their sleeves for families.
The market has radically changed from when I started Ciao Bambino in 2004!
AcquaMarine Kids’ Program at Acqualina Resort
Luxury Brands Offering Extraordinary Family Experiences
Brands like the Four Seasons are a luxury favorite within the family travel community with unbelievable service and creative, highly personalized offerings for families. See my recent post about our family experience at the new Four Seasons Marrakech for insight into why this brand is so loved by parents and children alike.
One benefit of ILTM was the ability to access the top luxury brands in one room. Comparing and contrasting offerings is an interesting task — I have many things to share over the next few weeks about my discoveries at ILTM. To kick things off, here are five examples of extraordinary offerings from luxury brands for families.
By no means is this list comprehensive! Stay tuned as I roll out more details about what the luxury community is offering families in 2012 and beyond over the next few weeks.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Dhara Dhevi | Chang Mai, Thailand
The laundry list of engaging cultural experiences the Mandarin Oriental is offering to kids is astounding. From rice planting, to kids’ Thai cooking lessons, to Thai dancing, to kick-boxing, to elephant treasure hunts — to say that this hotel is offering cultural exposure to their junior guests is an understatement.
Jumby Bay (A Rosewood Resort) | Antigua, Caribbean
Jumby Bay is offering eco-centric programming for kids around conservation for the now-endangered Hawksbill turtle. Kids who stay at the resort from June through November are given the opportunity to observe and participate in preserving these animals.
Acqualina Resort & Spa | Miami Beach, Florida
Acqualina offers an award-winning marine biology enrichment program called AcquaMarine to help kids learn about water-related subjects in a fun and interactive way.
One & Only Le Saint Géran | Mauritius
Children who participate in the KidsOnly supervised club at One & Only’s Le Saint Géran become mini-gardeners under the instruction of the resident gardener and care for the KidsOnly herb garden.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai | Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The extensive kids’ program in Dubai includes a daily schedule of themed activities from art, to cooking, to fitness, to science to crafts. Of course, families wouldn’t travel all the way to Dubai to just stay at the hotel. They’ve got that covered too and have a ready list of cultural and urban excursions including desert safaris, cultural tours, and visiting one of more of the Dubai’s outrageous water parks.
Each brand listed above provided their respective photos for this article
Ciao Bambino recommended kid-friendly luxury hotels