Our social media addiction has a consequence: It has a major impact on travel inspiration. Travel is a form of social currency in our sharing economy — it’s no longer just about going where everyone else is going. Interestingly, the opposite is happening and we’re seeing families actively seek unique experiences that are off the “what my friends are doing” beaten path. For many of these experiences, insider access is everything and luxury brands provide this in spades.
My annual visit to cover Family Travel at the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) in Cannes, France, was more exciting than ever this year, as brands are building exceptional infrastructure, programs and activities around the world for families with children of every age and stage. Here’s a look at some of the major luxury family travel trends for 2016:
A great example of a luxury brand meeting this consumer demand is Peninsula Hotels. Their Peninsula Academy program offers special activities in each of their destinations that engage kids in a cultural and/or local tradition. At The Peninsula Tokyo, families can visit a family-owned factory that produces Japan’s iconic plastic food. A master will teach a family how to make their own special meal … in plastic. Talk about a very local souvenir!
Nothing brings a destination to life like a great story. Luxury brands know this and are helping children connect with places through storytelling. The Dorchester Collection has commissioned their own fictional story for ages 7 to 11 for families to peruse both in their rooms and long after a trip is over. Langham Hotels & Resorts is using the art of storytelling to help guests appreciate their time at the hotel as part of a larger theme around enjoying the good things in life — something that we all recognize as a powerful message, given the current global challenges that make it tempting to live in fear rather than living life to its fullest.
Schloss Elmau in Germany pairs entertainment with education for kids ages 6 to 15. Kids opt in to workshops where they learn to do things like write code, make films and play chess. These programs aren’t just popular, they sell out! Parents love them too, as they have coveted time to relax on their own while their kids are doing something valuable. These programs give families a reason to stay longer than they might otherwise stay. Brilliant!
Families want to be active on vacation and engage in cultural activities, in addition to age-appropriate sports. Brands are investing heavily to meet this demand. Ritz-Carlton Mandapa Reserve in Ubud, Bali, is built from the ground up as an experiential resort for all ages, with a strong sense of space and place. The property replicates a Balinese village with rice paddies and a river in front of the hotel and a 100-year-old temple onsite. A jungle hut has been built as kids’ central, with a schedule that includes pint-size yoga, Balinese kite flying, night safaris, batik painting and planting rice in the fields. Programs are divided into different age groups for optimal social interaction.
As hotels have developed their kids’ programming, teens have largely been ignored. This trend is coming to an end as more brands are providing targeted spaces and activities for teens. A great example of this in action is Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Travel and Leisure‘s #1 hotel for families. The resort has added a Teen Club to its array of family amenities, complete with DJ and grafitti art lessons.
It’s one thing to have rooms work for families and quite another to have special room categories optimized for them. More luxury hotels than ever are dedicating room types to families. The Grand Hotel de La Minerve in Rome, for example, is one of the gems in the CB! Hotel Collection and offers two-bathroom duplex family suites with plenty of room for families of four and five to spread out. The Shangri-La Muscat Al Waha Hotel has 40 family rooms. The examples are blissfully endless!
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I heard countless stories of investment in exceptional dining experiences at this year’s ILTM — like the Doyle Collection, which weaves a cultural slice of a city into the fabric and design of every hotel in its portfolio. Food and beverage is a highlight at each property and attracts locals and tourists alike, making it easy for guests to feel a connection to the host destination and its people without leaving the property.
Amenities at luxury resorts have become very elaborate. It’s easy for families to stay onsite and be happily entertained. One & Only Cape Town entertains families with kids of every age and stage, from a kids’ play area and a climbing wall to mini-golf and a teen club. And it’s in a great location, so families can get everywhere from there.
Hotel Le Majestic Cannes has partnered with French children’s clothing brand Jacadi to offer luxurious sleepwear and blankets to young guests. Breakfast for all children under 12 is free, and there’s a special menu for kids. The hotel also provides custom guides to kid-friendly activities in the area.
Finding suitable venues for a multigenerational vacation is a trip planning challenge, as families work to find properties that truly have something for everyone. Preferred Hotels & Resorts has come to the rescue with extensive search functionality on their website, enabling families to time-effectively comb through dedicated Preferred Residences inventory, which pairs homelike amenities with hotel services.
A wonderful example is Montage Kapalua Bay, where the minimum room size is 2,000 square feet and every room has a full kitchen. Even the smallest balcony is huge. One of our favorite multigenerational experiences in Italy is a Preferred property, Castello di Casole, offering a spectacular array of villas, farmhouses and suites to their guests in a gorgeous Tuscan setting.
Acqualina Resort launched their own multigenerational planning app to help guests of multiple age groups communicate and plan what to do while at the hotel. Smart!
Belle Mont Farm in St Kitts is located in a rainforest on the side of a mountain with wild monkeys. The 84 one-bedroom guesthouses and 12 one- to four-bedroom villas are perfect for families. All have kitchens, so families can cook on their own using locally-sourced ingredients, or the chef can produce meals. There’s also an onsite cooking school where kids can go into the farm, forage for food and then prepare meals.
Dubai is known as the second safest place to stay in the world after Singapore, and luxury hoteliers have flocked there to provide all kinds of fun-filled products. Jumeirah Beach Hotel leads the pack with their coveted Wild Wadi water park. Fun on this scale doesn’t mean it’s not safe — there’s a lifeguard stationed every 25 meters. The 2-km-long beach is perfect for families and is attracting them in droves from around the world.
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