An Overview of Existing Kids Clubs, Camps and Programs

By Matthew Rosenberger Consultant & Publisher, ABC Travel Guides for Kids | January 16, 2011

When planning a family vacation, most families pick and choose a hotel based on the amenities and programs in place for families and their kids. Families are loyal and committed to brands that have proven themselves worthy of such affection by offering exceptional services and well designed family programs. This article will provide an overview of many well established initiatives taken by some of the largest names in the hospitality industry. It will also highlight exceptional steps taken by independently owned properties that are worth noting. Understanding the history of the family vacation through the family "road trip" of the 1950s highlights how far the industry has come in catering to families. Yet while modes of transportation and the costs of travel have changed dramatically since those first kids programs of the fifties, the industry still has a long way to go to improve the menu offerings for families and kids, as well understanding the importance of providing amenities that are cultural and educational and not just fun and entertaining. The time is now for you to seize the opportunity and to become a destination for families and earn your share of the lucrative family travel market. It's your turn to grab the bull by the horns and be a trailblazer in the industry and become recognized as a great choice for families visiting your region.

The Family Road Trip – Early Family Travel

Today families can thank Kemmons Wilson and his family for building family friendly lodgings at a rapid pace to meet the needs of the American family of the fifties. It was this successful Memphis businessman who during an 800 mile road trip from Memphis to Washington D.C. with his wife and family, recognized that the motor hotels along the way were not catering to the American family. Wilson wanted better quality control and reliability, more swimming pools, game rooms and other family amenities. He wanted more uniform and affordable accommodations for the American family. He saw a need and he seized the opportunity. He set lofty goals for himself promising he would build 450 motels and cover the entire country with family friendly affordable motels where children would stay for free! Well... it didn't happen overnight, but Kemmons company, Holiday Inn far exceeded Kemmons' initial goals and helped change the hospitality industry forever. With more family oriented options in place, thanks to Kemmons, more families took to the highways and the concept of the family road trip was alive and kicking. Thanks in large part to Wilson, the foundation for family travel was solid and strong (after all Kemmons was initially a construction man!) and the fifties was a period full of notable events including the growth of Hyatt, Marriott and Sheraton, and in 1955 with the completion of the Disneyland Hotel and The Plaza Hotel in New York City, where the fictional character Eloise became real!

Family Travel Today

Below is a summary of initiatives taken by some of the biggest names in the industry:

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.