Enriching Family Travel Across the Globe

By Daphne Sipos Global Brand Director, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts | September 07, 2014

New luxury products may be introduced every day, but none compares with the most simple and coveted luxury of all: Time. Trust me, as a new mother with a 10-week-old baby at home I know what I'm talking about. One of my roles as Global Brand Director for St. Regis hotels is to focus on our guests traveling with their young ones. When we're able to make time to travel with our families, it's important to get the most out of that time and engage with one another in each and every moment. More often than not these days, it is our children's wishes that dictate a family vacation's direction, and the travel industry is taking notice. We at St. Regis have embraced this new reality by building a program that caters to the needs and desires of families and especially to our youngest guests.

When founder John Jacob Astor IV opened the first St. Regis doors in 1904, society expected children to be "seen and not heard." This couldn't be less true today. We at St. Regis believe it crucial to preserve Astor's vision of providing flawless service and exceptional luxury while catering to the real modern family on vacation. It's our job to ensure that families no longer have to choose between a family vacation and a luxury vacation, St. Regis can give them both. We take this seriously. Just as luxury comes standard with every St. Regis stay, our family programming experiences aren't "add-ons" or "extras." Every family that stays with us will see that our hotel experience was built from the ground up with them in mind.

We believe this mindset is critical for our guests. Studies show high net worth and ultra-high net worth individuals travel with their families now more than ever before and when they do, they spend 58 percent more than other groups. According to a 2012 special report conducted by Hotel Management, 40 percent of all travelers surveyed had taken at least one trip with multiple generations of their family. This statistic represents an astounding 20.8 million U.S. households, according to the report. Unfortunately, families today live farther apart than previous generations so when they travel, it is often for a milestone event. They want to step away from their busy lives and come together in a central and exciting destination. For these families, travel means escaping from the everyday, together, to connect. St. Regis has put this ideal at the forefront of its philosophy.

And it should. Families make up a large percentage of St. Regis guests, especially in our resorts. The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, for example, saw a 35 percent increase in longs stay bookings, the majority of which were families, from 2012-2013, and 50% of guests at The St. Regis Aspen Resort during peak periods brought children along. In the months of June through August, The St. Regis Princeville Resort usually welcomes 40-60 children to its property each day.

To gain further intel, I went straight to the source. I recently engaged in a signature St. Regis ritual and hosted an afternoon tea at The St. Regis New York. I invited some of the city's most influential and accomplished mothers to share their thoughts on family travel. Just about to have my own first child, I was curious to hear their thoughts. By listening to these important patrons, typical of the St. Regis demographic, we were able to gain invaluable insights. Among other topics, we discussed family travel necessities, children's amenities they like to see in their rooms, and even their favorite brands of children's' clothing. We have already begun implementing their feedback and will continue to try to learn more. This coming year we'll host similar afternoon teas with focus groups in other countries to hear what family travel guests are looking for in different parts of the world.

Our global family initiative, the Family Traditions at St. Regis program, launched just last year, and we have been excited to see it embraced by our hotels and guests alike. The program's title was inspired by the source of our hotel's name and our founder's own family tradition. Each year John Jacob Astor IV gathered his family for a summer retreat at the beautiful St. Regis Lake in New York's Adirondack Mountains, named after St. Francois Regis, a man known for being hospitable to travelers. With the lake reminding him of the welcoming allure of vacation, it served as the perfect name for the original St. Regis hotel. We wanted to draw from this legacy and let Astor's dream of luxurious environments serve as welcoming hosts to our guest families. So from our roots at the Astor family tradition of the summer retreat, comes the Family Traditions at St. Regis program. If we've done our job well, our families will find it modern, fresh and relevant, just like the St. Regis brand.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.