What Matters Most to the ‘Family Friendly Holiday Cottage’ Guest
For owners of family friendly holiday cottages, there’s some interesting research emerging across the pond in the USA on what matters most to parents when they are planning a holiday with the kids. It’s a fair bet that trends over there tend to travel and become trends over here, so it’s worth taking note of the findings.
New research from MMGY Global, was resently presented to the TMS Family Travel conference in Florida. It suggests that the significant majority of family travellers are seeking a place in which to spend time relaxing and unwinding. So, nothing new there!
However, the findings get interesting when drilling down to the meat of the report. They are particularly useful for owners looking to present their family friendly holiday cottage as a ‘destination’ rather than just ‘accommodation’.
Happy Families want…
80% of parents want to visit new places, not such good news for those depending on repeat visits by family groups, and (for 75%), somewhere that’s easy to get to. The good news for holiday property owners is that, once they get there, 50% of parents feel that supervised kids clubs aren’t important. This helps to level the playing field between holiday cottages and hotels and campsites.
What is terribly important, beating kids clubs by a margin of 28%, is WiFi. Its presence was demanded by 78% of all parents consulted. It seems that WiFi, keeps the kids happy when not exploring somewhere new, guaranteeing the peace and relaxation parents are seeking. WiFi used to be considered a luxury. These days it’s joining the list of other ‘essentials’ such as dishwashers, washing machines and en suite bathrooms. Luckily it’s not as expensive as the latter items. If you haven’t yet installed it, you might want to review your thoughts on whether it’s costing you bookings.
Families apparently want to spend time together on holiday, because today’s lifestyles mean they get less time doing this during a normal week. Many parents tend to spend more time with their children taxiing them from one activity to another, than they do sharing any other activity together. I can speak with some authority of this as a father of two teenage children. A little bit of bonding creates the memories that hold families together. Present your property in a way that suggests this will happen!
Destinations that do well are those that present themselves in such a way as to excite guests from the moment they start thinking about their holiday.
A holiday property can be a ‘destination’ if promoted properly. Websites need to do more than simply list facilities (features). They need to offer opportunities for some creative holiday planning (benefits)– such as activities in or around the holiday cottage. Alternatively they should promote places where families can have fun together nearby. There’s an old marketing adage that still holds true: Sell the sizzle – not the sausage. But, do make sure the sausages are properly sizzling when later consumed!
Websites that allow potential bookers to recognise cottages more likely to guarantee special family holiday memories, will do well for their owners. More so if coupled with easy online booking options (another growing desire).
Emerging Family Friendly Trends
Other items in the report worthy of note for owners looking to position holiday cottages as ‘family destinations’ are:
* A growing interest in holidays in which one parent works while the rest of the family play has also been noted – another reason for offering WiFi.
* A growing emphasis on healthy, locally sourced food. Free time on holidays means that people have a little more time to think about proper meals, rather than convenient ones. Some parents possibly see it as an opportunity to spend time getting the kids into new culinary experiences.
* The importance of the personal touch – leaving a birthday cake when the booking is for a birthday celebration, or a welcome card to the children left on their beds. The report included a great Disneyland story. A lost teddy bear or doll, if returned to a child by the resort, comes complete with a note from ‘Mickey Mouse’ thanking the child for ‘lending it to him. Priceless! It’s little things like this that can unlock a string of future bookings. It’s well worth the time coming up with one or two joy-bringing ‘Mickey’ moments.
* Ground floor bedroom appeal: These days, a family is often more likely to include one or two grand parents as well as children. So, ground floor bedrooms with en suite bathrooms are likely to become an increasingly attractive asset if marketed properly. If you’ve got one – don’t just list it – explain how it benefits a family.
Finally, it appears that while families look for value for money, this doesn’t translate to cheap holidays. Increasingly, people will pay good money if they are confident the experience will be worth it.
The main trigger for negotiating a discount is that bookers feel the price doesn’t reflect value. Creating a holiday cottage as a destination of infinite and enjoyable possibilities – few of which should add to your bottom line, will allow savvy owners to stand out from those stuck in the ‘compete on price’ groove.
What to do now.
Talk to your guests and find out what they have enjoyed. What lived up to expectations? What didn’t and what you could have told them about at the time of booking that would have meant they could have enjoyed it all the more? Comments along the lines of “If only you’d have told us about this, we’d have…” should be encouraged!
Here’s an example: One of the properties we manage is in Woolacombe overlooking the beautiful surfing beach. We used to mention this and the fact that there was a body board or two in the apartment for children to use. The boards lasted forever because they were rarely used. It was only when talking to a guest that we realised by adding the fact that children’s wetsuits could be hired or purchased cheaply in Woolacombe’s surf shops to the website. This enabled guests to mentally perceive a day or two body boarding in their holiday plans. Prior to that they’d liked the idea but hadn’t indulged, thinking the sea would be to cold. The difference is that we’ve enjoyed about 3-4 repeat bookings since last summer. Not a bad return on 10-minutes updating the website.
Does your website need a re-design? (We can help with this!) Is it time to install an online booking facility or update the ‘things to do/places to go pages? Too many sites still list ‘things to do’ that appeal to their owners rather than their type of guests their property is designed to accommodate. Here’s a useful test. Get a friend with a family, to spend a few minutes perusing your website. Then, without prompting, ask them how they might spend a family holiday at your holiday property. Does their response sound appealing or a little thin on the ground? It should give you a sense of where your site needs some extra or revised content.
Spending a little time thinking about inexpensive ways to enhance the appeal of your property. Then consider ways to describe how these will act as a benefit.
“For a few pounds, the whole family can hire wetsuits and enjoy a memorable day – wet or fine – surfing the waves at almost anytime of year on Woolacombe Beach.”
Remember – your holiday cottage needs to be perceived as a destination, a place that guests will recognise as fulfilling their holiday dreams from the moment they come across your website.
Finally, as you do all this, remember to advertise on sites that will give you the luxury of links back to your website. Get it right and it should pay dividends.