The challenges in recent times have only accelerated the trend of families wanting to stay away from hotels and focus on self-catered accommodations, allowing a bit more freedom, space, flexibility and often a more affordable stay.
However, hotels should not give up on this segment of the market and definitely work hard to compete, innovate and strengthen their competitive advantages.
Hotels have the structure, the service procedures and the teams (as well as the swimming pool, the delicious breakfast spread and the big bed on which all kids love to jump). They have the opportunity to offer parents care-free holidays (no cooking or worrying about 'housework' logistics). This is the main reason why families want to stay in hotels. They don't want to just transport the daily routine in a different place. It should be a holiday, one for everyone.
In this article, I want to share what families really need when they stay in a hotel (from the amenities to the experience) and how to implement those.
I have consulted with hotels in the past so I have an understanding of what is possible within the framework. I have travelled extensively with young humans and I have planned endless trips, near and far for myself and my clients. I know what families need and what they are prepared to pay for.
So how can hotels welcome families better, increase their revenue and create truly memorable experiences?
First, provide the amenities. And by that I mean to go above and beyond the Ikea plastic high chair.
Couples who travel with 1, 2 or more kids need space. They need the right room(s), the correct amount of beds (made up please!) and everything that goes with it.
Start with the choice of room. Don't put a family with young children right above the bar or by the noisy lift, a quiet room is essential. Prioritise the room with a bath, makes parents life much easier.
Is the food offering appropriate?
If the food offer is not right, families will just eat out (or order take away) and you will miss out on revenue. Simple. This might not be an issue in city centre hotels, but when staying in the country, or more remote places, you need to be able to offer suitable food.
Breakfast is an easy one to make small children happy. But lunch and dinner are different. Do you have options beyond the chicken nuggets? Can you serve food at reasonable times? Are you going to charge 25€ for a bowl of tomato spaghetti? And please don't use your most beautiful china, make sure there is a cool set of cutlery and plates.
Our last hotel stay was in Austria, in a fantastic place where children were very welcome, without it looking like a soulless amusement park. The F&B was particularly well organised. Children could have dinner from a reasonable time and had a buffet of appealing healthy food. They were set up in a separate room, so as not to disturb kid-free people, in a colourful room which even had an ice cream buffet should they finish their plates. How cool was that? Us adults ate later, in a lovely environment with truly delicious food and no trace of tired humans.
Be curious about your guests
I love when hotels take the time to get some details ahead of a stay. But it unfortunately very rarely happens. And this is a real missed opportunity.
Having the knowledge of something as simple as the age of children and the setup needed will increase guest satisfaction really easily.
A few years ago, we were most surprised when, ahead of a stay in Marrakech, the hotel called us to ask the age of our child. Nothing else. This was a 2-minute phone call. However, upon arrival, they had set up exactly what we needed.
They knew that parents of a 5-month-old needed a room with a bath (+ a baby bath), a cot, without duvets or anything, a little set with kids bathroom products and even enough nappies and products to last us the first couple of days. Wow. The investment was very little, but a few years later, I still talk about it (and I recommend the place to my clients).
Is there anything to entertain children?
I am not even talking about a kids club, it can be a small box with toys, books, colouring pens in the room. Kids love playing with things they don't have at home. I think that other than jumping on the perfectly made bed, the second thing we always get is 'where are the toys'.
Now that the basics are covered, let's go beyond. What is the family going to do during their stay? Do you have good kid-friendly recommendations? Have you maybe compiled some information in a booklet?
There are plenty of creative companies that provide children with kits in hotels and on the road. It is age-appropriate, fun and entertaining. It ranges from a simple colouring book with the Eiffel tower to a 2 day-treasure hunt following an interesting cultural trail that parents want to do.
Should parents want to go out, is there a simple, easy, reliable and responsible babysitting service? Can I find the information easily? And is it flexible enough for me to book on the day I need it? Is it affordable?
Depending on the location, the level and the size of the hotel, plenty more things can be put in place. The key is to know your market and make sure families know they will have all they need (and more).
How can improvements be implemented?
You might already be welcoming families and you may have noticed a drop in this segment. As a result, you wish to improve your performance on this target market. The current situation makes things uncertain, yet, there are steps that can be taken in the preparation of recovery and to boost current sales.
A first very important step is to gather data.
As a hotelier, you know your guests. But we can go beyond and investigate online and offline to map out where families stay and what their profiles are. You need to know what they say about you, what they like and dislike. What is the recommendation and standard for families around you? Is your competition better at welcoming families, if so how?
In parallel, do an audit of your current amenities. Look at every touchpoint from the check-in to the rooms, services, F&B, activities and extras. What are families benefitting from? What is missing? Is everything adapted and flexible?
Once the audit is done and data is gathered, it is time to draw a simple and efficient action plan. What can be improved and implemented?
On the short term, can we plan a review of the F&B offer to ensure families want to stay and spend money within the hotel?
On the medium term, are there additional amenities and services - specifically dedicated to families - you can offer?
On the longer term, could we train teams to get to know guests better, and include the family approach in your SOP's?
Do you want to know where your hotel stands and what can be improved?
Would you like to welcome families better and create memorable experiences for them?
Get in touch to book a first meeting and set up an audit and action plan.