Family Travel Marketing Strategies Fail Families


In a previous post, New Media Travel  asked “Why Is Hotel Content So Boring?”
The point was that hotels, airlines, and often the entire travel industry, are inclined to present images of the perfect family: a leggy blonde mother, two gorgeous light-haired kids and a handsome, fit dad playing in the blue water.

Or, lest they offend anyone, their glossies and web images are full of empty hotel pools, empty dining rooms and empty lobbies.


Hotels report that showing a racially mixed family or a same-sex family or whatever might offend potential visitors to a hotel or destination.  In fact, one hotel exec said that even showing families might offend childless couples, and deter them from becoming guests of the property.

But the USA is nothing if not a fascinating blend of mixed marriages, races, families, and sexual preferences. In truth, says HotelNewsNow, in 2010, traditional families made up only 20% of “married family” households.

The Brady Bunch has given way to The Modern Family.

The report from HotelNewsNow, also says mixed-race families, same-sex parents, single parent and other non-traditional households “are among the fastest growing family segments.”

But regardless of their growth and financial clout, these new families feel alienated and discriminated against and ignored, especially by the travel industry.

AdWeek has a very interestting infographic that breaks down the preferences and makeup of these non-traditional families.


• Seventy-six 76% of these new families opt to buy brands and travel services from companies that support causes the families believe in
• But a huge 71% report that advertising they see does not show families like theirs
And  46% are “turned off” by advertising that “depicts the ideal family.”

John Fareed of Fareed Hospitality and Consulting  goes so far as to ask whether the travel industry in general and hotels in particular are aware of the dramatic change in the family segment.
He argues, as did NewMediaTravel, that the travel industry, in its images, brochures, language and especially its videos must create a true emotional representation of what the hotel or destination is like.

Most importantly, the travel industry has to find the courage to present the American Family as it is: a complex mosaic of non-traditional connections, and not as the idealized pictures in their brochures.

Why it’s taking travel so long to adapt to the new demographic reality is puzzling.  Perhaps the report will be a wake up call.

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  • thanks, Indra. i wonder though if India has the same varied and complex marriage configurations that we do. Are there  many same sex marriages or multi cultural/multi caste  ones? 

    Thanks for writing  in.! Eager to learn more. 

  • Thanks, Nicholas, but after tonight's debate, I wonder if Obama can hold on to the White House, and if that bodes ill for the Modern Family. It may, it seems, for PBS!

  • Kaleel, as usual, excellent posting. Indeed and with Obama in the White House, we are more Modern Family. Long gone is the Brady Bunch era. Times have changed, indeed.

  • It's about time! Now that's two people I know for sure who are reading them: you and Destination Weddings!



  • Coincidentally, look at what I just saw on FB. Kaleel, I think Destination Weddings is reading your posts.9012366884?profile=original

  • Very cool. Find me on twitter @hhotelconsult to link me to the card. Cheers!

  • Right...I guess the answer lies in niche marketing appeal and yet, contradictory, an integrated approach of all the niches. Not so much a something for everyone approach, but an enlightened approach to all Demogra -pics based on the changing reality of our society
    Not to plug us, but we do provide a Travel Video Postcard product, 1 -min videos on properties and destinations that have about 5+ million views and placed exclusively on Travel Weekly, etc. Feel free :) Been a pleasure
  • Oh I see.  I wouldn't be talking about manipulative or societal marketing.  Only if it fits the segment.  But we have a bunch of properties that could attract an older conservative baby boomer couple just as they might attract a young gay couple.... so wherever it would be appropriate, without trying to manipulate or trick consumers.  That's dangerous, and the whole Seth Godin "Meatball Sundae" concept.... you can't sweeten (lie about) a dud of a meatball (making a bad room look good with photoshop, etc.  *THAT* is the age old problem of marketing writing checks that operations can't cash. =)

    That's why I think operations should probably have a much better line of communication and interaction with marketing initiatives.  So often marketing is off in a silo on its own, with no synch to the actual property, etc.  BAD MARKETING! =)

  • Yes, I understand you, Michael, but unless I'm not seeing the obvious, the issue is not about images, per se, but images/colors/styles reflecting the reality. If my family is mixed and socmetrics picks up based on my history/cookies/loyalty program who I am and responds correspondingly, BUT the hotel I want to go to is lilly white, what's the gain?


  • Ahh.. no. I mean on the web develop side.  Semantic web sort of means sentiment analysis, where a website will automatically detect your mood through your browser, keywords, past searches, sites, etc - and then auto-pick a color that best reflects the mood you are in, to complement or contrast - like brighten the color if you are down, or have a matching hue for your calm demeanor.  The web is getting smart, and the other aspect to this will be "living" websites... they won't need an email database or loyalty program.  The hotel website will cue into certain indicators, and *know* everything about the potential guest through their browsing history, cookies, etc.  If you can parse that information quickly enough, the website could, living and breathing, know to insert a nuclear family of any given race, vs a more modern, mixed family.  It's going to get interesting.... and scary...

    Marketing is going to either become wonderfully helpful, or slightly insidious.  I assume websites will actually know what you want before you even know what you want, yourself.

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