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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  • Yes, you're right, Michael. But the email data base will reflect guests or visitors who have already been there or participated in a loyalty program or something, thus perpetuating the kind and image of visitor. Unless mixed families come to visit, stay and play, the dare base will never capture their info and the feeling of connectivity will never complete itself. I think :)

    Thanks for writing in. Cheers

  • the obvious conclusion is that technology will resolve some of these issues....

    we're still a few years out, but I imagine dynamic websites that can actively crawl user information of the demographic viewing your site, then actively tailor imagery to be immediately inserted to encourage a feeling of connection.

    You are never going to please everyone with these dinosaur static-billboard funnel to the booking engine type of website. We need to move past HTML5, even, into a powerfully dynamic semantic web that is smart.

    Of course, I'm just a hotel guy, so you guys reading this get on it.

  • Yes, but the image in your comment box is probably as safe as it comes. The mom is still a striking blond. One kid is blond too. The other is not in that she's "just" a brunette (!) and the darker child may well have a deep tan...

    Well, they came as close as they dared

    But what the hell, right? :) Thanks Ed

  • Yeah, you're right. Hard to find mixed-race families like the one you've pictured here. And when you do, it's ambiguous. For example, are these kids supposed to be related? I assume they are, because they're playing 9012364295?profile=originalwith each other, yet they're different ages. But all bets are off. 

  • You know, that's  clever comment your Diversion art director made.

    Also, as a btw, why not feature on Tripatini those people of color hotel/destination ads, as a company post? I've yet to see them but I'd be interested in seeing a post generated around a few for perspective.


  • Not quite Conde Nast Traveler cover-image material, Kaleel. Or so I'm told. 

    More to the point, interesting figures you've presented here, a wake-up call for those who are still slumbering in the 1950s. The good news, I think, is that there are more people of color in hotel ads than there were 20 or even 10 years ago. But those shots of empty pools and restaurants? My art director at Diversion called them World War III shots.  

  • Is that all you have, Ed? The rest of you is where ?
  • I see your point, but I should note, in candor, that I have terrific teeth, skin, and hair.


  • Great comment, Wendy, and never apologize for "getting all political." It's refreshing.

    Maybe the concept of "distruptive technology" can be applied to content: "disruptive content," where thoughts and opinions like yours (and mine, I guess) begin to affect limited thinking.

    Yes, ironically it is about "power and money," but in this case, the money has legs and is waling away from those destinations and properties that feature perfect plastic people with terrific teeth, skin and hair. Bless them, I guess :) Cheers and thanks for writing. If you come to Boston, give a holler.


  • Great post Kaleel! I think the issue is that big corporations tend to be conservative and slow to catch up with social change. By the time they react to something new or cool it's no longer new or cool. And some may have their own political/religious agendas. Consider who owns the Marriott chain -- the same nuts who backed proposition 8, wear magic underwear, and brought us the etch-a-sketch guy! Sorry to get all political on you but at the end of the day it's always about money and power isn't it. Eventually they'll figure it out, but in the meantime people like me do choose where we stay.

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