Family Matters

Rebecca Haddad

The theme of this year’s ATM, family travel, is a demanding area for hotel chains, tour operators, airlines and other luxury travel specialists. The challenge of providing experiences to entertain all members of a family is a lot harder than it looks. The ever-changing interests and needs of several generations (from babies, children, teens, parents and grandparents) all need to be accounted for simultaneously, from the minute a family checks in at an airport or into a hotel.

In the air
While inflight entertainment has come a long way in recent years, what happens when the restlessness sets in for young travellers on long-haul journeys? Sky nannies have seen significant growth in popularity on all major airlines in recent years, who are specially trained to make young fliers as comfortable and as happy as possible in the air. Gulf Air’s Sky Nanny program offers a childcare service so adults can get some rest in the business and first-class lounges or on board. UAE-based Etihad airways trained some of their staff at prestigious UK nanny school, Norland College, so that they are equipped to teach anything from simple arts and crafts activities to magic tricks. Lufthansa’s Jet Friends fun takes the experience to another level, offering fliers aged 11-17 the chance to join their own frequent-flier club, earn miles and win prizes, creating a lingering interactive element with a dedicated website where teens can log on and discover more about the airline industry.

The hotel experience
Kids clubs and dedicated kids concierges are as much about making life easier for the adults of a travelling party as they are about keeping young jetsetters entertained. Mandarin Oriental’s Younger Fans program ensures that age-appropriate amenities for children are on hand in your room upon check-in, be they play mats and books or game consoles and a selection of games.

Integrating kid-friendly activities into the more adult facilities of a hotel is another suitable way to provide entertainment for everyone and also ensures that families are still participating in activities together. The Anantara Spa’s kids’ menu at Anantara Spa Seminyak, Bali, has a special spa menu for children up to 12 years of age, with anything from chocolate massages to nail art manicures. A similar set-up can be found at Four Seasons Beverly Wiltshire, where spa treatments including ‘The Superhero’ and ‘The Pop Star’ can be enjoyed while adults can enjoy some R&R of their own at the same time. Last year, Jumeirah launched a ‘Spoilt Rotten’ service for young guests of the Burj Al Arab, including the use of 24-carat gold iPads, a personal butler, daily visits from the sweet train and a private stretch of beach where ice lollies and popcorn are available free of charge. Le Royal Monceau’s Le Petit Royal program includes anything from pizza-making classes with Michelin chefs to DJ lessons in the hotel’s mobile recording studio.

On tour
Appealing to children and teens can be extraordinarily challenging, particularly in a tech-savvy age, so combining sightseeing tours with a little digital engagement can turn what may seem like dull city tour into a fun adventure - and a learning experience. At the Four Seasons Hotel Prague, the Golem’s Wisdom Quiz sees young travellers go on boat rides along the Vlatava, make puppets with a marionette maker and more as they slowly discover the history of the city. Four Seasons Ritz Lisbon offers a similar tour-based activity within their hotel, equipping guests 6 to 10 years old with a Ritzie hunting map, which they can follow as they hunt for the unique features of the hotel.

Bigger is better
Of course, it isn’t just kids’ clubs and alternative excursions that are adding to the experiences. Having the space to adequately accommodate the needs of multi-generational groups of travellers is just as important, be it offering the flexibility to book an apartment suite on an commercial aircraft (or a private jet, as is often the case for large families), or connect several suites or villas together at a hotel or resort. Thailand’s Iniala Beach House resort has recently gone one step further with its Kids Hotel, a completely separate space with creatively designed sleeping quarters for one to twelve children, a movie library, closets of dress-up clothes, video games, and access to climbing walls and a variety of outdoor sporting activities. Available for a day or overnight, the space appeals to parents seeking a night of quiet time as well as older children looking for a little freedom from their parents in a safe and entertaining environment.

Destinations of the World News (DOTWN) is the leading luxury travel magazine distributed to the world’s most affluent and discerning spenders in more than 200 of the world’s premier airport lounges, five-star hotels, resorts and members-only clubs.

DOTWN is an official ATM 2015 Media Partner and sponsor of  ILTM@ATM.

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