Future of Family Tourism

Dr Ian Yeoman
Victoria Business School
The importance of family tourism
According to Schanzel, families with dependent children represent a significant proportion of the population and an important current and future market for tourism providers. Children and families form the closest and most important emotional bond in humans and it is this relationship that drives demand in tourism. It is estimated that families account for about 30% of the leisure travel market around the world.

Family Tourism: A Multi Disciplinary Perspective

Slow moving trends
Across the world demography is the slow moving or oil tanker trend that will shape the future of tourism whether it is demand or supply.  Single households are increasing in number  -  a pattern expected to continue for the foreseeable future. In OECD countries about 28% of households were occupied by single individuals in 2010, and it is expected to climb to over 43% by the 2030s. The most dramatic rises in singleton numbers will occur in the older age cohorts.  As longevity continues to rise, so too do we see adults marrying and having children at later ages. The average age of a mother at childbirth will reach 30.7 years by 2025, meanwhile, the mean first marriage ages stood at 32.2 years for men and 30.05 for women.

Grandparents are playing an ever more active role in family lives but are increasingly techno-savvy and dismissive of age stereotypes. We expect nearly a third of those aged 65+ to be social networkers by 2015. The ethnic market is growing in size and changing urban landscapes. In the UK, a survey by the Future Foundation found that nearly 80% of people now agree that children are financially dependent on their parents for longer than in previous generations. More, as the age at which adults buy their first property rises, so greater numbers of children are living in their parents’ homes into adulthood.  Family bonds are very strong (contrary to the urban myth of decline) with family meals eaten together most days of the week. According to children, families spend a lot of time undertaking group activities; over 80% of 7-15 year olds say that they regularly watch television, eat meals and go on days out with their parents. As society ages, the behaviours of ageless society dominate.  New attitudes and approaches to our extended lives will stimulate redefinitions of old age, middle-age and youth. An ageless society means grey (or rather, not-so-grey) dollar will carry burgeoning levels of commercial clout.   Too summarise, as Schanzel notes “there are several demographic trends that are slowly changing the structures in society leading to more complex and diverse family models. The resulting changes include increasing longevity leading to stronger multigenerational ties; trends to smaller families leading to stronger social networks outside the immediate family; and increasing blurring between various forms of partnerships”.

Family structures and grandparents
While most households may once have been classified as horizontal  -  whereby relationships with lateral relatives such as uncles, aunts and cousins were the most numerous  -  so many modern families now exhibit at least some adherence to a vertical model, one where several of our extended relationships are of the ascending type. Demographic patterns have, as it were, stretched families  -  with bonds frequently running through generations as much as across them. And thus it is becoming increasingly common for children to enjoy relationships with many of their grandparents (and, in cases, some of their great-grandparents too). According to the Future Foundation in the UK, over a third of 7-15 year olds saying that they spend a lot of time with their grandparents  -  a figure which we must expect to climb still higher as the 2010s progress. It is argued too that the post-recession landscape has elevated the importance of those grandparents who are in relative financial comfort, often to an extent far greater than that of their adult children.


As people live longer,  grandparents will most certainly become a more active and powerful force within the family group (particularly as incomes remain under pressure in the short-term future). This will stimulate a growing number of targeted offers, for example Key Camps grandparents go free” initiative. The new decade is, however, one in which branded dialogues with grandparents must be ever more sophisticated, where companies must acknowledge that millions of older consumers will be technologically savvy and resistant to traditional age stereotypes. For in the era of Gransnet and high50 ever fewer grandparents will respond to marketing images crafted in any other groove. By the middle of the current decade, forecasts that over a quarter of those aged 65+ will be using the mobile internet and close to a third will be social networkers; these figures will only progress in one direction.
Back to nature
Given the rise of urban centres, research by Zepple and Sibtain detects marked support for a style of living more in tune with nature and the countryside. It is, for example, overwhelming majorities of those in the family formation stage agree that children should know as much as possible about nature or think that families spend too little time outside. The Future Foundation report on Family Life reports just under half of UK adults, meanwhile, will agree that parents should in fact receive guidelines about how often their children should venture beyond the confines of the house. And this enthusiasm percolates into the youngest age groups too  -  with more than 60% of 7-15s expressing an interest for all things green. Here the smartphone revolution will make an important contribution, with apps like Leafsnap allowing individuals to identify plants and trees based on photographs captured on their mobiles. As the current decade progresses, we will most certainly see the arrival of several more tools promising to deliver comparable green-focused benefits, many in playful and thoroughly interactive manners.
But can we also foresee more and more brands showcasing their natural credentials or else supporting family or child-friendly initiatives which benefit the countryside or the environment more generally? Already we see, for example Disney’s Green Challenge attempting to boost engagement with, and awareness of, green issues among children in the US. Others will most certainly follow.

The nature of family holidays
As Schanzel says “Family holidays are perceived as opportunities for ‘quality family time’ that allow bonding to ensure the happiness and togetherness of the family, away from the distractions of everyday life. In fact, holidays are often the only time the whole family spends together for an extended period and seemingly offer a balance to family life at home. The reasons that families go on holiday then differs from those of general holidaying individuals. Family holidays are less about an escape or break ‘from’ home routines and more about spending time ‘with’ the family (including extended family) doing novel activities and creating positive memories. For children it is also imperative that family holidays involve social fun. Family holidays serve the purpose of (re)connecting people through tourism and can be seen as a social practice that involves networking, family capital formation and social obligation. However, holidays can also give rise to intra-family conflicts and added stresses that require much better understanding to ensure the holiday experience is a positive one for all family members”.


Family Tourism: A Multiply Disciplinary Perspective. Edited By Heike Schänzel, Ian Yeoman, Elisa Backer. Channelview, Bristol is now available. Please join for a the New Zealand book launch on the 3rd August at Victoria University RSVP