The Caribbean tourism industry has recently become fascinated by what more it can do to attract and sustain the high value millennial market; the category of visitor that is defined by a desire to travel to find the authentic and to have new experiences.
However, having lunch recently with two somewhat older former colleagues, and discussing what they would be doing this year when it came to their vacations, it became apparent that there is another closely related high-spending market that the region is not giving enough attention to.
Both of my contemporaries have travelled widely in the Caribbean and are now either grandparents or have great nieces and nephews. What they spoke about was how, at least once this year, they will travel with their extended family to long-haul destinations where they will share a ten day to two-week vacation.
Their comments encouraged me to explore further this very different segment of the visitor market which most Caribbean countries have not yet fully understood, let alone developed a recognised marketing strategy for.
Put simply, there is a rapidly growing opportunity for the industry. It is led by post second world war baby boomers who have retired on good pensions, who have sons and daughters who are professionals, who have young children, and who want once a year to vacation together to cement family bonds.
Although there are relatively few statistics on this trend, some recent reports suggest that such multi-generational vacations are being driven mainly by older travellers, usually over 60, who holiday frequently; a category some reports suggest are now responsible for 47% of all vacation-related spending.
Although the statistics are imprecise, it appears that a significant amount of their annual spend is now on multi-generational travel and that for wealthier baby boomers this has become a top priority.
The suggestion is that although professional families are often scattered across the countries where they live, and in some cases across continents, the older generation has maintained a close attachment to their children and grandchildren, often facilitated by social media.
This is a circumstance that translates into a desire not just to spend time with their extended families, but to be able to facilitate life-long memories for the youngest family members, especially if such travel is tied to the celebration of a significant occasion.
It is a market that has very special requirements. Time wise it is limited to periods when school holidays and the absence of work commitments coincide. It requires either properties that can offer accommodations that are closely located, or multiple occupancy villas situated on a single hotel property. There must also be facilities from restaurants to activities that can cater to the mixed tastes and interests of multiple generations, as well of course, beaches, pools and play areas.
Other essential requirements include the provision of enough bandwidth to enable adults and teens to stay connected, while children can play games online. This means that Wi-Fi for multiple devices is expected to be free.
The little research that exists on this market segment also suggests that the higher spending end of the multi-generational markets is very sophisticated and expects a high level of service to be offered to every member of their party.
Interestingly, web sites are now appearing promoting multi-generational destinations in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, most confuse the concept with group travel, failing to understand the very different and often sophisticated motivation behind such visits, or that it is usually the grandparents with significant disposable income who are driving the decision.
All of which suggests there is strong case for Caribbean tourism, tour operators and property owners to do more to develop inter-generational marketing programmes. Not only is this a growing and important market segment, but in time it is likely that the fond memories such visits foster will cause the children to return as adults; hopefully later replicating their experiences down the generations.
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at email@example.com
Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org
February 21st, 2018
The views and opinions expressed in the Business of Tourism are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Caribbean Council.