Winning over the FIT family

While cruise specialists may benefit, other agents seeking to make some money from Asian family travel appear in for a rough ride.

Raini Hamdi

As it happens, our two reports this issue are Asian family travel and cruises. There is a stronger correlation between the two markets today. If anything, imagine parents with little children who no longer need to monitor the ‘Child Boredom Quotient’ as they do on planes. It’s a term created by Emirates, which teamed with psychologist and boredom specialist at the University of Central Lancashire, Sandi Mann, on a study that found young flyers would take just 49 minutes and 47 seconds to ask the dreaded ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

There are other more compelling reasons why cruises and Asian families can be a match made in heaven. The picture of an Asian family as being small – a couple with two or three kids in tow – is hardly it now; instead, it’s multi-generational, or it’s a couple with kids travelling with other couples with kids whom they consider family.  So cruise lines have been busy creating more interconnecting rooms to cater to multi-generational and extended family travel in Asia. And as competition for this segment hots up, they are busier jam-packing activities so no one will be bored on board.

Dream Cruises’ new holiday programme for Genting Dream, which arrives at her new Singapore homeport this month, includes workshops where children can don their own mermaid tails and splashing skills. There’s also a junior talent show (imagine the delight of grandparents watching them perform on stage) and a Christmas market at sea. “Taking care of families and offering them fun inter-generational activities are very important to us,” said Thatcher Brown, president of Dream Cruises.

Cruise lines are also trying to reach Asian families in more heart-tugging ways. Royal Caribbean International has just launched an “experiential” video which follows Asher Lim, son of Alvin Lim, founder of Alvinology.com, as junior enjoys the myriad of activities offered on the ship that only “child cruisers know and love”.

So expect cruises to be a strong competitor for the Asian family travel market, which has grown tremendously and will continue to grow. Just one indicator: Family holiday bookings from Hong Kong rose 124 per cent in 2016 over 2015, said Skyscanner. There are lots of capacity, and lots of F&B aboard – we all know how much Asian families love to bond over food, and more food.

While cruise specialists may benefit, other agents seeking to make some money from Asian family travel appear in for a rough ride. From their comments (see pages 17-18), the market has become more online savvy and more independent. Families can book home sharing accommodation, villas and hotels directly. They can buy activities and attractions easily online before or even after arriving at a destination, through platforms such as Klook.

I don’t have a clever idea how agents may overcome this structural change, beyond the obvious that they need to understand the psychology of Asian family travellers and create the trigger points that will compel them to use their services.

Or, become Asian family cruise specialists.

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