Insider Tips to Make your Hotel Family Friendly
Travelling with children is an adventure in itself, and as a hotel manager you venture into it when you host families at your hotel. Helping parents with the logistics of travelling with their kids is a huge part of the job while simultaneously providing a stay at your hotel that is fun, inspirational and relaxing.
If you want to help level up your hotel into an industry benchmark for child-friendliness, now is the time to look beyond merely offering a standard family room and embrace fresh, creative, innovative ideas to win business from families and keep them coming back time and again. Here are some such ideas for you to consider.
Boosting your hotel’s appeal to families
As hoteliers we increasingly have to dazzle our guests with new, fresh proposals on a regular basis. And families present two buyer personas in one. We must cater to the needs and desires of both parents and children. With this in mind, what can your hotel do to attract families in a unique way that trumps your competition?
At Xotels we have worked with many hotels on improving their appeal to families. We see this niche target market as a great opportunity, but unfortunately many hotels are not addressing their needs adequately. One common theme is that families love package offers, complete with meals, activities and perks. And those with activities for young children and early-year adolescents in particular are the most successful. Here are five initiatives you can consider implementing.
- Form a partnership with brands or prominent public figures that complement your own brand. These can include cultural and sports icons unique to your city.
- Appeal to adventure-seeking families by promoting your hotel as a family destination with nearby activities. These can include cultural hotspot visits like a museum, castle or zoo, and sport activities, excursions or events.
- Target families with high disposable income by positioning your hotel as a premium-level location for a family getaway, fully prepared with a range of outstanding children’s activities and services to help parents relax and unwind.
- Target families on a budget by offering family room deals including triples and quads. Especially in times of typically lower occupancy this is an effective tactic.
- Create unique, memorable themes for your family packages. Two examples are: (1) “Our first family holiday!” and (2) “The great outdoors family weekend away”.
Optimising your family package promotion
It is of course essential to promote your family packages to the decision makers in the family: parents. Due to the logistics of organising a family holiday around kids’ time off school and parents’ time off work, families usually arrange their vacations in advance. With this in mind, how can you best promote your family packages? Here are three suggestions.
- Send quarterly newsletters to guests with families that detail your upcoming packages that they simply can’t miss out on. This also presents an opportunity to attract early bookings with offers and special deals.
- Partner with bloggers and online publications that write about family activities for your geographical area. Parents are often very receptive to recommendations from recognised authority sources. Many online family publications and social media accounts have enormous influence with parents.
- Publish and promote professional photos and videos of the activities, spaces and locations that form your family packages on your website, on your social accounts and also consider paid PR campaigns via social media and traditional media, including print and radio.
Make your hotel family-friendly
“Family-friendly” as a concept refers to all family members as a unit but as individuals too. Here are three family member age groups (adults, toddlers and young children) with various ideas for each to consider.
1. For parents
- Propose activities for Mum and Dad to enjoy together, such as a romantic meal or leisure pursuit, while offering supervised crèche services for babies and on-site entertainment options for older children.
- Create postnatal or pampering activities and treatments for Mums to re-energise, but be sure to also offer any Dads a range of services to choose from too. Pursuing individual parent activities in such a way also appeals to any families staying with just one parent.
- Offer a “Baby Breakfast”. This sees child carers pick a family’s baby or babies up early in the morning to be fed and cared for, allowing the parent(s) alone time to enjoy a restful morning, relaxing breakfast or revitalising spa session.
- Provide babies and/or young children with swimming lessons with a qualified child instructor. Parents can also join or watch on from the side.
2. For babies (0-3 years old)
Travelling with babies can be complicated and therefore it isn’t so common. But this can be an advantage to hotel managers. Simply through investing in the following kinds of items and services that help provide baby care, your hotel will stand out from your competition by showing that you accommodate families as a priority.
- Baby trolleys.
- Babysitting, crèche and playpens.
- Nappy bins.
- Changing mats.
- Bottle warmers.
- Arranged agreement for callout doctor visits should they be necessary.
- Baby essentials such as nappies, wipes and cream as part of a toiletries pack.
3. For pre-teen children (4-12 years old)
- Kids menus including healthy options.
- Kid-size pyjamas and bathrobes.
- Activities including child care such as bike tours, water sports, cooking lessons, or interactive pursuits including outside treasure hunts or geocoaching.
- LEGO butler or any toy delivery in the room, by developing a toy room-service menu. If room-service is not your strong suit, you can reserve a drawer only for toys, for children to enjoy in their room.
- Bedtime story butler, reading the perfect bedtime story according to your kids.
- Children afternoon tea or a play-area that you can do in a conference room or in the bar area, to optimise these spaces, sometimes quiet in the afternoon (under-supervision of course).
- Candy Man within the hotel, to deliver candy, chocolate bar or gummy bears with his cart.
- Welcoming gift for kids: you can include hotel T-shirts, colouring book, yo-yo, teddy bear… Personalise it according to your hotel identity!
Family friendliness for boutique and independent hotels
If you run a boutique or independent hotel, you can make the requisite amendments to boost your family-friendly appeal without needing to invest a lot. Here are some budget-friendly options.
1. Family services at boutique and independent hotels
- Offer standard rooms that can be family-customised with optional extras. These can include snacks and welcome family food packs, a crib or cot, mini fridge, children’s TV channels, board games and other entertainment options.
- Make your lobby area cosy for children with a play area and toys while parents check in or out or simply want to sit and relax with a refreshment.
- Prepare budget-friendly, quality packed lunch for adults and kids alike.
- Set up an area of the restaurant dining room for children with small tables and colourful decor.
- Offer extended check out on all family bookings.
2. Propose family vacation ideas
- Itineraries and plans for the whole family to do together, as well as individual activities for parents and for children.
- Make and promote a checklist of the 10 essential things to do in your city or local area and see before your 15th birthday, but that parents will also find stimulating.
- Form partnerships with local swimming instructors to offer lessons for kids in the morning, or with gyms and other activity centres to offer other types of class.
3. Facilities for babies (0-3 years old)
As we mentioned, travelling with toddlers isn’t common. Therefore, it doesn’t provide a strong return on investment to spend heavily by focusing on families with children under three years of age. But you can certainly provide the following items and services easily, which can make a world of difference in how families that do check-in with a young baby view your hotel.
- Baby bibs at the hotel restaurant.
- Puree and baby food at the bar/restaurant.
- Bottle-heating room service.
- Cribs, cots and playpens.
- Nappy changing amenities and products.
4. Ideas for young children (4-12 years old)
- Set up a section of each main common area for children to play in while their parents can watch. You can deck it out with board games, toys, superhero costumes and indoor playground facilities such as a mini slide. This also provides an opportunity to partner with local companies that provide products or services for children.
- Organise a themed treasure hunt in a specific area of the hotel grounds. This includes creating a map with clues and prizes for locating the treasure.
- Prepare for rainy days by offering indoor activity options too, including classes, courses and shows. You can seek to make it unique to your hotel by leveraging local history, traditions, events, culture or folklore.
The final word
Many families want to spend quality time together on holiday, while others prefer to let their kids enjoy themselves while the parents enjoy some time to themselves, and others want a bit of both. Successful hotel management explores and caters to all these preferences by listening carefully to guests regarding services and facilities, in order to inform any necessary update decisions.
In a hotel sector in which change is now constant, it is the hotel manager that is proactive and prepared that will achieve the greatest commercial success while delivering an outstanding service that turns families into happy, repeat-stay guests. These reflections are based on our first-hand experience at Xotels working with scores of leading hotels around Europe and beyond on successful hotel family service implementation. I hope they provide you with some valuable insights into how to boost your own family-friendly appeal.Patrick Landman is the CEO of Xotels, a game-changing hotel management company, since 2006. With their proven methodology in hospitality strategies and operations, they have built up a portfolio of over 75 properties, including boutique hotels, modern budget hotels and resorts. They turn around hotel performance by breaking with the status quo. If you need help with your hotel, they provide hotel management/owner representation services and revenue management consulting. Visit xotels.com for more information.