In 2021, your children will be the ones calling the shots. As parent, yours will be a purely symbolic authority. You will already be familiar with this dynamic, of course, but here’s what’s new: this rule will apply not only within your own home, but in hotels too.
The family travel market was going through a growth spurt before Covid-19 threw it a curve ball. Lockdowns, however, have super-charged your children’s power over the hotel industry. According to one recent survey, two thirds of parents are hoping to go on holiday once restrictions are in the rear-view mirror and, says Expedia’s report on how the youngest family members are influencing travel, “although final decisions are made by the adults, Gen Alpha [that’s your children] influences family trip choices”.
This year, therefore, hotels will be competing for your kids’ attention and, terrifying as you might find their newfound omnipotence, this may prove no bad thing. Back in 2013, a survey commissioned by the Luxury Family Hotel chain found that more than a quarter of a million British parents had cut a family holiday short either because they felt unwelcome or because it was ill-equipped for their needs.
Just under a decade later, says Simon Maguire, the managing director of Luxury Family Hotels: “We have definitely seen the hotel sector make improvements when it comes to being family friendly, which is good news. But saying you are family friendly and actually being family friendly can be worlds apart.”
Family rooms are still often awkwardly configured; kids’ meals less “field to fork”, more “deep-freeze to deep-fried”; communal and recreational spaces dotted with boring breakables that leave children fidgety and adults on perpetual high alert. “That causes angst for both parent and child,” says Maguire, “which is not what you want when spending your hard-earned money.”
Well, quite. So how do you identify the hotels that are not simply paying lip service to family friendliness? The ones who welcome not only the sight but also the sound of children?