The definition of ‘family’ has evolved so much over the past decade – and so has the family travel tourism offering.

According to South African Tourism research into family travel, it’s important to redefine the meaning of ‘family’ in a modern context. Its research presentation, titled Family Travel Quick Stats, notes that just as the way the term ‘family’ has changed over the years, so has family travel.

While the old-fashioned understanding of the term ‘nuclear family’ generally meant mom, dad and two kids, the research shows that this family structure is very last season.

“Instead of nuclear family households, more people today, even those with children, are living with their parents, other family members or even with other unrelated families,” notes the SA Tourism research.

Lish Kennedy, VP of global marketing at Vrbo (part of the Expedia Group), who is quoted in the research, says: “Today, family travel encompasses trips that reflect real families – extended families, multigenerational families, skip-generation families and families who travel with families they are friends with.”

Taking a look at any of the predicted travel trends for 2020, top of the list is multi-generational travel or inter-generational travel – and tour operators need to ensure that family-friendly packages are good value for money and have something for every age.

Masa Yamawaki, Tourvest DMC Market Manager for South East Asia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Nordics, says there has definitely been a shift toward building family-curated itineraries.

He says, “I am starting to see family travel requests from some of the Asian markets. This was hardly requested before.”


Yamawaki notes that he has also seen ‘generation-skip’ travel requests – grandparents travelling with grandchildren, leaving the parents behind, which was hardly requested before. 

The ‘Skip-Gen’ trip or ‘Gramping’ holiday makes perfect sense – grandparents who have time (and disposable income) get to spend time with the grandkids during the school holidays and mum and dad can either get a break or deal with the demands of their work (or any other good reason to offload the kids on the grandparents). Either way, these types of trips are on the rise.

Focusing on niche destination experiences makes sense – and it’s important to make sure that there are facilities in place to support the different generations within one group.

Yamawaki says: “In some of the markets, we created tours that concentrate more on wildlife during the school holidays so that families can consider travel to South Africa as a family holiday.” He also says properties have a supervised kids’ programme.

He agrees that multi-generational travel – where three generations or more travel – is definitely a theme that is on the rise. Again this means looking at the product offering and asking how it can meet the needs of the travellers.

“When it comes to large families, we try to offer properties that have exclusive-use villas or apartments with more than two bedrooms, instead of offering the normal hotels.”

No doubt the rise of the home-tel offering also blends well into this market offering.

Another notable trend (according to Skift), is the Panks & Punks type vacation, which refers to the Professional Aunts and Uncles with No Kids of their own taking their nephews and nieces (or friends’ kids they are close to) away on holiday away with them.

Silver tourism

Within the scope of family tourism, there has been a rise in Silver tourism, as noted in an article in Tourism Update last month.

The article points out that silver tourism is on the rise in South Africa, with elderly tourist numbers showing growth in December. International tourists aged 65 years and older were 9.6% male and 4.5% female. In the SADC region, elderly tourists comprised 21% male and 3.3% female.