Family experiences tend to be memorable ones, especially when travelling, and with luxury family travel steadily on the rise, Tourism Update breaks down what this market wants and expects when visiting Africa.

Sally Grierson, Director of Great Migration Camps, a mobile environmentally friendly camp in the Serengeti, Kenya, says she has noticed an increase in family luxury travel, especially over school holidays.

Defining luxury 

According to Peter Dros, Sales and Marketing Director of Fancourt, on the Garden Route near George in the Western Cape, luxury family travel should strive to create memorable experiences for guests, as it is the unexpected touches that make guests feel extra special.

According to Brenda Munro, Sales and Marketing Director of The Fine Collection, luxury family travel encapsulated comfort, where families are as comfortable staying together at a hotel as they would be at home, however not cramped in one room with roll-out beds for children.

Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Communications Co-ordinator at Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), says luxury family travellers look for top-quality service in every part of their journey. “This might include anything, from top-end business-class flights, five-star accommodation establishments, 24-hour concierge services, to nanny services or in-house entertainment for children, catering for all their specific needs.”

What each market wants

Dros says each market is very different. Using the example of Indian travellers, she says they are drawn to Fancourt for its family-friendly philosophy, whilst the European market looks for destinations that incorporate the ‘whole experience’ and allows them to create memories with their families in elegant surroundings.

Fancourt’s top inbound markets that travel with their families to Africa are from both the European and US markets, says Dros.

Ngwenya says: “Based on Tourism KZN’s market insights, we know that, for example, Americans come to KZN mainly for a safari and the Zulu culture and, therefore, are willing to pay top dollar for that experience in luxury. On the other end, the Asian market, like the glitz and glam, and that is what they will pay top dollar for.”

According to Munro, from personal observations she has noted that the European market normally travel with younger children compared with travellers from the US.

Requirements, expectations and insights

Fancourt’s appeal for families travelling together is its family offering, where children are not only kept occupied and entertained 24/7, but evenings allow for perfect quality time, spent together, mentions Dros. “Knowing that their children are safe and looked after is important to parents, but they also want to feel that their children are welcome at the destination. Even babies are given special care at Fancourt, with branded soft towels and facecloths to await the youngest onsite arrival.”

According to Ngwenya, these types of families expect concierge services, 24-hour room service, pomp and ceremony, as well as nanny services.

Munro says it is all about villa living for families in this segment. “We have noticed that they tend to book accommodation where villa living is offered.”

Credits: L’Ermitage Chateau & Villas in Franschhoek.

She says this is what makes L’Ermitage Chateau & Villas in Franschhoek, Western Cape, an ideal option. L’Ermitage’s villas are perfect as they offer two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas equipped with a full kitchen with a washing machine, as well as a lounge and large private terrace, says Munro.

Catering for the whole family

Fancourt offers babysitting services that can be booked upfront for when parents want a night alone. Babysitters look after children in their own rooms, so parents rest assured knowing they are aware of exactly where their children are.

The Garden Route boasts a range of innovative activities for families. Dros says Fancourt has a variety of facilities that cater for the interests of each member of the family, from golf courses and spa amenities designed to facilitate complete relaxation, to the Teens Lounge, equipped with the latest gaming facilities, table tennis and a pool table, as well as a mini cinema on the top floor. Teens can also enjoy the high-tech gym, sauna and dance studio, however those aged between 12 and 14 require adult supervision for this. The Kidz Club provides endless of hours entertainment, offering daily fully supervised programmes for children aged three to 10 years of age. "There is something for everyone,” adds Dros.

Credits: Fancourt

The Italian restaurant at Fancourt, La Cantina, as well as the Club Lounge both have dedicated children’s menus consisting of classic kids’ favourites.

Dros says families on a luxury holiday tend to look for all-inclusive experiences, knowing every detail, no matter how small, has been thought of and included. “In short, they want to show up with everything already in order so that they can just relax and enjoy each other’s company.

“With restaurants that provide a wide range of cuisine, and a Leisure Centre equipped to provide hours of entertainment, families visiting Fancourt area guaranteed that all-inclusive experience,” added Dros.

Great Migration Camps offer simple healthy children’s meals, with plenty of fruit and vegetables available. “As children are an integral part of the camp, they often join main meals where everyone sits together, unless they are exhausted,” says Grierson. “Kids’ dinner get priority so they can go to bed.”

At Great Migration Camps, children up to the age of five have to sleep in the same tent as their parents, however children aged six and above can share with other children.

Credits: Great Migration Camps. 

At Great Migration Camps, children up to the age of five stay free, and park fees also do not apply. For five- to 12-year-olds, about a 50% discount applies, says Grierson, and for children aged from 12 to 16, a 75% discount.

Exclusive experiences

RockFig Safari Lodge, a new property in the Timbavati Game Reserve in Limpopo, offers private safari vehicles for families, guaranteeing an exclusive safari experience, shared only with each other. A private vehicle also affords flexibility, and safari activities can be planned around guests’ particular needs, uninhibited by lodge timings. Children of all ages can enjoy game drives without being subjected to age restrictions

At the Great Migration Camps, if there are a few children in camp, Grierson says “we then do a kids’ safari car with a guide experienced in child care and the bush”. “The kids’ game drives give parents a break.”

According to Grierson, the entire safari is an educational experience – from animal identification, animal behaviour, lists of animals, lists of things to spot, numbers and counting, to learning to make campfires under supervision.

Weather, geology and so forth come into play with older children, says Grierson, providing a further understanding of how the greater ecosystem works, keeping nature in balance.

According to Munro, wildlife experiences are at the top of the list. Nxamaseri Island Lodge, a family-run lodge in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, caters for children. “Not many properties in the Delta take children under the age of 12, making Nxamaeri special.”

Nxamaseri  Island Lodge offers families a variety of African experiences, from mokoro excursions, to bird watching, fishing and more. Guests at the lodge may also visit Tsodilo Hills, a Unesco World Heritage Site, with ancient San rock paintings.

Ngwenya says KZN offers a multitude of activities that cater for luxury family travel, ranging from adventure, safaris, romance for parents, to beach and cultural experiences.

Expanding on this, KZN boasts uShaka Marine World, Canopy Tours, mountain biking, educational tours to places such as Mandela Capture Site, Inanda Heritage Route, the Midlands Meander and a number of museums, according to Ngwenya.

The Cape Dutch Quarters in Tulbagh, Western Cape, is family-friendly, and is an experience on its own, as families can book a fully equipped heritage house.

Travel options

According to Dros, the majority of Fancourt guests, especially families travelling together, fly to George and make their way to Fancourt from there, adding that self-drive guests are an increasingly rare sight.

Ngwenya says KZN Tourism has noted that international travellers are more than willing to pay for business-class tickets for the entire family.

The Blue Train, provides another authentic family experience, with trips between Cape Town and Pretoria, and also makes occasional special departures to the Greater Kruger area, combining a one-way rail journey with a safari, either in the Kruger National Park or at one of the luxury lodges in the area, such as the Sabi Sands and Timbavati.

The 19-hour journey includes pampering on board, as the train departs from Pretoria at 15h00, arriving in Hoedspruit at 10h00 the next morning, and vice versa.

Federal Airlines offers numerous private charters and schedule flights for this segment.

A niche market

Go2Africa’s top picks for best family destinations include South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania and Kenya, taking families on unforgettable trips. The company believes family travel should be safe, professionally managed and tailored to each family’s unique preferences, whether it is beach resorts, residential villas, privately guided tours, or family road trips.

Southern and East Africa have a lot to offer families embarking on a luxury trip, with a range of properties, from lodges to hotels catering for children and parents alike, and adventures that the whole family can enjoy. This segment is growing, and the tourism market has taken note, tapping into this niche market to provide the best offering for the entire family.