Cultural immersion, local shopping and dining, and adventure travel are some of the trends shaping the family travel segment, according to Collin Thaver, Chief Visionary and MD of Southern Africa 360.
“Engagement and cultural immersive experiences that are suitable for all ages has now become the new norm,” says Thaver. “This includes dining at local spots, shopping at local attractions like Neighbourgoods Market, factory shops, and visiting local hangouts in trendy places like Mabulang, Woodstock, and Florida Road.”
He says active holidays offering adventure activities for all ages, such as visiting skate parks, surfing, hiking, and mountain biking are now a must. “We have seen that these types of trips more frequently involve families travelling with three generations of travellers, therefore itineraries need to be suitable for children, parents, and grandparents.”
One of the challenges faced when handling a family booking, says Thaver, is that of accommodation. “The ages of the children, applicable room types and rates, and hotels that have rooms for children are always a problem. With hotels moving more toward being trendy, wardrobe space and privacy of the wash facilities are also a concern to consider, as is finding safari-based accommodation that is suitable for younger children.”
Saskia Brown, who handles Marketing at Makumu Private Game Lodge in Hoedspruit, South Africa, says its normal minimum age is eight years old, but that if the lodge is booked for exclusive use, there is no minimum age limit. “Parents want to be close to their kids at night. We have three villas, each with two suites that are completely private but have interleading entrances so that families can stay connected should they wish to.”
Brown says, when it comes to handling family bookings, flexibility is what most guests really want. And it is no different for family groups. “Flexibility of dietary requirements, meal times, safari activities, and sleeping arrangements is what most guests want and, with six suites, Makumu is able to do this with ease. Guests also have the option of booking a private game vehicle for a more tailored safari experience.”
One of the biggest challenges for Makumu is that young kids cannot go on all the safari activities that are included in Makumu’s rates. “For example, for safety reasons, children under 16 are not allowed on bush walks to track game on foot. The rangers will, however, do some fun tracking of footprints or dung identification around the lodge or during stops with the kids.”
But it is not all about the kids. Brown says parents often need to combine their holiday with work commitments. The lodge has international plug points and fans in each suite, and WiFi is available throughout the lodge so that guests can stay connected and work when they need to.
But, she says: “In the faster-than-light digital age we live in, there is a need for families to slow down and reconnect with one another. Makumu lodge is entirely candle-lit at night. Over 1 000 candles and lanterns are used to light the lodge at night, and guests always comment on how much more relaxed they feel, and how much better they can hear the sounds of the bush.”