Is the travel industry increasingly buying into the power of children as travel influencers and future brand ambassadors?

Whether it is the television adverts during our favourite daytime shows, confectionery or toys strategically located close to the checkouts in the supermarket, leveraging younger generations’ influence over parents is nothing new. Is the travel industry now increasingly locking into the power of this persuasion (the nag factor) or is the family unit now genuinely a key target market? The Blue Swan Daily highlights recent initiatives from Marriott and Qatar Airways.


Summary:

  • Are Qatar Airways’ ‘Oryx Kids Loyalty Programme’ and Marriott’s ‘Family by JW’ initiative mere marketing ploys to use the power of children as travel influencers and future brand ambassadors?
  • The Oryx Kids Loyalty Programme, is designed directly for children aged between two and 11 and works in a similar way to standard airline loyalty schemes;
  • ‘Family by JW’ aims aims to offer “a variety of enriching experiences to family travellers” based around principals of “balance, togetherness and human enrichment”;
  • Behind a quiet and happy child is a relieved and relaxed parent, and that helps deliver increased spend and repeat business.

Whilst child-targeted marketing historically concentrated on sweets and toys, it has expanded to now include clothes, shoes, a range of fast foods, sports equipment, computer products and toiletries, even as far as adult products such as cars and credit cards. Beyond simply the influence they have over their parents’ spend, companies are now targeting them for their own future spend through brand loyalty. Young people are some of the most easily influenced individuals out there and catering any marketing strategy to appeal to them is generally believed to be a road to success.

Qatar Airways’ Oryx Kids Loyalty Programme, is designed directly for the youth market and children aged between two and 11. It works in a similar way to standard airline schemes by offering them the opportunity to enjoy value-added benefits while travelling with Qatar Airways as well as the ability to earn Qmiles, which can be redeemed for awards. In addition, they will also be eligible to earn Qpoints, which moves them to a higher tier, offering exclusive benefits.

The scheme is part of the launch of the Oryx Kids Club, an exciting new flying club for the airline’s youngest passengers, designed “to put even more fun into flying for children,” according to the airline. Through the Oryx Kids Club hero mascots, ‘Orry’ and ‘Orah’ the Oryx and their three furry friends – Kamil the camel, Faaiz the falcon and Farah the desert fox, the airline wants “to inspire and excite children when they fly” and make Qatar Airways “the airline of choice for families”.

According to the carrier, the Oryx Kids Loyalty Programme will feature a specially-designed secure section on the airline’s main Privilege Club loyalty website where children can view their own dashboard, Qmiles balance, travel history and much more, keeping the young loyalty members updated about their membership account. But, ultimately, parents will maintain a key role in managing their child’s account, and as the airline describes, making it “an exciting opportunity for parents and children who plan to travel together, so both can enjoy the mutual benefits provided by Privilege Club”.

Travelling with children can be a challenge for parents and while offering goodie bags on boarding, the Qatar Airways programme does take things to a clever new level and could generate a travel base for the future, while also supporting its existing executive membership. But, it remains unclear currently if the Oryx Kids Loyalty Programme is little more than a marketing ploy to appeal to parents, or if it will deliver tangible benefits to regular travellers.

Marriott’ International’s recently launched ‘Family by JW’ programme is not just about children, but claims to have the family at the heart of its strategy and is a global initiative that the hotelier claims “underscores the importance of families spending quality time together”. It aims to offer “a variety of enriching experiences to family travellers” that are based around the principals of “balance, togetherness, and human enrichment.”

Extending far beyond the general kids’ club at a resort hotel, the programme is aimed at families who are seeking more collaborative experiences than ever before, by engaging children and parents “through meaningful activities that are interesting for all parties involved.”

Intended for children ages 5 to 12, ‘Family by JW’ will spread from check-in with a special activity guide amenity developed with the Guggenheim Museum encouraging children to design their own building and think about spatial perceptions; to its ‘Wind Down and Get Up’ fun and engaging stretches for families to practice together in the comfort of their rooms; to interactive cooking classes led by property culinary experts and chefs.

While it is clear that Marriott is working to enhance the travel experience for the whole family, we all know that behind a quiet and happy child is a relieved and relaxed parent. And that helps deliver increased spend and repeat business. Is that the real reasoning behind these new initiatives?