Families form a significant component of the global tourism industry. Schanzel and Yeoman (2012) assert that families have a significant influence on tourism demand. Nickerson and Jurowski (2000) define family tourism as a form of tourism, which involves the family unit.
According to a study conducted by Nickerson and Jurowski (2000), families accounted for 65% of the total domestic trips in the United States. Moreover, family expenditures averaged $1,087 in 1999, which represents a 58% growth compared to the previous year.
The study also showed that 31% of the families considered in the study indicated their intention to increase their spending on family vacations in the future. Schanzel and Yeoman (2012, p.2) opine that the ‘growing significance of this market should not be underestimated, despite the prevailing economic climate’.
Furthermore, recent research shows that most families are unwilling to forgo consumption of tourism products (Kang, Hsu & Wolfe 2009). Subsequently, firms in the tourism industry must recognise the significance of families and their changing makeup in their pursuit for sustainable growth.
Most studies on consumer behaviour have identified children as consumers (Berry 2000). Furthermore, an extensive body of knowledge on the decision-making process within the family have been undertaken.
However, researchers in the tourism industry have mainly concentrated on the role of husband and wife in the process of making decisions on holidays. Subsequently, there is a gap with regard to the role of children in the decision making process.
This paper offers a literature review on the family market and the power of children in the tourism industry. Furthermore, the paper evaluates the challenges faced by marketers in their quest to maximise their firms’ profitability.
Consumer decision making
Consumers engage in a comprehensive decision-making process in their purchasing process. Wang, Hsieh, Yeh, and Tsai (2004) assert that the decision making process is influenced by different factors. One of these factors includes social influence by family, friends, and reference groups.
Previous researches have identified family as a critical component of the consumers’ decision-making process. However, most researches have concentrated on the role of husband and wife in purchase decision making.
Moreover, findings of most researchers show that husbands and wives make decisions jointly (Wang et al. 2004).
Children as influencers
Blichfeldt and Pedersen (2010) contend that children constitute a significant proportion of consumers, which marketers should target. This market segment is created as soon as children begin to make requests for products and services.
Studies show that the likelihood of children influencing purchase decisions on products that directly affect them is high. Moreover, studies have shown that children are less likely to influence purchase decisions related to products involving high costs and which the entire family consumes.
Therefore, parents take the responsibility of making decisions involving high-risk products. Thomson, Liang, and McKee (2007) assert that children have largely been ignored as influencers in the consumption decision-making process.
However, this trend has changed lately. Various children TV shows and magazines have reported an increase in the rate at which children are being integrated into the consumption decision-making process.
For example, a study conducted by JD Power Associates reveals that 69%of parents involve their children in making decisions on the type of vehicle to purchase (Blichfeldt & Pedersen 2010).
Role of children in vacation marketing
According to Nickerson and Jurowski (2000), family tourism is experiencing significant growth due to diverse work related issues. For example, parents are spending much of their time working in an effort to support their families financially.
This aspect has led to significant increment in their disposable income. However, this move has led to a significant reduction in the time spent with their children.
Previously, children were not considered in making decisions on vacation. Nickerson and Jurowski (2000) argue that their lack of inclusion is largely because most tourist firms did not consider children as a viable target audience.
Subsequently, firms in the tourism industry believed that children submit to their parents’ decisions. Currently, most families are considering family trips as a perfect way to reconnect with their children.
Additionally, parents are increasingly providing children with the responsibility of making decisions on holiday destinations. Subsequently, they are increasingly being considered as a critical component of the decision-making unit.
One of the critical steps in the consumer decision-making process entails information search. Boonlertvanich (2009) asserts that consumers search for information from diverse sources such as family, friends, reference groups, and the media.
Information search is motivated by the need to develop sufficient knowledge on the product. Liang (2013) argues that consumers undertake comprehensive pre-purchase information seeking in order to enhance their decision-making capability.
Information search increases the likelihood of attaining a high level of post-purchase satisfaction.
Liang (2013) further asserts that children influence the decision-making process by acting as a significant source of information. According to Meyers (2008), children are increasingly becoming knowledgeable on different holiday destinations.
The growth in the level of knowledge arises from the high rate at which marketers are targeting children in their marketing process.
The emergence of diverse web-based marketing communication tools such as social media has provided marketers with an opportunity to interact with children. Subsequently, children have become a critical source of marketer-dominated information.
Previous studies further show that 75% of parents involve children in making decisions on holiday destinations by showing them different advertising mediums such as magazines and websites on holiday destinations (Meyers 2008).
Consequently, one can assert that children are proactively involved in making decisions on family trips by offering their suggestions and ideas about their preferred holiday destination. However, Meyers (2008) asserts that the degree of involvement in the holiday decision-making process depends on the children’s age.
Challenges facing marketers today
The above analysis shows that there is a high probability for family tourism market experiencing significant growth in the future. However, the extent to which firms in the tourism industry exploit the market opportunities will depend on the effectiveness with which they understand prevailing market challenges.
A study conducted by International Building Machine (IBM) involving 500 marketing managers from 15 different industries showed that marketers face a major challenge in their effort to create and sustain a high rate of organisational growth (Whitler 2013).
Forty two percent (42%) of the respondents interviewed argued that increasing the customer base is a major challenge while 36% of the respondents cited nurturing a high level of customer loyalty as a major challenge (Whitler 2013).
Changing market trends
Firms in different sectors are facing a challenge emanating from the prevailing market trends. For example, organisations are increasingly investing in research and development in an effort to develop products that satisfy the consumers’ needs and wants.
This aspect has improved the effectiveness with which organisations undertake continuous product improvement, hence their degree of competitiveness.
The family tourism market is characterised by the emergence of new products. This aspect presents a major challenge in organisations’ efforts to keep up with the prevailing market trends.
Furthermore, the family tourism market is not shielded from challenges emanating from the external business environment. One of these challenges relates to an increase in complexity of the family unit.
Schanzel and Yeoman (2012) cite the emergence of alternative families, increase in the consumers’ disposable income, the emergence of social media, and increase in the size of the aging population as some of the challenges facing firms in the family tourism industry.
These changes have complicated the consumers’ needs for tourism products.
Despite this aspect, firms in the hospitality industry have an obligation to ensure that customers are satisfied in order to achieve their profit maximisation objective.
One of the ways through which firms in the hospitality industry can enhance their profitability is by developing multi-generational products, which accommodate diverse family needs (Schanzel & Yeoman 2012).
Marketers have an obligation to ensure that their organisations attain the profit maximisation objective. Consequently, marketers should adopt effective market targeting strategies.
Laroche, Bergeron, and Barbaro-Forleo (2001) define marketing targeting as the process of identifying the specific market segment that an organisation intends to market its products. Marketers can adopt different targeting approaches, which include the differentiated, undifferentiated, and the concentrated approach.
The undifferentiated approach entails developing a product that appeals the entire market while the differentiated approach entails identifying specific groups of customers, which are likely to become loyal to the firm’s product.
On the other hand, the concentrated approach entails selecting one specific customer group, which is likely to increase the likelihood of a firm attaining its profit maximisation objective.
Attaining effective marketing targeting is a major challenge to most organisations due to the complexity with regard to the consumers’ needs.
The situation is further complicated by change in consumer behaviour. Laroche, Bergeron, and Barbaro-Forleo (2001, p.503) argue that an ‘important challenge facing marketers is to identify which consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products’.
This assertion underscores the importance of marketers developing sufficient understanding of the consumers’ needs. Schanzel and Yeoman (2012) assert that understanding the target market’s specific needs enables organisational managers to formulate optimal product differentiation strategy.
Subsequently, targeting can enhance the likelihood of an organisation achieving long-term success. Furthermore, effective targeting enhances the effectiveness with which firms in the tourism industry achieve their consumer centric objective.
Middleton and Clarke (2012) assert that firms are experiencing a significant increment in marketing cost while the costs of general management and manufacturing have been declining.
The increase in marketing cost has emanated from the need to create sufficient awareness by investing in diverse marketing communication mediums. Despite this aspect, corporate managers have an obligation to maximise their shareholders’ wealth.
Subsequently, managers are faced with the challenge of ensuring that their organisations attain operational efficiency under starved resources.
Weber (2002, p.705) points out that marketing ‘managers are being asked to provide a more convincing evidence that planned marketing strategies will indeed yield more value for the company and its shareholders’. Moreover, marketing managers are required to justify why the marketing budget should be increased.
Budget constraint is further complicated by economic changes such as the recent global economic crisis. The crisis has motivated organisations to cut the cost of their operation by adopting diverse cost management strategies such as downsizing.
The family tourism market has undergone significant growth over the past few decades. The growth has emanated from changes emanating from the external business environment. For example, parents are increasingly considering family trips as an avenue to compensate for the time lost.
Subsequently, family vacations are being considered as a strategy to connect with children. This paper has further identified consumer decision-making process as one of aspects that marketers should take into account in their marketing process.
Understanding the different actors in the consumer decision-making process increases the effectiveness with which marketers influence their purchase decision.
Despite the significance of children in the consumption process, most parents do not consider them in their decision-making process. However, this paper has identified children as critical influencers in the decision making process.
According to this paper, children are an important source of information on the various holiday destinations that a family should consider.
The study asserts that children are increasingly becoming knowledgeable on holiday destinations due to the high rate at which destination marketers are considering them as the target audience.
In a bid to improve their competitive advantage with regard to marketing, it is imperative for marketers to understand the prevailing market challenges.
Some of the major challenges that firms in the family tourism market face include changing market trends, targeting difficulties, and budget constraints. Taking into account these aspects will improve the effectiveness with which firms in the tourism market segment influence the family market segment.
Berry, T 2000, Hurdle, the book on business planning; how to develop and implement successful business plan, Palo Alto Software Inc, Eugene.
Blichfeldt, B & Pedersen, B 2010, ‘Tween tourists; children and decision making’, Journal of Tourism Consumption and Practice, vol. 2 no. 1, pp. 1-24.
Boonlertvanich, K 2009, ‘Consumer buying and decision making behaviour of a digital camera in Thailand’, RU International Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 57-65.
Kang, S, Hsu, C & Wolfe, K 2009, ‘ Family traveller segmentation by vacation decision making patterns’, Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, vol. 3 no.1, pp. 1-23.
Laroche, M, Bergeron, J & Barbaro-Forleo, G 2001, ‘ Targeting consumers who are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 18 no. 6, pp. 503-520.
Liang, Y 2013, ‘Children’s influence on purchasing tourism products via the internet; parental power versus children’s power, the social power perspective’, Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, vol. 30 no. 3, pp. 639-662.
Meyers, Y 2008, ‘Target marketing and the product; categorisation products to understand the resulting marketing communication outcome measures’, Journal of Management and Marketing Research, vol. 2 no.1, pp. 10475-10483.
Middleton, V & Clarke, J 2012, Marketing in travel and tourism, Routledge, New York.
Nickerson, N & Jurowski, C 2000, ‘The influence of children on vacation travel patterns’, Journal of Vacation Marketing, vol. 7 no. 1, pp. 19-30.
Schanzel, H & Yeoman, I 2012, Family tourism, Channel View Publication, London.
Thomson, E, Liang, A & McKee, L 2007, ‘Family purchase decision making; exploring child influence behaviour’, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, vol. 6 no.1, pp. 182-202.
Wang, K, Hsieh, A, Yeh, Y & Tsai, C 2004, ‘Who is the decision maker; the parent or the children in group package tours’, Tourism Management, vol. 25 no.4, pp. 183-194.
Weber, J 2002, ‘Managing the marketing budget in cost constrained environment’, Industrial Marketing Management, vol. 31 no. 8, pp.705-717.
Whitler, K 2013, What are the biggest challenges facing marketers according to new IBM study. Web.