Once upon a time many years ago, when the Australian dollar wasn’t so high, there were not so many dual income families, the economy wasn’t so healthy for many and the world seemed a much bigger place, a ‘family holiday’ was a week down the beach in a tent. That's if you were lucky.
Many people still do this – and, in fact, there are some great camping sites, caravan parks and holiday parks in some wonderful locations around Australia – but with more and more dual income families, and more disposable income available, the ‘family holiday’ is just as likely to be 5 star as 1 or 2 star.
Some children today are just as likely to have been to New York, London, Bali, St Moritz and Hong Kong before they turn 10 – when for many of their parents or grandparents, it may have taken a lifetime.
So how does a local hotelier compete?
He finds out what kids want on their holidays – which is precisely what the General Manager of the 5 star Hilton Hotel at Surfers Paradise, Chris Partridge, is doing with an online kids survey.
“From my perspective, in order to ensure a positive travelling experience for the whole family it’s imperative to anticipate the needs of both the parents and the children,” says Chris.
“Any travelling experience takes planning, and with children, planning plays an even more integral role to ensure everything goes smoothly.
“Our main goal, as a 5 star hotel, is to take some of the pressure off parents by offering activities, services and facilities that we know children will enjoy; give mum and dad time to plan and make decisions by providing information before they arrive; and ensure there are also options for the parents to have some down time and R&R themselves.”
Already rated as a Top 10 family resort last year, Chris says the common misconception with hotels is that they presume what kids want without actually asking them.
“We’re surrounded by great beaches, theme parks, shopping and the hotel itself as pools, areas to run around in, child-friendly dining and a cinema but there is always room for improvement. We think it’s good to go straight to the source.”
He says that kids are definitely more savvy, more accustomed to the availability and use of technology and are very conscious of their food decisions.
“But there’s always one thing that works with children, and that’s simplicity. This survey is all about getting back to basics and asking kids about their preferences and what’s important to them, so that we can tailor our offering accordingly.
He says this is important because a happy child is a happy parent.
“There needs to be a good balance of activities on a holiday: for the family, for kids to enjoy on their own and for adults to enjoy on their own.
“In all aspects of our business we try to keep that in mind, so while the kids are splashing around in the pool, mum and dad are able to relax poolside in a luxurious cabana, still in eye sight. There’s a café/deli where there are kids books and toys so mum and dad can enjoy a coffee, and we have special kids screenings of films or on-site child minding if required.”
The survey is open until the end of May and Chris says one lucky person who completes it will receive two nights stay for the family in one of the family-style apartments which offer 1, 2 and 3 bedroom options.
Hilton Surfers Paradise top 3 tips for holidaying with kids
1. Keep the kids happy and make parents life easier because that makes them happy too.
2. Make children feel special (can be as simple as remembering their name) and give them something to laugh and smile about. A happy smiling face goes a long way.
3. Give them something to remember. If there’s one positive memory that they can take with them, they will remember the holiday fondly for a lifetime.