Although they might be reluctant to admit it, both guests and hoteliers don’t usually associate ‘five-star’ with ‘family friendly’. The expectation of five-star hospitality is seamless service, acute attention to detail and an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere – descriptors that would make most parents hesitant to book a hotel with these standards. Nevertheless, these are luxuries that families appreciate when spending quality time together.
Luxury family travelling is not a new concept, but is increasing. With the rise of the bleisure market, more parents are trying to combine their work and family lifestyle. Here at the Royal Garden we have a friendly, down-to-earth approach which gives us the flexibility to accommodate both the business and family traveller.
However, over the past 50 years we’ve learnt that what five-star service is for a business traveller, is not the same for those travelling with young children.
When you're accommodating families, we have found taht anything that staff can do on the family’s arrival to dissipate the stress of the journey, is greatly appreciated. A simple distraction for the children, such as the backpack which we provide on check-in, can work a treat. Staff should also aim to be as flexible as possible, allowing for early check-in to minimise opportunities for children to get restless.
As with any type of guest, hotels should strive to create a home away from home for families. Ultimately, this should mean creating a relaxed environment where families not only feel comfortable but accommodated for.
Here are my five top tips for attracting the family market:
- Make your booking family-friendly. With parents being hesitant of using a five star hotel in the first place, they need to be re-assured when they are booking that they have made the right choice. Our website contains a section dedicated for families, so parents can see straight away that we welcome younger guests. During the booking, the reservations team will ensure they have the children’s names so when the family arrives, the children are greeted personally too.
- Create a distraction at check in. Parents often arrive at the hotel tired and weary from a long journey, while the children are often agitated and restless. On arrival, deploy your guest relations team armed with goodies, a light snack or toy that will keep them entertained and allow the parents to have a stress-free check-in. Our guest relations team know how to keep children’s spirits high. For example, they give them their own special key card, which makes them feel important and excited about going to their room.
- Make partners out of your neighbours by arranging deals for your family guests. Although they have chosen to stay in your hotel, families don’t want to just stay in the hotel. Reach out to nearby entertainment venues, museums, cinemas and restaurants to negotiate discounts for your guests, so that they can make the most of their experience without breaking the bank. Our guests can get up to 20 per cent off their food bill at selected restaurants in the area for example.
- Deliver a ready-made itinerary which points to family friendly destinations in your area. In London especially, where families will want to sight-see, a map which has ‘challenges’ at each location is a great way to keep children stimulated throughout the day. Challenges can be as simple as taking pictures of landmarks which can be redeemed with a dessert or smoothie at the hotel.
- Be flexible on your food and beverage offering. Create special dining experiences for children and offer a variety when it comes to children’s menus. Our children’s afternoon tea is a great fun alternative that all the family can enjoy. We also offer early dining and 24-hour room service so there is always something available.
Mark Anderson is deputy general manager of the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.