By: Larry Mogelonsky
Member of Laguna Strategic Advisors
Generally ascribed to working parents in their late 30s through to their 50s (or older), a Sandwich Generation describes those among us who are caring for both those younger as well as those older in the family line. It can be quite an ordeal to raise children in addition to providing for enfeebled elders. But such burdens don’t stop travel, or more specifically multi-generational travel, and this is where your marketing team should spend some time considering your options.
As a brief aside, although all four of my wife’s and my immediate ancestors have passed away, there was a stretch of time nearly two decades ago when both of my kids were young and the first step of every family trip was to consider the grandparents’ schedules. Paying for four airfares to Europe (plus that of whichever other blood relative was tagging along) was a tad out of my price range, and so most of our summer vacations involved renting a townhouse at a mountain resort in Vermont, just within the tolerable driving limit from home in Toronto.
These excursions were special, and even though I’ve been to far more elaborate and exotic properties since, I still have fond memories of these getaways because it was such a rare treat to have both grandparents and adolescents together under one roof. This was doubly true when my mother-in-law would visit from Australia, something that became impossible when she had a pacemaker implanted and was no longer fit for overseas flights. Even though it was a long time ago, the resort’s name is seared into my mind and I can gladly recite many of its more enduring features for all who care to listen.
The point of all this reminiscing is that, as someone who has gone through being a member of the sandwich generation, I recognized that time was fleeting and tried as often as was monetarily possible to travel with those older than me. Before we found our groove, my wife and I were constantly on the lookout for places with cross-generational appeal and properties where we could make our brief family outings as special as possible.
Then there’s that renowned 2013 Pew Research study stating that roughly one-in-seven adults in their 40s and 50s are providing some form of financial support to both an aging parent as well as a child. In other words, sandwiching isn’t niche! There are millions of vacationers that fit this bill who are searching for properties affordable, proximal and suitable for guests both young and old.
Additionally, the double whammy of maturing boomers and improved healthcare mean that sandwiching, as a trend, is only bound to increase. In order to appeal to families in this category, your hotel – and this isn’t just a resort-specific suggestion – must explicitly implement packages, promotions and programs that have cross-generational appeal. I’m not saying you should turn your property into a hospice, but some onsite activities to entertain those who are a tad infirm or those who are just a bit more languid in their senior mindsets will go a long way (for instance, shuffleboard courts, arts and crafts or board games).
Furthermore, hire dedicated care personnel or build a rolodex of those living or working nearby who are trained to assist the elderly. Attention is usually given to nannies and babysitters who are capable at watching children so that the parents can sneak away, but devoting some more resources to the opposite end of the spectrum will also bear fruit. Not only is this a good reassurance worth advertising but it will also comfort the more vigorous members of the clan to know that the appropriate staff is on hand should they want to break away for a few hours to partake in some exertive activities.
Also on the advertising front, if you haven’t experienced this sandwiching effect before in your life, you should keep in mind that it can be quite stressful for the adults in charge. How is your hotel going to help alleviate these stresses? Whether it’s a complimentary couples massage or just a chance for some proper downtime, what do you provide to pamper those who actually pay the bills?
I see this as a big opportunity for hotels, as cross-generational marketing isn’t something that many properties are currently do, or doing all that well. Oftentimes, you already have the operations in place to adequate appease those both young and old, but you just aren’t effectively promoting these efforts.
And lastly, if you find yourself in a sandwich or borderline sandwich situation, my advice to you is to make the extra effort to bring your children and your parents together for as many big family vacations as you can afford because these may not be physically possible to arrange in a few years’ time.