The only other time Connie Tiong and her extended family members see each other, apart from Chinese New Year, is during their year-end vacation.
“It is difficult for us to see each other throughout the year because we are all so busy, ” the Sarawakian offers.
In fact, the family would plan and finalise their year-end holiday during the festive period itself – when all 14 relatives are present.
“Planning a trip for such a big group may not be easy, as we all have different schedules. But I believe the more the merrier, especially if it is with my family, ” Tiong says.
Like the Tiongs, Nur Fatihah Noor Azhar Shah also goes on holidays with her extended family members.
“Our family, some 20 of us, travels on a yearly basis, sometimes to local places or overseas. My mum and aunties are usually in charge of planning the trip. We would gather at my grandmother’s house in Penang, a month before a trip, to review our travel itinerary, ” she explains.
Many of Nur Fatihah’s relatives live in different states throughout the country, but a vacation brings everyone together in one place.
Both families are part of the increasingly popular multigenerational travel trend. It’s when parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and other assorted family members take a trip together.
Multigenerational family travel has topped the list of travel trends in recent years and according to the latest Virtuoso Luxe Report, it is set to maintain its stronghold in 2020.
The Asian family factor
The demand for multigenerational travel is highest in Asia, according to global online travel agency Agoda. The company’s Family Travel Trends 2018 survey found that Asian travellers engage in more extended family trips.
In Malaysia in particular, 37% have travelled with grandparents, compared to travellers from Britain and Australia where only 13% and 20% respectively claim to do so. Within South-East Asia, Malaysia ranks fourth after Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines for travel with grandparents.
The popularity of this trend in the region can be attributed to the Asian culture which prioritises filial piety.
“There is a heavy importance placed on the duty for taking care of one’s parents and elderly family members; we (prioritise) respecting and caring for ageing parents.
“Therefore, children will take their parents on holiday as an expression of love and gratitude, as well as a chance for everyone to spend quality time together, ” Agoda says.
As a whole, though, the company says it’s just a spilling effect of global tourism growth.
“People are travelling more frequently. On average, globally, people travel six times a year, and here in Malaysia the average is seven times.
“Within this, it’s likely we are taking different types of holidays – be that with extended families or heading off for a solo adventure, ” Agoda explains.
Crafting a travel itinerary for all
Agoda’s survey found that most people travel with family to enjoy quality family time (68%), relaxation (66%) and trying new things (46%).
These common themes are also reflected in Malaysian travellers’ behaviour with quality family time (80%) taking priority, followed by relaxation (70%) and trying new things (46%).
“When extended families come together, they bring with them a host of different needs, abilities and interests. Therefore, it goes without saying that for a successful trip you need to find things to do that blends the desires of each generational group into one great experience, ” the company says.
Many travel agencies are tapping into the trend and offering tours that cater to both young and older relatives. These packages usually visit destinations suitable for various age groups.
A good example is Central Europe. Grandparents can indulge in food and wine, parents can shop at the local markets, while the kids can explore natural parks.
Another sector poised to tap the growth of multigenerational holiday is the cruise industry.
Genting Cruise Lines for one, has been observing growth in this segment in recent years. The company runs Dream Cruises, Star Cruises and Crystal Cruises.
“We continue to observe a year-on-year double digit growth in multigenerational travel across our fleet. We remain highly optimistic of the great potential of this market segment with continued growth in the coming years, ” says Dream Cruises president and international sales head Michael Goh.
A cruise holiday, according to Goh, fulfils many requirements of the multigenerational family holiday.
“Families looking to reconnect and travel together are drawn to the convenience of an all-inclusive and hassle-free experience of a cruise vacation, without the need to pack and unpack at different destinations, providing a seamless vacation all together.
“Hotels, too, are seeing growth in travel among extended family members, with many accommodations providing suites that cater to larger groups of family.
“In recent years, there has been an uptake in larger, family-style suites and rooms. This booking trend is a result of the growing wealth in the younger generation, which in turn, attributes to more room bookings, ” says Hilton Malaysia national marketing and communications director Eugene Oelofse.
The Hilton hotel chain, meanwhile, has introduced leisure-focused additions such as family suites and family rooms, inter-connected hallways and other services directly specified for families such as children’s club and pool slides.
Holiday close to home
Agoda’s booking data revealed that Malaysian travellers tend to favour domestic destinations when travelling in larger groups. The company’s Usage and Attitude 2019 study found that the top three travel motivations for Malaysians are food and dining, nature and scenery and popular tourist attractions.
The aforementioned are all traits that describe Malaysia’s tourism scene. With Visit Malaysia 2020 (VM2020), Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang says families should do inbound travel as much as possible.
“VM2020 is targeted at foreign visitors but the publicity and promotions will raise the awareness of Malaysians that our country has much to offer. Malaysia is appealing to many locals as it offers a wide range of tourism products – from beautiful islands to highlands, theme parks and not forgetting local cuisine, ” Tan says.
On the stakeholders’ part, he says the industry needs to provide mobility-friendly facilities for the more senior members. These include wheelchair lifts for tour buses and vans, wheelchair-friendly ramps for buildings, motorised wheelchairs at shopping malls, and disabled-friendly toilets at attractions such as museums and theme parks.
The challenge for travel operators, according to Tan, is in facilitating sudden changes to one’s holiday plans as Malaysians tend to make last-minute arrangements.
However, he says operators must learn to cope with the more dynamic nature of the multigenerational travel group.
“Changes are the norm for multigenerational travel or for any large group travelling together as some members can come down with illness, be in bereavement or have emergencies before or during the tour.
“As such, contingency plans must be in place and made known to customers, staff and suppliers in advance, ” he says.
The way Dream Cruises’ Goh sees it, some give-and-take is necessary for a fun and memorable holiday with all in the family.
“Multigenerational travel can be a task as it often involves a bigger group. So, an ideal holiday will be one that is convenient, affordable and most importantly allows families to bond and at the same time, has something for every generation to enjoy, ” he concludes.
Planning the trip
A multigenerational family holiday usually involve a bigger group and people of various age groups. But it’s not exactly rocket science to plan a successful vacation with all in the family.
Here are some tips from experts on how you can orchestrate a trip that would be fun and enjoyable for everyone.
“There should be some breathing room at various destinations to allow everyone to enjoy some private space or indulge in individual interests. As such, the itinerary should not be standardised for everyone throughout but allow some options or leisure time for personal activities. That said, interesting and meaningful events and activities for all family members to participate must be included in the itinerary.” – Datuk Tan Kok Liang, Matta
“Families looking to travel together would do well to choose diverse destinations that cater to all interests, where there is an outlet to do both individual and collective interests.” – Eugene Oelofse, Hilton Malaysia
“When on a cruise ship, request for cabins that are interconnected so you can have some privacy and yet stay closely connected while on a cruise. Sign up for various activities that you can do as a family, which is abundance and also activities that are suited for each generation. That way you get a good mix of activities.” – Michael Goh, Dream Cruises
“With large travel groups, budget may be a primary consideration. Look out for rooms that include kids stay free options. Meals and activities can add up quickly for a large group so having on-site cooking facilities so some meals can be prepared at ‘home’, can help keep the budget under control.” – Agoda