Dr. Ian Yeoman, Futurologist
In the United States, a noticeable trend is occurring. Fewer babies are being born and people are living longer. In today's modern family often both parents work and children spend more time with their extended family. Today, families are more mobile and grandparents live more active and independent lives than any previous generation of seniors. As a result, many grandparents and grandchildren often live too far apart to see each other regularly, so grandparents are always looking for ways to draw their families together and strengthen the relationship with their grandchildren. Characteristics of the senior population include lots of free time, willingness to travel and a desire to spend time with their family, especially grandchildren. The baby-boomer generation, in particular, is better off than any other generation has been and, consequently, are spending more money on grandchildren. Together these factors have resulted in the establishment of a new niche travel market called 'grand-travellers' in which grandparents holiday with grandchildren, especially during school holidays when parents may have to work.
Since 1950, the United States has undergone a profound demographic change, with the rapid ageing of the population, a phenomenon that has resulted in an older population replacing what used to be a young-age sex demographic. By 2030, the population of the United States will be 363 million, but the age profile will be very different to that of 1950, when 33.9% of the population was under 19, compared to 26% in 2030. In 1950 8.1% of the population was over 65, whereas in 2030 it will be 19%. Life expectancy in the United States currently stands at 75 for men and 80 for women, and the population is rapidly ageing. By 2030, the over-65s will constitute nearly 20% of the population, compared to 12.5% in 2000. The implications are that the family will be increasingly multi-generational as grandparents live longer. This contrasts sharply with the beginning of the twentieth century when the average woman would have died not long after her last child reached the age of 15.
The family is changing not only in structure but also in the attitudes which govern relationships within it. Family members are becoming more open with each other than before. Parents are increasingly including children in major decision-making and giving them more autonomy over their personal consumption choices. Additionally, traditional domestic roles, such as women being the primary carer for children, are becoming slightly less rigid. This phenomenon is referred to as the 'democratic family'. Families also provide a system of support and reciprocity to the extent that there is an inter-dependent network – grandparents are baby-sitters; teenagers are carers; and parents are increasingly offering financial support when their children buy their first home. Indeed, in spite of the changing composition of households, kinship ties appear to be very much alive in everyday life. Families of the future will be egalitarian, democratic and flexible, and effectively operate as a partnership or team where each member has an equal voice and acts as an individual consumer with his or her own demands and expectations — for example, more and more children have a significant degree of influence on purchase decisions within the household, including holidays. Longevity and smaller core families have led to the family structure becoming more vertical rather than statically horizontal in form. Because there are more, longer-lived grandparents and fewer children, grandparents are enjoying more time with their grandchildren.
Consider the following: in 1900, the life expectancy of a woman in the United States was 47 years; today it is 80. Today, grandparents can expect to enjoy several more years with their grandchildren than could grandparents of the 1960s. The term multi-generational family, also known as the 'vertical family', is a term first coined by sociologist Michael Young. It refers to the fact that because of increased longevity, there has been a gradual shift towards there being more generations in a family. Because people live longer and lead healthier lives it is more common now for a family to consist of three, four or even five generations. Supporting this trend is the phenomenon of falling birth rates, which leads to fewer siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles compared to previous generations. Thus, the structure of the family is more vertical and less horizontal than in the past. The implications of this 'stretching' are manifold for family life and for the relationship between generations at a societal level. Longevity means that grandparents are more likely to assume supervisory childcare. At present, more and more people in the age group 45 to 55 are finding themselves with dual care responsibilities, namely teenage children and elderly parents. But it is probable that in the future this age group could find themselves at the centre of a five-generation family, with great-grandparents in their nineties, grandparents in their seventies, parents in their forties, their children in their thirties, and grandchildren at primary school etc.
As grandparents have more leisure time and parents lead increasingly complicated lives, a new trend is emerging – that of grandparents and grandchildren holidaying together. This is called grand-travel, is one of the fastest growing trends in the twenty-first century society. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 30% of US leisure travellers who are grandparents have taken at least one vacation with their grandchildren, and a survey conducted by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, a marketing agency in the United States, revealed that 56% of children aged 6 to 17 would 'really like to' vacation with their grandparents. The concept of grand-travel was first put into practice by Helena Koenig, who set up the tour operator Grandtravel in 1989 in Maryland; Grandtravel runs escorted tours for grandparents and grandchildren and has received over 15,000 enquiries without any advertising Tours range from 7 to 15 days and include the United States, Europe, Africa and Australia. Koenig believes the grand-travel experience draws grandparents and grandchildren closer together and helps them relate to each other in remarkable ways.
The Walt Disney Corporation was another pioneer of the idea of grandparents travelling with their grandchildren. In 1998, Disney recognised opportunities to attract grandparents and grandchildren to Disney theme parks for vacations, and they offered special packages and travel arrangements specifically arranged for grandparents with grandchildren. So, why is grand travelling proving to be popular? The key to the popularity of the grand-travel experience is that it offers something for everyone involved, even the parents who are not involved. Grandparents are able to spend quality time with their grandchildren without interference from the parents. The parents are able to relax, knowing their children are away with someone they trust.
In 2030, there will be fewer children in the world and more relatives and grandparents. As a result, children will become more important, they will be showered with more gifts, and relatives will spend more time with them. Therefore, the grand-travel concept will grow in importance. The close bonding of families is important now and will be more so in the future. To a certain extent, time spent with grandchildren will become the new luxury, as there will be fewer children and grandparents will place more value upon them.
Ian Yeoman's new book, tomorrows tourist discusses what the future tourist will look like in 2030, where they will go on holiday and what they will do.
Dr. Ian Yeoman
Ian Yeoman is the world's only professional crystal ball gazer or futurologist specializing in travel and tourism. Ian learned his trade as the scenario planner for VisitScotland, where he established the process of futures thinking within the organisation using a variety of techniques including economic modelling, trends analysis and scenario construction. In May 2008, Ian was appointed an Assoc. Professor of Tourism Management at Victoria University, he is a popular speaker at conferences and was described by the UK Sunday Times as the country's leading contemporary futurologist.
Ian has a PhD in Management Science from Napier University, Edinburgh and a BSc (Hons) in Catering Systems from Sheffield Hallam University. Previously, Ian was Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management at Napier University and University College, Birmingham. He has extensive experience within the hospitality industry, for which he was a hotel manager with Trusthouse Forte.
Ian has received a number of awards in recognition of his research including his appointment as a Honorary Professor of Tourism Management at Stirling University and the Mike Simpson Award from the Operational Research Society.
More details about Ian and futurology in the travel industry can be found at www.tomorrowstourist.com
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