Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Explorative tourism by families with children (12-18 year old)

Takes about 23 minutes to read

‘What are the opportunities for explorative tourism by families with children (12-18 year old)?’

Explorative tourism by families with children in the age group of 12-18 offers interesting opportunities for tourism providers in developing countries, as it is a growing segment. Their key motivation to go on an explorative family holiday is to create family memories and to strengthen the family bond. These families are willing to spend money on getting unforgettable experiences. Destinations and tourism providers that wish to develop explorative tourism for families have to meet some key requirements such as smaller scale and authentic accommodation, included meals, cultural and educational experiences, safety, quality and English language skills.

Explorative family travel is a relatively fast growing market segment (compared to many other tourism segments), due to the increasing importance of family memories and family ties and the search for new experiences. In this Product Factsheet we zoom in on explorative tourism by families (with children in the age of 12-18) as this group has a more explorative nature, is generally willing to spend more money on a holiday and the children speak reasonable to good English. Explorative family travel is an established niche market in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden and the focus is therefore on these countries.

1 . Product description

Explorative tourism is a form of tourism that emphasizes on exploring new destinations, cultures and activities and generally has an educational nature. It is a form of adventure tourism, but less aimed at physical activities.

Traveller profile

Tourists in this segment very often come from higher socio-economic groups. They can be divided into three main traveller groups:

Multigenerational family travel

Multigenerational family travel is a strong trend within adventure tourism for 2016. Grandparents are increasingly willing to pay for a (large part of) once-in-a-lifetime family holiday. Experts say that grandparents, trying to get their children and grandchildren together for quality time, are driving this trend. Around 5.5% of all (European and USA) holiday trips now consist of grandparents, parents and children travelling together, according to a survey by MMGY Global. Around 40% of Dutch families like the idea of spending their summer holiday with the grandparents.

This traveller group is particularly interesting, as 77% of travellers who took a multigenerational vacation last year agreed that such a vacation is something they would try to do every year. Beach vacations and theme park vacations are the most popular types of multigenerational vacations.


  • Focus on the image of spending quality time and unforgettable experiences with the whole family.
  • Emphasize on the way a holiday to your destination can be enjoyed by people of all generations. Be aware that older travellers from Europe do not like to be addressed as ‘older people’. Just give examples of activities that can be enjoyed by all ages, without mentioning the word ‘old’.
  • Offer extra comfort options for older people, for example personalised service, luggage service and more comfortable beds.

Core family travel

Core families consist of parents and their children. They are particularly looking for unforgettable experiences to share amongst each other. To create these memories, they are especially interested in explorative holidays that combine fun and excitement with education, cultural enrichment and higher end experiences. Parents with a history of travelling as a couple often also like to show their children the world. Core families that travel with children between the age of 12 and 18 generally fit in the ‘high income, little time’ group. They are usually two-income families of both highly educated parents. They are looking for types of holiday experiences that include cultural enrichment and high-end experiences. And they are looking for unusual ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences and want to fit as much into their holiday as possible. Comfort is important to them.

This segment has the most repeat customers according to tour operators. They like to return to the same tour operator for a similar holiday to a different destination, preferably to a different continent. They are often increasing the level of (perceived) difficulty of the destination and therefore an interesting target group for explorative family tourism providers from Developing Countries.


  • Work with other local tourism providers in your region and together develop a unique mix of family accommodation and experiences. Emphasize the unique experiences in your promotion. Include different options for accommodation and activities so that families can compose a unique travel package that meets their specific preferences and budget.
  • Consider offering special discounts and all-inclusive prices for families to also appeal to more budget conscious families.

Families travelling with friends

This is a growing segment, also driven by a higher number of divorced parents who like to travel with (also divorced) friends. Their decision to undertake an explorative holiday with their families is also based on providing children with experiences versus ‘things’. In 2015, group travel of friends and/or family made up 10% of the European leisure travel market, according to research by Sojern. Besides Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, interesting source markets for this segment include France and Germany.


  • For this segment in particular, privacy is very important. As the group of travellers are not all related, they prefer separate accommodation. However, the accommodation must be close to each other in distance.

Product requirements

Explorative families are looking for experiences that generally cannot be provided by mass tourism holidays. The following product requirements are important to them:


Families that are interested in explorative tourism to Developing Countries are looking for a wide variety of accommodation types, ranging from campsites to hotels, and within a broad range of prices. They generally prefer unique, small-scale accommodation run by local people which reflects the authentic heritage of the area and enhance the educational experience of the trip. These travellers are becoming more demanding in terms of standards of facilities and comfort. Freedom and flexibility are also important. They first seek the unique aspect, and then look at the price. Basically, they are willing to pay for the unique experience.


  • Maintain a wide range of types and prices of accommodation to meet the varying needs of different types of families, but seek to deliver quality in each accommodation type and price range.
  • A (safe) swimming area is very much appreciated by families and gives accommodations a large competitive advantage. A safe swimming area can either be a pool, a beach, a river or a lake.
  • Offer family-friendly accommodation, rooms must be spacious enough, or there must be family rooms or adjoining room options available.
  • Emphasize the uniqueness and authenticity of your accommodation establishments and enhance the message with good quality photos and videos.


Explorative family travellers prefer holidays in which meals are included. They are on a holiday and do not want to think about what they will cook for dinner, and do not want to go grocery shopping. However, some families do like to be involved in the cooking process, especially if the children can help out in the kitchen as well.  They like to help with the ‘fun part’ of cooking. They like to go shopping for some items at the local market, or learn to prepare local dishes (some sort of cooking workshop). In any case, helping to prepare food has to be optional, not obligatory. They prefer authentic food, that reflects the authentic kitchen of the destination and they are concerned with food hygiene.


  • Consider offering your product with meals included. If possible, let travellers be involved in food preparation.
  • Although authentic meals are highly appreciated, keep in mind that too exotic meals (especially organ meats or very spicy food) might not be enjoyed by particularly the children.

Cultural and educational activities

Explorative families are especially looking for cultural and educational experiences. They really like to participate in the local community, for example a football match with the local team, visiting schools or an animal shelter.


  • Offer family-friendly, memorable experiences that include cultural, educational, but safe activities. These activities and programmes give families a reason to stay longer than they might otherwise stay.
  • Take a look at, as this is a good example of how a destination pairs entertainment with education for children. The programmes this destination offers are so popular that they sell out. Parents love the programmes too, as they have time to relax on their own while their kids are doing something valuable.


Safety is an important aspect for explorative family travellers that consider going to Developing Countries as some Developing Countries are politically unstable. Most commercial tour operators do not offer holidays to countries that have been declared unsafe by their Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unstable political situations in Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Egypt for example, have therefore led to a drop in tourism arrivals. There are also non-political safety issues like limited medical facilities or criminal activities in the area, which can be a barrier for families to go to certain Developing Countries. In any case, they expect guides and other tourism providers to provide them with good knowledge about the local safety status and potential dangers. Dutch travellers are the least cautious in this perspective: some level of unrest or criminality does not stop them.


  • Keep (potential) customers updated on changes in the safety situation in your area, for example through your website and through your staff.
  • Share safety experiences from other families on your website. Let them write about your area and about how safe they felt as a word from another traveller can be of great value.
  • Regularly check your country’s safety status mentioned on the government websites of your most important source countries, like The Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


Explorative travelling families with children aged 12-18 are very concerned with the quality of their holiday. It is many times a holiday they have saved for and it might be the last holiday they travel together as a family. They have high expectations related to the quality of a trip, expecting authentic experiences, good organisation, hospitable staff, customised treatment, experienced guides and safety. Even though this group is predominantly from a higher socio-economic group and willing to pay some more if they get a quality experience, they still want to have the feeling they received a good deal.


  • Focus on offering high quality services by investing in skills training, hiring experienced guides, offering additional services and working with reliable partners. Listen to the wishes of your customers and let them participate in the holiday program (within limits).
  • Make sure the description of your offer matches reality. Do not try to sell a higher quality product than you have.

English language skills

English is widely used by explorative family travellers from Europe. Especially the target groups from our focus countries (the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden) speak good English. Guided tours, websites and promotional material can therefore be in English.


  • Make sure that your staff and guides speak good English.

2 . Which European markets offer opportunities for your travel product?

Table 1: GDP growth, EU28, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom 2013-2018, in %















The Netherlands














United Kingdom







Source: EIU and World Bank

Recovering economy

The European economy is definitely picking up (see Table 1). In terms of GDP growth, the economies in Sweden and the United Kingdom performed best and have the best forecasts. The Dutch GDP is behind those of the United Kingdom and Sweden, but is still performing well. The positive growth forecasts are expected to have a positive impact on areas such as long-haul tourism demand, including family travel. 

Market size difficult to measure

Explorative tourism by families with children of 12-18 is a niche market with an overlap with other tourism segments such as adventure tourism and Community-Based Tourism. This together with the lack of hard statistical data makes it difficult to measure the market size. What is certain is that the growth of explorative tourism by families (with children in all age groups) is a clear trend.


Increase in trips to developing countries

The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden are among the top 10 European countries in terms of trips to developing countries (Figure 1). The United Kingdom and the Netherlands saw a good increase in trips to developing countries between 2013 and 2014. In Sweden the figure stabilised, but it is still higher than the figures in 2010 and 2011. These increases are mainly due to the rising interest in new, emerging tourism destinations.

Popular destinations

Turkey is the most popular Developing Country destination for the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands (Figures 2, 3 and 4). Although Turkey is also a popular family holiday destination (especially for families that have roots in this country), it is not so popular among families that are interested in explorative tourism. According to industry experts, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Thailand, India and Tanzania are popular destinations for explorative tourism by families with children aged 12 to 18. These destinations are rich in culture and nature and relatively easy accessible. Easily accessible usually means relatively low airfares and a direct flight, or only one stopover, which is important to travelling families.


  • Join forces with different tourism stakeholders in your country/region to strengthen your position, as a family tourism destination as the success of explorative tourism by families, needs contributions from several stakeholders.
  • Link various destinations together (villages, accommodations, transport, attractions, activities) that are attractive to explorative families and develop an interesting tour package through the region.
  • Research competitor markets to see what kind of explorative tourism products for families they are offering and how they are positioning themselves in product offering, quality and price.

3 . What trends offer opportunities on the European market for explorative tourism by families?

Social drivers

Multigenerational family travel

Multigenerational family travel is a strong trend within adventure tourism, especially to exotic and/or emerging destinations. As the group of (pre-) pensioners is growing in Europe, the demand for explorative family tourism grows. These (pre-) pensioners are healthier, fitter, well travelled and have the time and money to travel. They are also inclined to help out their children who are in time-stressed, two-job families.


  • In your marketing message, also pay attention to the possibility of multigenerational family travel. Give examples of activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family and illustrate this with good quality photos and videos.

Technological drivers

Getting away from electronics

Parents in Europe are increasingly concerned with the number of hours that their children spend on electronic devices such as computers and television. One of the reasons for going on an explorative family holiday is to get rid of these electronic devices and spend time together.

4 . Social media

Social media are overtaking the influence of word-of-mouth recommendations. European travellers increasingly use social media to research potential holiday destinations. In our target group of explorative tourism by families with children between 12 and 18, both the parents and the children are active on social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, travel review sites such as TripAdvisor, travel forums and blogs have become an important way to help travellers research destinations, share experiences and seek opinions and reviews of destinations, airlines, accommodation, restaurants and attractions. Social media can be a good tool for destinations to distribute a brand message across various platforms in different target markets. And as the opinion of the children is highly valued by European parents (especially in the Netherlands and Sweden), social media can be a good way to influence the opinions of children in favour of your destination.


  • Actively use social media to promote your product among potential customers in new and engaging ways. Use the power of photos and videos to help travellers virtually explore your destination and product and bring your story alive. Also use social media for other purposes such as market research, product development and reputation management.
  • Use current customer families as ambassadors for your company by encouraging them to share their experiences, photos and videos through social media networks and write blogs and reviews.

Political market drivers

New laws regarding leave for school children

Recent law changes by the United Kingdom and Swedish governments have made it harder for parents to get a school's permission to take their children out of class outside of regular school holidays. Until recently it was relatively easy for parents in these countries to take their children on a holiday during school days. But because of the recent law changes, parents in these countries have to stick to school holidays for their family holidays. For Dutch children, this has always been the case.


  • When developing products and services for explorative families, take into account the school holidays in your European target markets.

For more information, see our study about European tourism market trends.

5 . What requirements should your travel product comply with to be allowed on the European market?

What legal and non-legal requirements must your product comply with?

No legal EU requirements

As long haul explorative family tourism is offered outside the European Union, there are no additional legal EU requirements applicable.


  • Although partners from the European Union will not pass on legal requirements; you have to comply with the legal requirements in your own country.

What additional requirements do buyers often have?


European tour operators are looking for reliable, professional partners. They therefore often request their partners to adhere to a code of conduct they have set up, generally including health and safety requirements, business ethics and social responsibility. Furthermore, they see membership of national and international sector associations and networks as proof of reliability and professionalism.


  • Study the codes of conduct of tour operators in your target market and see how they correspond to your business practices. If necessary, adapt your business practices accordingly to increase your chances on the market.
  • Become a member of national and international sector associations and networks., for example your own country’s tourism trade association.


Most European travellers contract travel insurance before going on a holiday. However, tour operators increasingly ask (potential) partners about the presence of a liability insurance to cover possible damage and accidents of customers during their holidays, especially for travel outside of Europe. This is because their own liability insurance often does not cover damage caused by third parties. Tourism providers from Developing Countries that have such insurance have a large advantage.


  • Contract liability insurance and communicate that you have such insurance. If it is not possible to get a liability insurance in your country, constantly push with your authorities and trade associations to make such insurance possible. Also discuss it with potential partners as they might have some influence as well.

What are the requirements for niche markets?

ISO for adventure tourism

Explorative tourism by families is considered a niche market within adventure tourism. Safety is extremely important for adventure tourism. Three international ISO standards support safe practices in adventure tourism: Safety Management Systems 21101, 21102 and Information to Participants 21103. Additionally, some countries have their own voluntary standards. For instance, BS 8848 is used in the United Kingdom.


  • Study the abovementioned ISO standards on adventure tourism.
  • Check for possible voluntary standards in your target markets by looking for certification on websites of your competitors.


Travelling explorative families are generally quite concerned with sustainability as their holidays are centred on nature and local communities. They are generally more concerned with the human side of sustainability than with the nature side of it. Although tour operators do not directly require sustainability labels, if they can choose between sustainable businesses and comparable businesses without a label, they will choose the sustainable option. Integrating sustainable best practices can therefor give you a competitive advantage. There are many different labels available for the global, European and local markets, which makes it difficult to choose or recognize a label. Examples of global credible sustainable and/or green tourism certification programs are Green Globe, Rainforest Alliance, STEP and Travelife. Examples of local initiatives are Fair Trade Tourism in southern Africa, Eco Tourism Kenya or Green Lotus in Vietnam.


  • Familiarise yourself with the requirements of sustainability certification to understand what is expected from suppliers. Integrate sustainable best practices into your product, for example policies for efficient electricity, water consumption and waste management, but also fair wages and educational programs. Mention your concern for sustainability in your promotion.
  • Consider applying for sustainable certification to help you stand out from competitors. Find out if your country has its own sustainability label and apply for it. Make sure that the logo is visible on your website and that your company is visible on the website of the certification body. Only register with recognized labels as travellers from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden are cautious about sustainability labels and will probably check the credibility of your label. For more information, also refer to CBI’s Product Factsheet ‘Demand from European tour operators for sustainable suppliers in Developing Countries’.

For an overview of other relevant standards for tourism, also check ITC’s Standardsmap.

For more information, see our study about European tourism buyer requirements.

6 . What competition do I face on the European market?

See our study about competition on the European tourism market, as competition in the ‘European market for explorative tourism by families with children’ is based on the same aspects as competition in the long haul tourism market in general.

7 . Through what channels can you get explorative tourism products for families on the European market?

The trade structure for explorative tourism by families with children does not differ significantly from the trade structure for European tourism to Developing Countries in general. However, travelling families use the services of traditional travel agents much more often than other leisure travellers. Tour operators are therefore an important trade channel. However, direct sales with local providers through the internet are increasing. Refer to Figure 1 in CBI’s ‘Trade Channels and Segments’ for Tourism for an overview of the trade structure for tourism.

Focus on specialised tour operators

Explorative tourism by families is a relatively complicated and very different product from other tourism products. Therefore, specialised tour operators have an important role. Families that are looking for an explorative family holiday are searching on the internet for tour operators that are specialised in explorative holidays or emerging destinations, or in family travel. Experience in both segments is even better for them.


  • Inbound tour operators should identify specialised tour operators in their target market(s) as they are widely used by European families that are looking for an explorative holiday. Below you can find an overview of sources that can help you in your search.
  • Accommodation providers, transport operators, attractions and activity providers should focus both on working with local inbound tour operators as well as with specialised tour operators in their target market.

Trade associations, trade events and databases are good sources to identify specialised tour operators. Some examples of such sources that can be relevant for explorative tourism providers are:

United Kingdom

  • Association of British Travel Agents - provides contact information of members, including specialised tour operators.
  • Association of Independent Tour Operators - Under 'Holiday', select ‘a style of travel’ and consequently ’family holidays’ for an overview of family holiday tour operators in the United Kingdom. You can even refine your search by adding your destination.
  • World Travel Market - main tourism trade event in the United Kingdom, held annually, in November, in London.


The Netherlands

  • Amsterdamse Vakantiebeurs - smaller trade fair for special trips, held annually, in January, in Amsterdam. This fair is focussed on non-mass tourism destinations and attracts visitors that are interested in new destinations and experiences.
  • Dutch Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (ANVR) - go to ‘Bestemmingen’ and select you country to see which Dutch tour operators go to your destination.
  • Vakantiebeurs - main Dutch tourism trade event, held annually, in January, in Utrecht.

You can also look for specialised tour operators by searching on search engines like Google. Examples of keywords are ‘family travel’, ‘familiereizen’ (Dutch), ‘gezinsvakantie’ (Dutch) or ‘familjesemester’ (Swedish). In advanced search, narrow your domain to your target country’s extension, for example ‘’ for the United Kingdom, ‘.se’ for Sweden or '.nl' for the Netherlands.


  • Join domestic and international trade associations to increase your image as a reliable partner and gain access to networks.
  • Attend relevant trade events in your target market, preferably together with other local tourism businesses, to increase awareness and develop an image that will position your country (or region) in the market place as a viable explorative tourism destination for families.

Direct sales

The internet is increasingly used for online booking of holidays, also for long haul travel. However, explorative tourism by families is quite particular and complicated. It is therefore less commonly booked through the internet. However, inbound tour operators and tourism providers in Developing Countries that have a very good and detailed product description, including pictures might be able to sell their product directly to experienced family travellers.


  • Have a professional, high quality, well maintained website with quality photos and videos as this allows full, accurate and up-to-date details of your product offering to be presented at low cost. Also invest in online promotion such as Search Engine Optimisation as having a good website is useless if customers are not able to find it.
  • Respond quickly to enquiries through your website or by email. The European travel market is very competitive and both travellers and tour operators will soon look for alternatives if they do not receive a reply within 24 hours.

For more information, see our study about European tourism market channels and segments.

8 . Main sources

  • Adventure Travel News - website that provides the latest news on the adventure travel market.
  • Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) - global membership trade organisation for the adventure travel industry. Go to ‘Membership’, select ‘Active members’ and ‘Tour operators and accommodations’ and search for members. ATTA also publishes interesting reports about the global adventure tourism market and they organise the Adventure Travel World Summit which is visited by many adventure tourism tour operators.
  • MMGY Global - global travel marketing firm. They do tourism research themselves, but also publish tourism sector news on their website
  • Responsible Tourism Partnership - supports businesses and communities around the world to maximise their potential for responsible tourism through a range of activities and initiatives.
  • Vagabond - Swedish travel magazine.

Please review our market information disclaimer.