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4 Ways to Make Children Feel Welcome

by Silvana Clark

It used to be that fathers went on business trips while moms stayed home with the kids. My how the times are a-changing! More and more parents bring children along on business trips. Regular vacation travel is increasing also.

According to a recent Travel Industry Association Report, family travel accounts for 74% of all vacation travel in the US. Many hotel chains, cruise ships and B&B’s claim to offer “Family Friendly” programs. Parents look for accommodations that make the family feel welcome. They want children to have a positive experience when traveling. This means parents are drawn to places offering special promotions geared for families. Many hotels that previously catered to business guests, have encouraged parents to bring children. They advertise family friendly amenities, which often means simply giving children a small box of crayons and coloring books upon check-in.

Our family just returned from a 12 month trip around the United States. We stayed in many places advertising their kid-friendly programs. Oh, they had a pool and kid friendly menu, but very few places tried to establish a personal relationship with my daughter. No one even asked her name or age when we checked in. In this day of CRM (customer relationship management) it seems that staff would at least say, “Hi Sondra. I’m glad you’re staying with us this weekend.” What about the simple fact of telling the parent, “Your daughter has the brightest smile.” It sure makes me feel good when someone compliments my daughter.

It’s a known fact. If children are made to feel special, parents have a positive impression about your property. Anyone can hand a child a gift bag. With a little effort, you can connect on an emotional level to create a long-term relationship with the parents and child. The following are some ideas to create positive word of mouth publicity by making children feel welcome.

Create a bulletin board labeled: VIK “Very Important Kids”. As children check-in with parents, take a Polaroid picture of them and post it on the bulletin board. If you have a digital camera, quickly print the picture and stick it on the board. Make sure to write their name on the back of the photo. This is a golden marketing opportunity. Several weeks after the family’s visit, send the photo to the child with a note saying, “Thanks for staying with us at the Happy Times Hotel. Here’s your picture to remind you of the fun time you had. Hope to see you again!” If you feel really ambitious, mount the photo on a small calendar imprinted with the name of your property. Parents will proudly display the calendar, and have almost a daily reminder of their visit with you.

As children arrive, hand them a sheet of paper with information about your hotel’s Scavenger Hunt. Ask them to find the answers to such questions as: How many sidewalk lights are there from the sidewalk to the front door? What does the inscription say on the fountain in the lobby? Get the autograph of a hotel employee. After children complete the survey, they turn it in to receive a small gift.

When parents call to make reservations, ask for the names of their children. Before the family arrives, place a banner across the doorway of their room saying, “Welcome Lindsey and Jesse!” Many Dollar stores sell large metallic Welcome banners. Simply use a permanent marker to add the children’s names.

Prepare small gift bags for children. These can include a deck of cards, small piece of candy or other treat. The contents don’t have to be expensive because the children will get their fun from finding the bags. Leave a note in the family’s room saying, “We have a small gift for Ashley. Follow these clues to find your gift.” Then list a set of “silly” directions such as: Stand by the bathtub and sing Row Row Row Your Boat. Skip to the closest mirror and make some weird faces. Crawl to the closest bed while growling like a tiger. Tiptoe to the top drawer of the dresser. See what is inside. (They’ll find their gift.) Some front desk staff have had children ask, “I liked looking for my prize. Can you hide it again and give me different clues?”

As you can see, it only takes a small amount of extra effort to make children feel like welcome guests. Parents appreciate the thoughtfulness that you exhibited towards their children, and are likely to tell their friends about your family friendly property.

Silvana Clark presents keynotes and workshops for the hospitality industry. The author of 10 books, she frequently writes travel related articles for several publications. Her latest book, 301 Bright Ideas for Busy Kids includes many ideas easily adapted to hotels and resorts. To ask about her workshop, “Beyond Crayons: Putting Creative Fun in Your Family Programs” contact her at or 360-734-9506

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