Catering to Gen Z

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

“Holiday! Holiday!” my three-year old grandson, Trey, cried excitedly from his carseat as we whizzed past Dunlop Street in Barrie, Ont. on Highway 400.

I was baffled. There was no Holiday Inn in sight, though there was a sign for Best Western. Then I realized that for him, Best Western equalled holiday. A month before, we had gone with Trey, his parents and little sister Peyton, on a weekday getaway to Best Western Leamington. 

We had such a great time! The hotel had a climbing gym, including a tiny slide just right for my one and a half year old granddaughter.  There was a pool and waterslides. Trey met another little boy, and became fast friends. The staff was friendly, with one staff member giving Trey a stuffed monkey, another smiling at him as he marvelled at the hotel linens being pressed on a gigantic machine. The server at the restaurant got down to toddler eye level to ask the kids just what they would like to order. No wonder Trey was impressed!

The news is full of marketing to millennials, a.k.a. Gen Y.  But what about the generation following them, including the smallest ones? Trey’s parents are millennials, but many kids his age have older parents who have delayed childbearing until their late 30s. Once they have kids, do the kids have a big say in how they travel?  You betcha!

When I was little, my parents paid some attention to the demands of me and my two brothers. Vacation destinations often involved detours to some job site my engineer father was inspecting, but they also included beaches, zoos and other child-friendly points of interest. We were usually tenting and rarely stayed in hotels.

When Steve and I took our three sons on vacation in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we did go to hotels and tried to choose ones with swimming pools. If the kids could order pizza, that was a bonus. If the hotel room had Nintendo, well, that was just awesome! And, hotels with waterslides were over-the-top amazing!

I believe that family vacations have become more child-centric over the decades. Career-minded couples who delayed having kids have money, appreciate quality family time and seek out vacations aimed at children. 

That’s why the Chelsea Toronto has an indoor waterslide, a lounge for teens and a devoted Kid Centre, complete with resident bunnies, Marvel and Thumper. Hotel Zed in Victoria has everything from comic books to a Ping-Pong lounge and a Zedinator waterslide. And then there is Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara and Fantasyland in West Edmonton Mall …

Tourism Toronto recently announced its kid-friendly website with links to sights like the Ripley Aquarium and Centreville on Centre Island. Today’s kids will have no trouble navigating the site with its colourful icons.  Trey has been using an iPad since he was old enough to touch a screen. And Peyton accesses nursery rhymes on the iPad.

Yes, in catering to Gen Z, even Little Miss Muffet has gone digital.