The Changing Face of Family Travel with Janeece Keller from Bound Round
Welcome to tourism upgrade the podcast unpacking marketing trends from travel, tourism and marketing leaders. I’m your host Holly G. and today we welcome Janeece Keller, founder and CEO of Bound Round, a family travel platform. Today on the podcast with Janeece, we’ll be chatting about the changing face of family travel.
Holly G: Those listening to the podcast, work in travel and tourism all over the world, we’ve have listeners from everywhere. Can you tell us a little bit about what is Bound Round and how did it come about?
Janeece K: Yeah sure! Bound Round is a family travel platform. We started three and a half years ago as a series of apps for kids. So, it’s showing a destination and activities through the eyes of children in that age of 6 to 12 year old, so that kids could participate in family travel making decisions. And late last year what we realized from our user base was actually that sixty percent of our users are parents. And so, over the last six months, what we’ve done is we’ve transitioned just from being an information portal for kids about travel and destination to becoming a platform that engages the whole family. So, parents can find out the information that’s relevant to them, things like opening hours deals, because what we found for family travel as is that deals actually drive a lot of the decision making for the parents in terms of where they’re going to go, where they can get a really good deal to. And then they engage the kids in what are we going to do when we get there. So, we started from that part but we’ve now extended forward to include the whole family.
Holly G: Wow excellent! So, through the last, I think it’s been three or four years of developing and growing Bound Round. What have you learned about family travel?
Janeece K: Far more than I ever thought I could to be perfectly honest. Look, family travel is a significant segment globally. It’s not as sexy as weddings and honeymoons and yet you know high-end glam. And it’s not as hip and cool as your backpackers but it is foundationally a core of the travel industry globally. You know, 33% of all leisure travel is done with families. So, realistically what we’re saying is that, it’s got significant scale, significant relevance, but it’s been that overlooked poor cousin. I think for us, what I found most surprising is the influence of the PANKS/PUNKS group. So, this demographic that has come about in the last 18 months or so, it’s your professional Aunts, no kids or your PANKS/PUNKS – Professional Uncles, no kids, which I fall into.
This group spends globally 4.5 billion on travel and activities with other people’s children. So, that’s a significant factor in the family travel market that I think has previously been overlooked. You see, most of your family marketing collateral, two parents, two kids, blonde hair, blue eyes, if you’re talking to the Western world. Two super cute kids often with their selfie sticks, if you’re talking to the Asian market. And really the face of family travel is not necessarily that traditional view of family and I don’t think as a segment we’ve kept up particularly well with marketing either and the positioning of that.
So, PANKS and PUNKS and the other one that has surprised me are Dad’s. Typically you think you’re talking to the Mom’s but in actual fact; the Dads want to know what are we going to do when we get there and single Dads traveling with their kids. So, I think it’s the changing face of family’s changes the way that parents are interacting with their kids and what they want to do.
Holly G: And so, how does that impact the way that we market to these segments in practical terms?
Janeece K: The stuff that we’re dabbling with is trying to answer the questions that are relevant to them. So, just positioning a family package as two adults and two kids, doesn’t really work all the time anymore. We’ve been running a series of competitions with family packages in their traditional style and yes, they have a level of uptake but if you get the parent that says, “I’ve got six kids” or you get that single Dad that’s like, “It’s just me and my three kids, can I make that work”, it’s actually quite different. So, I think we need to look at some flexibility in packages to meet the changing face of family travel. I think also, we need to really look at collateral, that’s the one thing that I have found the most disappointing as we look to share things to do with families from our partners and the industry more broadly. That collateral is very much position in the traditional 2 parents, 2 kids family model and I just don’t think that’s right anymore.
Holly G: And that can be across like Airlines or Hotels as well as to as an attractions and all those.
Janeece K: 100%! Yes, across all the segments, I think no longer is it just okay to say that we expect your family to look like mom, dad and two kids because a family can very easily look like my mom and 4 kids or grandma, grandpa, mom, dad and three kids or dad and his two kids or whatever. So, I think we need to be a society. We’re getting much better at doing that generally I just think as an industry we need to keep pace with that and deliver what people are expecting and what they get from the other channels.
Holly G: And something that they can feel like they can relate to. I guess that what we want to do in our marketing is we want it to feel like, “Oh yeah, that relates to me.”
Janeece K: Yeah, exactly! And so, the way that we do that at BoundRound is we position through the eyes of the kids. So, it is very much about, “Do you have Mad scientists in your family?” Are your kids crazy about crocodiles? Do your kids want to constantly chase adrenaline? Are your kids the outdoorsy type that just want to go and play in the mountain climb go on rocks? So, we position it that way so it’s really irrespective of what that family makeup looks like. You can identify with what’s going to be of interest to those kids in your family. Because I think that’s the other thing, MasterCard did some research two years ago, about what families find most difficult when planning a family holiday. And the biggest concern for parents and grandparents or Aunts or whoever is that they want to find something that everybody in the family is going to enjoy. So, whatever it is and wherever they’re going has to appeal to everybody. And so, we’ve kind of said, “Well, let’s take that as our lens for positioning destinations and attractions and tours and all of that stuff. So, let’s take that as a lens of what’s going to appeal to the kids, is it a six-year old who wants to be in a playground for a point of time and a 12 year old who’s like, “A playground is lame and I need something that’s going to be a bit more adrenaline.” Well, let’s help whoever the responsible adult is planning that. Find something that’s going to appeal to both of those. And then it takes away, “Are you a single parent?” – Like it takes away those decision-making criteria.
Holly G: And I lovely the idea of positioning things to the eyes of the children because it takes away some of those typical stereotype, you’re really trying to tap into their interests and not a stereotype I guess.
Janeece K: Yeah, and look to be honest it’s one of those things that’s evolved for us over the time because when we first started my very first draft of what Bound Ground was going to look like was based for stereotypes of the types of kid. You’ve got the kid that just wants to learn and go to the museums and galleries and then you’ve got the one that, “Don’t put me inside because I only want to be running around and I’ve got more energy.” And then you’ve got the kid that’s kind of not sure that they love the theme parks because that’s what all their makes think is really cool.
And so, that’s the premise that we started from and we’ve learned over the years that it just, it doesn’t resonate as well as trying to say here’s the interest point; you choose. And you might have a family that’s got three very different kids. So, how are you going to find that and you might be traveling – for me, if I was to travel with my niece and nephew, they’re different ages and stages. And those two kids couldn’t be more different if they tried, kind of like me and my brother, like we couldn’t be more different if we tried either. And so, you got to find something that’s going to be fun for both of them so that everybody has a good time.
Holly G: Yeah, that’s really interesting. So, how are you seeing the role of Technology in travel as you go through developing Bound Round and being really involved in the industry? Because essentially that’s plays a big role in what you’ve been doing.
Janeece K: Look, absolutely! We are a completely digital play. So, technology for us is of utmost importance. I think the role that it plays in family travel is things like, “Do you have free Wi-Fi?” That is the single biggest question that kids from the age of 10 to 14 ask. If there is Wi-Fi there so I can share what I’m doing on Instagram. So, if a hotel or destination and attraction can promote that they’ve got accessible Wi-Fi then the kids are going to find that. So, its things like that, that I think is important. I think “Last Minute” is really important which is mobile. So, 80% of our usage is on mobile, which is unsurprising. It’s where we started but I think also particularly into is an activities “Last Minute” and mobile are inseparable, absolutely inseparable, so what are we going to do tomorrow because the weather is not what we originally thought it was going to be.
Holly G: And that’s interesting when you’re looking at activity sector because traditionally they don’t necessarily think of themselves as mobile first.
Janeece K: No, and I think you can say with the rise of booking platforms and software, things like your “Booking Boss” and your “Rezdy” and those sorts of platforms that enable an activity providers to go digital and to have that availability for last minute booking capability. I think that’s really important and it’s something that for someone like us who is a distributor of a broad range advice, different activities is important and has made our jobs a lot easier. I think from an industry perspective, I think the aggregation of those and making API connectivity and real-time data connectivity and bringing the tour and activity segment pretty much in line with accommodation and airlines in terms of accessibility to that data, that’s something that we’ve got a lot of work to do on as an industry and will only improve the ability for consumers to make those last-minute decisions and book online, on mobile effectively in the way that they want to.
Holly G: Yeah, and that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? It’s the way that the person wants to interact and engage and book and all those different touch points.
Janeece K: Yeah, exactly! And I think there’s probably a little bit of concern from your hotel concierges and you’re booking desks and your visitor information centers about what’s the relevance for them. I think their ability to have access to those sorts of portals that has the digitally distributed inventory, gives them absolutely irrelevance. Because what we found in our research is that families in particular want recommendations. So, if you’re at the hotel you want to have the conversation with the concierge. It just means that the concierge has a much easier way of fulfilling that client requests and understanding availability. So, I think that definitely still has relevance and the same with the visitors’ information centers.
Holly G: Yeah, we all love that multiple touch points. We want to hear it, we don’t just want to hear at once, we want to hear it maybe from someone and then see it in a few other places to give us that confidence that, “Yes, that really is for me.”
Janeece K: Yeah, exactly! So, I think from a technology perspective that distribution of information and inventory more broadly is the key. I think the other thing from a tech perspective is delivery, like executing really well. So, I think our most successful product and iteration of Bound Round has been our iOS app which has this, I have to say super cool, actually still is super cool, navigation on a three day globe. So, kids get to navigate the world on a three-day globe and when people download it they’re like, “Oh, that’s super cool!” Now, we tried to do that on desktop and because the desktop technology is quite different to the mobile technology it just didn’t work and it was a much poorer user experience. So, what we’ve had to do is redesign. So, I think you need to apply the cutting edge tech in a way that’s going to resonate with your users that do it at a pace that makes sense and not just off for something that’s super cool because it’s the new shiny thing, but it actually has to deliver on what you’re trying to achieve.
Holly G: Yeah, great! So, does social media play much of a role in marketing Bound Round?
Janeece K: Oh, massively! Social Media for us is really important in particular Facebook. Facebook is where the parents and the grandparents and the aunts and uncles are. It’s my generation, it’s the generation above and that’s where they’re looking for information and recommendations. I think harnessing that as a way of getting your message out there is invaluable. And for the brands that don’t have the budgets of your Expedia’s and your Priceline groups and your TripAdvisor’s. Then Google Ad-words is often beyond, actually often beyond the affordability of many small businesses other than them targeting their own brand words, in which case they kind of going to rank for that anyway because if they’ve done their content well.
So, to me Facebook is the key and YouTube is also another really important social channel for us, video is the way we get our message out most strongly, the videos through the eyes of kids. So, YouTube is important for us. Twitter, we use for industry information. So, Twitter for us is not about talking to the parents and the kids, but it’s for us staying on top of industry trends, industry conversations, that sort of thing. And Instagram is where the kids are. So, we use Instagram to interact with the kids. A lot of our followers on Instagram that sort of twin/teen set and so that’s what we use Instagram for. I think social is massively important but you’ve got to understand what you’re using each social channel for.
Holly G: Yeah, great! Are you using user generated content across your Instagram platform?
Janeece: We use user generated content on our website and on Instagram. Yes, so we actively welcome kids and parents to share their content with us that we then used to push out through the channels. And if I’m being really honest, I don’t think we do enough with user-generated content on social. It’s definitely something we do but we could be doing it a lot that better.
HollyG: Well, I think that’s one of the things that everybody across the industry is experimenting with this year and learning how that they can encourage that a lot more. I have just absolutely loved talking to you and getting my head around the eyes of the aunties and uncles the PANKS and –
Janeece: Yeah, the PANKS and the PUNKS.
HollyG: PANKS and the PUNKS, especially as I fall into that category. And yeah, I think it’s just a great way to think about family travel beyond the typical mom, dad and two kids. So yeah, now I really appreciate chatting with you today. Do you have any final tips or comments that you wanted to make?
Janeece: Look, I think the thing that I’m most passionate about is family travel being seen as important and actually getting the air time that it should get because it is a significant revenue driver. It’s a multi-person trip that is typically multiple nights. And so, I’m really passionate about getting family travel and making it accessible and easy for families to plan. I think that’s the thing that I want to share mostly.
Holly G: Yeah, great! I guess, do you think there’s been that reluctance to put your hand up and say we are involved in family travel because people are worried that they’re going to think that they’re going to turn off other parts of their customer base?
Janeece: Look, I think there’s been a little bit of that and I think part of that is because if you’re a really family centric product and that’s all your focuses. I think there’s been some reticence for people to say – we are family but we’re not just family – because they’re not sure how to position it or how to reach families without putting off their business or their miles business or without putting off their high end honeymooners. I don’t know that brands have figured out how to segment by psycho-graphic as well as they should and I think that’s part of the challenge. And families, let’s face it right, it’s not as sexy as you know, are there changing facilities. Those sorts of things don’t make it as appealing but if you look at it through that lens, if you look at it from a financial perspective, it is a really appealing sector. And I think ___ I’m here trying to do with Bound Round is to make it more accessible and make that easier for businesses that genuinely have a product that appeals to people traveling with kids.
HollyG: Yeah, fantastic! So, where can people find out more about you or connect with you?
Janeece: So, boundround.com is the best place to start. I am also on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. So, everything Bound Round on anyone of those channels, you can reach me there. You can get my email address off any of those channels as well. I’m very open to receiving questions, comments, feedback. And if you’ve got a family product that you want to push out there, please let me know we’re happy to include it in boundround.com
HollyG: Fantastic, great! Thanks so much for your time Janeece!
Janeece: Thanks Holly, really appreciate it!
Now it’s time for our thousand dollar bonus question!
HollyG: If you only had a thousand dollar marketing budget, what would you spend it on?
Janeece: A thousand dollars is not a lot, I would spend it on video content promotion either on YouTube or on Facebook, is what I would do. It’s an innately accessible form of content that has multiple platforms it can be distributed on. So, I would do video boosted on Facebook and YouTube.
HollyG: And what if you only had a hundred dollars?
Janeece: Oh, that’s super tough! A hundred dollars, I would probably do a boost on Facebook post driving engagement to my own website.