During solo travels in my early twenties, my head would rest only briefly on lumpy pillows at tired youth hostels, with the majority of my days and nights spent exploring new cities. Once my partner was in the mix, finding unique places to stay was part of the adventure, be that aboard overnight ferries in Palawan or under the stars in Kuching.
Now, as I gaze across the water from the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong’s Club Lounge – with a newborn pulling my hair and questions pouring from my three-year-old – it dawns on me that my priorities have shifted yet again. With two children in tow, I spend much more time looking for accommodation best suited for a young family’s needs.
I’m far from the only one. According to booking portal Agoda’s CEO John Brown, “The family travel segment is growing rapidly and the needs of this group of travellers are unique and diverse.” And while the arrival of Airbnb 11 years ago revolutionised the tourism industry and continues to appeal to families today, it also inspired hotels to up their game.
It seems to be working: Agoda’s 2018 Family Travel Trends survey revealed that hotels still reign supreme for travellers with kids in Asia – thanks in part to their creative amenities. Here are just some of the standout offerings.
1. Signature keepsakes
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong puts parents at ease by taking precautionary measures like protecting wobbly toddlers from sharp corners and providing infants with baby-safe toiletries, but they also pay tribute to the hotel’s location in the heart of Central by handing kids a miniature toy red taxi upon check-in. Over at Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo, young visitors get a Takara Tomy Plarail toy train and for families who book the Family Glamping staycation package at The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore, children receive a welcome pack that includes a teddy bear sporting a postmaster’s uniform.
2. Upgraded kids clubs
Outside the big cities, island resorts also continue to introduce new concepts to keep the little ones busy. Nikoi, a 15-hectare private island off the east coast of Bintan, hosts a kids club that encourages outdoor play with Tarzan ropes, natural rock slides and lessons on how to make your own bows and arrows. The Hyatt Regency Bali – a Sanur property that reopened in early 2019 following a big renovation – will open their new kids club at the end of the second quarter. Camp Hyatt’s outdoor playground will feature a wooden ship and include programmes using Balinese arts and crafts. At Karma Kandara Resort, also in Bali, kids get to snorkel in a safe, controlled environment at the private beach that includes a small, reef-fringed lagoon. Buds, part of the new family-friendly initiative undertaken by Shangri-La Singapore, features a toddler zone for younger guests to roll around on padded floors and curated installations for older children to learn new dance moves, shoot cannonballs or decorate walls with glow-in-the-dark paint.
3. New to the table
Dining out can often be overwhelming with kids in tow and while colouring books have become a norm at many restaurants, there are some that are getting more creative. The kids’ menu at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong folds up into a fortune teller. At Hyatt Regency Bali’s beachfront Pizzaria, kids are invited to join the chef in preparing Mickey Mouse-shaped pizzas and can watch as it comes out of the wood-fired oven. Shangri-La Singapore is also getting little tots excited about dining, with the introduction of Bake, a fully equipped cooking classroom where young guests can sign up for workshops led by the hotel’s pastry chef.
Illustrations by Alyssa Gonzalez
This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of Silkwinds magazine