The Restaurant Mom, Julie Casey, meets with vacation home property managers to talk about creating a kid friendly experience. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
KISSIMMEE – Anyone in the tourism industry who wants to reach out to new customers should start, Julie Casey insists, by finding a way to get to moms.
“Eighty-five percent of moms research some or all of their vacations before they go on it,” she said. “It is so important to her that all of her efforts are worth it.”
Before mom goes on that special vacation, Casey added, she wants to be certain of one thing: her kids are truly going to enjoy it.
“She’s using ‘kid friendly’ as the key words in her search,” Casey said. “She wants that vacation to be perfect.”
And the hotel or resort that makes mom believe her kids are definitely valued there is going to gain her complete and total loyalty, Casey added.
“The minute you ask mom a question about what her kids like, you’re going to be a contributor to them having a unique vacation experience,” she said. “I absolutely promise you that you will find loyalty from that segment of the market. So create that experience, and be a part of that experience.”
Casey is the founder and CEO of The Restaurant Mom, which provides advice for restaurants on how to provide a “kid-friendly” dining experience. She has the same advice to offer hotels, resorts, vacation homes, and any other business the works within the field of tourism and hospitality: mainly, know what mom wants, and let her know you’ve got it to offer.
“Turn mom into W.O.M. – word of mouth,” Casey said. “Turn mom into your advertising machine. Think different. Don’t do what everybody else is doing. Think outside of the box.”
Casey has been on a speaking tour, offering advice to groups on how to build a loyal base among families visiting this region. She recently spoke to the Haines City/Northeast Polk County Chamber of Commerce, because the businesses there – particularly along U.S. 27 – are quite eager to become as kid friendly as possible, since Legoland Florida is opening just down the road in Winter Haven in October.
Legoland Florida, which is replacing the former Cypress Gardens theme park, will be modeled after the popular parks in Europe and California. And businesses along U.S. 27, right up to the Lake and Osceola County line, are hoping to attract some of those families traveling to the new park once it opens.
“Legoland is in it for the long haul,” said Jane Patton, president of the Haines City Chamber. “They need the community to be their partners, because without us they can’t be successful.”
Patton said the Chamber has also been getting the word out about Casey’s central theme: a region that markets itself to families needs to be doing everything possible to make children feel welcome here.
“We’ve been promoting that,” Patton said. “We’re raising awareness about how to take advantage of it. It is so important. Sometimes all it takes is to look the child in the eye and say hello. It doesn’t take much. You have aware that they’re people, too.”
Casey said a good place for a business to start is with the information on its web site. Is the site user friendly for moms, she asked.
“There’s a lot of choices online,” she said. “You can Google ‘Taking Kids Out To Eat’ and get 24,000 responses. The question is, what is your company doing to help mom book her vacation?”
She recommended “three really easy things you can do today” to get started.
“Start thinking about mom again, and think about her online experience,” she said. “Go back to your office and pretend you’re a mom with kids, and you’ve never been to Central Florida. Then audit your own website for the ease of flowing through it. Please, please, please audit your web site.”
Something to keep in mind, she added, is that the major search words used by moms are food, health, learning, travel, and jobs/career. Having something to offer in one or more of those fields, Casey said, attracts mom to your site.
“If you do all those things so well, she is going to buy,” Casey said. “If you create that element of service that makes her feel special, she is going to go all over the web and talk about you a lot.”
To learn more about Casey, log on to, call 407-383-1325, or email

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