It seems like spending the kids’ inheritance has become the new norm. If you’re over 55 and like to travel, give yourself a pat on the back because you are now officially recognised as the one of the most important tourist markets in the world.
Multiple international studies show that over 50s play a far greater role in national economies than many realised, and the world travel industry is rushing to capitalise on this market and to cater more directly for our needs.
Tourism Research Australia (TRA) says the over 50s market accounts for about 40 per cent of all domestic overnight travel in Australia, or around 54 million trips, which has increased significantly since P-Day (pandemic day).
It also revealed that over 55s travellers contribute $37.7 billion annually to the Australian economy, which is around 43 per cent of the total domestic overnight tourism expenditure.
As populations age, the world is seeing a surge in interest from older travellers, with researchers for VISA now valuing the world over 50s travel market at more than $US 1 trillion (about $1.4 trillion). Putting that in perspective, that is more than the total economy of Australia in 2008, or Saudi Arabia in 2022.
According to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) which has 38 million members, over 50s are the largest demographic in terms of travel spending and are seeking unique experiences and adventures that cater to their specific needs or wishes.
The flip side to all this is that older travellers are also gaining maximum benefits.
As well as giving them the opportunity to learn new things, meet new people and experience new cultures, travel has significant health benefits, including improved mental health, reduced stress levels and increased physical activity.
Older adults who may be dealing with a sense of loss or loneliness often find travel can provide an opportunity to connect with others and make new friendships.
Apart from the exhilaration of experiencing new cultures and destinations, travel can also provide a sense of purpose and help combat feelings of isolation and depression.
Communities around the world are now giving over 55 travellers increased recognition and attention because we can have a significant impact on local communities. We tend to spend more on activities, accommodation and meals compared with younger travellers.
This means we inject significant revenue into local economies, support small businesses and contribute to job creation.
In Australia, over 55 travellers have an even greater impact in regional areas, with the TRA report showing we accounted for 56 per cent of domestic overnight tourism expenditure in regional Australia, contributing $22.7 billion to those economies in 2019.
There are multiple online options to get discounts. Using your favourite search engine, type in “internet coupons” or “online coupons” and multiples website should appear giving discounts on everything from package holidays to travel insurance, hotel discounts and restaurant savings.
In particular, search for “travel” and “holidays” and you might be pleasantly surprised by the deals available, both in Australia and overseas.
Also check out free or discounted travel for seniors. Most states offer free off-peak public bus and rail transport for seniors in their own state, and some even offer limited free airline travel.
The best way to get a great deal is to regularly monitor the travel market, as increasingly travel organisations and businesses are offering significant discounts to attract this growing business.
They recognise that over 55s are more likely to:
- Travel with friends or family thus increasing the economic value to communities.
- Seek cultural experiences such as visiting historical sites, local museums, and cultural festivals, which helps to promote and preserve cultural heritage and traditions.
- Join in local sports and exercise activities such as golf, bowls and community fitness activities to maintain regular routines, meet new people and explore new locations.
- Take tours and, rather than flocking to crowded theme parks, enjoy activities such as wineries, coffee shops and wellness facilities such as local spas.
- Many over 55s are retired and don’t have to rush back to work after a few days away, so they often spend more time in the region.
As more people enter this demographic, over 55s travel will continue to grow, meaning businesses and destinations will create even more opportunities for us.
Paul Hughes is a journalist, now retired, and travel writer who launched the Holiday Destinations website with his wife Vi in 2008.