Hitch the van and hit the road

WITH retirement providing the long-awaited chance to fulfil dreams of travel and leisure, ageing baby boomers are expected to be the darlings of the travel industry.

Aged over 55, retired, described as empty nesters and armed with disposable money and time, older baby boomers are custom-made consumers for the travel industry.

WA Tourism Commission executive director of marketing and communications Rick Thomas said out of an estimated six million intrastate trips made per year by West Australians, more than 800,000 were made by retirees.

Of the 900,000 interstate visitors to WA, 150,000 were aged over 55.

A glance at the nation’s demo-graphic profile shows that these figures are only going to increase.

Mr Thomas said most people aged over 55 tended to have more money to spend because they had fewer outgoings, giving them a greater level of discretionary income.

“A lot of our advertising features are targeted towards that demo-graphic, not only here but overseas,” he said.

Mr Thomas said the over-55 age bracket was into self-drive travel, and geographically WA was an ideal location for this market.

For the average retiree there is no better way to discover Australia than to hitch up a caravan and hit the open road.

Testament to this is the buoyant growth of the caravan industry – 15 per cent during the past five years.

As WA’s largest caravan park operator and recreational vehicle and mobile accommodation manufacturer, Fleetwood Corporation is reaping the benefits of an increasing number of retirees and the growing popularity of self-drive holidays.

Managing director Greg Tate said most caravans ended up in the retiree market.

Further growth was expected in the long term as it was not anticipated that the bulk of the baby boomers would retire until 2008, he said.

This demographic wanted free and independent travel and caravans were great for that, he said.

“Baby boomers have a different mentality to their parents in terms of spending,” Mr Tate said.

“Baby boomers are more inclined to spend more on their retirement and we will see benefits of this flowing through.”

Department of Sport and Recreation consultant to Seniors Recreation Council of WA, Denis Martin, said the travel industry would be one of the main beneficiaries of retiring baby boomers.

Mr Martin said in 10 years the baby boomers would be spending a lot more money to buy good quality recreational services.

“They are retiring earlier, have superannuation and generally are better prepared to pay for their lifestyle and recreational activities in retirement.”

Many tourism developments are now being mixed with a residential component aimed at the retiree market to improve profit yields. 

Hotel Leisure Advisory director Alan Boys said there was a trend towards trading down the family house and buying an apartment in Perth and accommodation down south.

He said the current focus on high-density, multi-bed tourism developments was not entirely appropriate for the retiree market, which preferred more hotel style or single bed products.

The beauty of the retiree market was that it was not bound by time constraints, Mr Boys told WA Business News.

“The pattern of high demand on the weekend and low demand mid week can be filled out by retirees,” he said.

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