GOLDEN AGE FOR OLDER EXPLORERS
Forget the twilight years being for winding down. Older Australians are increasingly getting on planes and cruise ships to see the world and tick off their bucket lists, with over 65s being the fastest-growing age group when it comes to travel. “It really is the travel years, not the twilight years,” Annabel Dolphin from Helloworld Travel Mackay says.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the number of people aged 65 to 74 holidaying overseas jumped more than 80 per cent in the past five years, and while young people make up the biggest overall number of travellers, it is their parents and grandparents who are boarding cruise ships and international flights at growing rates.
Verity Noble, general manager of National Seniors Travel, says older Australians are travelling more than ever – and age is just a number. “There’s more of an emphasis on the present and making the most of the time we’ve got, and what we are seeing is it’s not an age, it’s a stage,” Verity says. “There are a lot of 50-somethings who have health issues that can’t travel, but our oldest traveller is 96 – so travel is very much a stage.
“Certainly cruising is very important, but we are also seeing more active travelling in the last few years – people are conscious of making the most of the time they have with their partner and seeing the world.”
Annabel Dolphin says it isn’t just the ease of travel that older explorers want – it is also active holidays. In the past 12 months, On Foot Holidays walking tours across Europe have increased 25 per cent, with tracks suitable for all abilities.
“We’ve noticed that the domestic or ‘close to home’ holidays are popular for the over 65s, but we also still have very active travellers doing the European holidays, ocean cruises or river cruises – what we find is it’s the ‘one bed and many locations’ that makes it easier and appealing,” Annabel says.
“For older travellers, our hosted journeys are also making it more accessible – so they are small, boutique group offerings which make it easier to get away.
“It’s the hassle-free, peace of mind that comes with it – and it’s the friendships.”
She says the companionship of ticking off bucket-list destinations with friends of the same age made travel more appealing.
“Places like Spain, Morocco or Portugal, and really genuine authentic travel experiences, are very popular with this age group – it’s not the 20 countries in 10 days style that they want, it’s single destinations and really seeing more than just the iconic tourist spots,” she says.
“They have finished their jobs, they’ve raised their families and are free, so they are ticking off their bucket-list destinations and they are travelling to every continent.
“The 60-65 age group is really like the 50-55 of my parents’ generation – they are still very fit and active. We just had a cycling tour of Scandinavia with a Baltic cruise and the bulk of those were 55-65. They had motorised e-bikes and we had people with all sorts of abilities wanting an active holiday.
“The travel industry is as strong as ever and there is a style of holiday, a pace of holiday, that suits your needs more than ever.”
Sydney grandmother Josephine Drago recently took her family on a cruise for her mother’s 80th birthday, and found the ease of a cruise incredibly enticing.
“You just step on board and you’re on holidays – it’s just so easy, even for my 80year-old mother,” she says.
“I don’t think she could have handled the stress of an airport or being uncomfortable on a long flight – but doing a cruise from right here in Sydney was perfect for all of us.”
The over-65s are ticking off bucket-list destinations such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain.