Boom time for go-back packers

Older Australians are flocking to Britain to relive a rite of passage, only this time with money, writes Robert Upe.

Australia's baby boomers are travelling in greater numbers than ever before and many of them are heading back to Britain, where they first went as backpackers.

A survey by seniors website YourLifeChoices has revealed that Britain is the most popular destination for boomers (people aged between 48 and 67), followed by New Zealand, the US, France and Italy.

YourLifeChoices publisher Kaye Fallick says: "A lot of people in the boomer bracket went to the UK for a year or six months as a rite of passage.

"They did the 'disco tour' of Europe; it was very superficial travel. But now they are going back to do it in comfort and to take in the history, museums, culture and food."

Australia has 5.5 million baby boomers and many are able to travel because they have retired or their children have left home.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the key age group for short-term departures has shifted from 45-49 in 2002 to 50-54 in 2012.

On the domestic front, the YourLifeChoices survey polled 5200 people aged 50-75 and revealed that Queensland is the most popular destination.

Fallick says this is because of its variety - the tropics, the Gold Coast, the beaches and the outback - all rolled into one state.

Canberra didn't poll as well and seemingly suffers from its connection with politics.

"There is a lot to see and do there, but the political connection works as a turnoff," she says.

Fallick says technology is helping to fuel the boom in boomer travel.

"Life on the road is not as isolated as it once was. There is more connectivity with smartphones and tablets and there is free wi-fi at an increasing number of places such as airports and cafes," she says. "The technology makes it easier to pick up and go, and there are so many cheap deals and fares coming into our

inboxes these days that it's practical to travel for a short time.

"New Zealand has almost become a weekend destination, whereas once upon a time people would plan six months in advance to go there for seven to 10 days. The affordability makes it possible to go for a short time."

The 55-plus age group in Australia accounts for 24 per cent of the population and 56 per cent of net wealth. But Fallick says travel marketers and travel companies are missing a golden opportunity by focusing on younger age groups, which often don't have the money to travel and are more concerned with spending money on a mobile phone bill than an airfare.

"They are a 'here and now' generation and don't save for travel," Fallick says. "The older Australians have fat wallets and are begging to travel, but they are under the radar.

"Very few companies pay attention to older travellers. One exception is Trafalgar, which uses Kerri-Anne Kennerley as its ambassador, but really it's not often that you see a mature face in a travel brochure."


'They did the disco tour of Europe; it was very superficial travel.'

YourLifeChoices publisher Kaye Fallick