Have we reached the end of the road for the Grey Nomad experience? In this post, we look at what’s really going on for this important market
It’s almost too obvious to be worth saying that everything has been upended by covid-19. Currently, Australians are trapped not just within their national borders but their own states. NT has said that its borders may not open until 2022.
And we’ve been hearing about the devastation of retirement savings for older travellers. And of course, we know that being older is strongly correlated to being vulnerable to covid-19. All of which begs the question…
Is this the end of the great Grey Nomad experience?
In the near- to medium-term future quite the opposite!
We need to look at the longer-term underlying trends for this market, as well as unpicking them a little.
First, let’s look at the wealth issue. Despite the losses experienced, the current cohort of Grey Nomads is probably the wealthiest ever. At the last census, those aged over 55 constituted 27% of the population, but owned more than half of its wealth. They are more likely to have defined benefits pensions and a broader range of assets.
It’s also a growing sector of the market. As the chart shows, Australia’s population is aging.
But more importantly, we need to understand who the current and next generations of Grey Nomads are. And just as importantly, what their core needs are.
Grey nomads ain’t what they used to be….
The current generation of Grey Nomads is mainly built of the Baby Boomer generation. Basically, anyone aged 57 – 75 forms part of this age group. Baby Boomers are the ultimate disruptive generation. Bronwyn White of New Young Consulting points out that this cohort leads the ‘Summer of Love’ in the 60s. They are the first true counter-culture generation. They are not going to grow old gracefully. Indeed, this showed in the early stages of the pandemic. At first, Boomers were the least likely to heed warnings. It was only when it became clear that they were more vulnerable that they changed.
But it hasn’t stopped them from dreaming.
According to OOH media, 72% of Baby Boomers intend to holiday in Australia in the next 12 months. And border closures are no deterrent. A similar proportion (72%) are looking forward to travelling in their own state. That is fully 10% more than in other age groups.
Caravan and Camping is built for the Post-Covid Generation
And Caravan and Camping is going to appeal to them more than ever – both because of what it has always been and what it has become since covid-19.
At MyTravelResearch.com we’ve developed our 4 laws of Trends that have proven a reliable way to predict the future. Our number 1 law is “Trends arise when the changes in external factors like technology or demography collide with eternal, unmet or under-served needs”.
All of the evidence about caravan and camping trips is that they meet a need for freedom. And freedom is of course one of the biggest losses that we have faced. So the opportunity to regain the freedom of the open road is important.
It has also offered flexibility. With a constantly fluctuating situation with borders, the flexibility to change your itinerary with no penalty is going to be more appealing than ever.
Paradoxically, caravan and camping also meet a new and quite contradictory need: the need for control and safety. Caravan and Campers can retreat to their own safe space. One with no concerns on cleaning standards.
And broader market trends are confirming this:
- According to caravancampingsales.com, fully 67% of Australians are considering buying a caravan. This is also a brilliant win-win for jobs as Australia is still a major manufacturing centre for caravans.
- The Caravan Industry of Australia notes that regional operators who welcome Grey Nomads stand to benefit to the tune of $292 million as Campermate saw a 140 per cent increase week on week on its app. These travellers are typically spending $584 per trip.
- Bookings on Camplify the ‘Airbnb of caravanning’ increased a whopping 1,125 per cent by the end of June compared to two months earlier (height of the lockdown)
It is these core needs that ensure the Grey Nomad experience has a bright future – especially when you consider two other key trends.
This is a market with longevity – in every sense
Life expectancy for the Baby Boomer generational cohort is amongst the highest ever (and 20-30 years longer than 100 years ago according to New Young Consulting and McCrindle).
And the much ignored, Generation X is actually as likely to take a caravan trip. It’s hard to believe but the upper end of this cohort is only 5-7 years away from entering retirement age.
How can regional destinations attract Grey Nomads?
Firstly, recognise that they are ripe for digital marketing!
It’s a cliché that Baby Boomers don’t use technology. Unlike most clichés, this is less and less true. Thanks to covid-19, even the laggards have gone digital. 34% of digital purchases are by Boomers in 2020 according to Boston Consulting Group. This is even more impressive when you remember that they are 27% of the population.
This points to the broader point: don’t dare patronise them.
According to New Young Consulting, most marketing is done to this generation by people (often millennials) who see them as old, grey and dull. This is NOT how boomers see themselves. Work done by the BBC shows that the gap between our perceived and real ages increases as we grow older. So, if you are showing people at their actual age, they won’t recognise themselves.
Finally, talk to those needs we note above freedom, flexibility, and control.
Do that and the future of Grey Nomads to your destination will be assured.
A shorter version of this article appeared in The Grey Nomads Times A version is also available on the ART Tourism Hub blog
 Source: 1 oOh!media Pulse Report | Timing Wave 1: 1st- 4th May, 2020 Wave 2:18th- 19th May, 2020 Wave 3: 1st -3rd June 2020| Research Panel: Dynata| Australians aged 16+, Total n=2,953 | Gen Z (16- 24) n=267, Gen Y (25-39) n=777, Gen X (40-55) n=769, Baby Boomers (56-74) n=970, Pre Baby Boomers (75+) n=170.
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