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Grey nomads take to the sea
All at sea? Are 'traditional' grey nomads abandoning ship?

The growing popularity of cruises is taking grey nomads off the road and putting them out to sea.

New statistics show that 623,000 Australians – many of them older travellers – took a cruise in 2011. And, according to the International Cruise Council of Australasia, that’s a massive 34% increase on 2010. This at a time when the Australian tourism industry as a whole is in near-crisis.

Ross Dowling, a professor of tourism at Edith Cowan University, has no doubts that the cruise phenomenon is hitting grey nomad numbers.
“Cruises are more accessible and more affordable than ever before and that makes them very attractive,” he told the Grey Nomads wesbite. “Traditionally, when Australians retire, they hook up the caravan and go … but now they have other options to weigh up.”

Professor Dowling says that, with couples now able to take a two-week cruise for $4,000 or so, finance is a factor.
“The cost of buying a luxury rig and a 4WD to travel Australia is huge, and there is also the extraordinary cost of fuel,” he said. “Older Australians are now starting to think they can spend that money on a cruise where they will be waited on hand and foot, and live in the lap of luxury for a few weeks … and they can afford to do it every year.”

Circumnavigating Australia, which takes about a month, is proving a highly popular option. The ships stop at regional centres, such as Exmouth and Kangaroo Island, as well as the big cities.

It seems that would-be grey nomads who try cruising find themselves hooked. Cruises have approximately 70% repeat business. It is conservatively estimated that one million Australians will be cruising annually by 2020.

“Like grey nomadding, cruising is very social but it is a totally different experience to travelling in the Outback,” Professor Dowling said. “You will never have that freedom to go where you choose or to stay where you want for as long as you want.”

He says that cruises will continue to take caravans off the road and, more importantly to stop people from taking up the idea in the first place … but they will never end the grey nomad lifestyle.

“That is completely sacrosanct,” he said. “Australians will always dream of hooking up and heading Outback.”




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