Despite the fact that grey nomads are back on the road in numbers, some country towns report the streets are still quiet as visitors remain reluctant to get ‘out and about’ too much.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive, Andrew McKellar, said last week that travellers had been taking a more cautious approach.
“In many cases, it’s been like a shadow lockdown now for a number of weeks,” he said. “We have to hope that, as that pressure comes off, people will return to the towns, be more confident about getting out and going back to the shops … being prepared to go to a restaurant or cafe.”
There are some positive signs, though.
The Victorian city of Ballarat says it has enjoyed ‘consistently strong’ visitation from grey nomads.
“The past two years have obviously impacted the Ballarat region, however the grey nomad market has remained consistent,” City of Ballarat Mayor, Cr Daniel Moloney, said. “We believe this is the case for a few reasons … they have more chances to travel throughout the year, their income is not heavily reliant upon current financial conditions, and their preference to travel in caravans or motorhomes allows greater flexibility.
He said the city’s Visitor Information Centre continued to see plenty of grey nomads, even in non-peak periods.
“Whilst consumer behaviour is an unpredictable area to comment upon, we are finding tourists are feeling more confident after the peak summer period,” said Cr Moloney.
In the NSW country town of Tenterfield, Barry O’Connor form the Tenterfield Lodge and Caravan Park has noticed things starting to return to ‘normal’.
“Occupancy is still below pre-Covid times but we are seeing an increase in grey nomad travellers,” he said. “They are certainly patronising our local businesses and are happy and proud to support those businesses in regional towns.”
Mr O’Connor said there was now an attitude among guests that Covid is something we need to learn to live with.
“We have introduced a policy of only accepting only those who are double vaxxed and have found that guests are very appreciative and supportive of our stance,” he said. “They seem to be looking for an environment that maximises their safety, and our guests have no issues with wearing masks and QR’ing in.”
Bill Condon who runs the grey nomad-friendly Black River Stadium over-50s park near Townsville in Queensland has noticed similar trends.
“We find grey nomads are cautious already,” he said. “Most over 50s are done being thrill seekers and happy to abide by all sensible directions given.”
While Mr Condon expects this year will still be ‘challenging’, he does see a silver lining. “Nomads who do travel will benefit from finding plenty of parks to choose from with reduced crowding,” he said.