Numbers Add Up for Holiday Parks

Bernard Salt

Demographer Bernard Salt says the future is looking good for Australia’s holiday parks as the two most populous age groups – the Millennials and Baby Boomers – move into the sector’s sweet spot, albeit with very different intentions.

For the Millennials, it’s a family and mortgage thing. 

“Millennials will be the fastest-rising demographic over the next 10 years,” says Salt. Nothing new in that but this time around they will be people in their 30s and 40s with kids. 

“Previously Millennials have been people in their 20s with no kids and high levels of discretionary spending. They’ve done their world travel and they spent (big) on lifestyle and technology.”

But this will change. “When they have kids and a mortgage, they need something that’s more cost-effective and I think that’s certainly where domestic travel and camping and caravans will come into their own. “

Salt believes ageing Millennials will respond to “nature based, cost effective, family friendly” product and messaging.

As for the Baby Boomers, this cohort has already had a major impact on the industry over many years – but they are a long from being done.

The eldest of the Baby Boomers are 72 while the youngest are a still relatively youthful 54.

Travel is a major priority for this generation and buying a RV or Caravan and exploring the backroads Australia will be a goal for many Baby Boomers as they leave full-time employment and enter the lifestyle phase of their existence.

No kids, no mortgage – freedom.

Just don’t call them Grey Nomads.

“I think Baby Boomers will still want to travel Australia but ‘Grey Nomads’ is bit of a downer as a term, perhaps they’ll become eco-travellers,” says Salt.

“You’d need a cool acronym or a more positive term because grey nomads suggests long white socks with sandals and terry toweling hats and Baby Boomers see themselves as groovier than that. 

“I think there’s still value in the concept though and the number of grey nomads will increase simply because of the number of people coming in from that cohort.

“You only need one in ten to have an impact on the market.”

Salt was speaking after giving the opening address at the CAPA-ACTE Global Summit & Corporate Lodging Forum in Sydney this week.

It was a presentation full of optimism for Australia, which he believes can continue its golden 25 year run of uninterrupted economic growth – great news for travel industry.

“Is Australia a good bet for the next 10 years?” he asked. “The answer is an unequivocal yes.”

He says Australia is a highly connected country with a strong economy that’s benefitting through ever-growing links to China.

This is obviously good for inbound business, which will flow through the domestic tourism operators such as holiday parks and hotels.

However, competition for the local tourism dollar will only intensify.

“People have more leisure time and they’ve more capacity to spend – it’s just that new destinations and options have emerged,” he says. 

“There’s always going to a base for domestic travel and holiday parks, which is a niche market, not mainstream the way it used to be back in the 1960s and 1970s when no-one could afford to travel overseas.

“As long as Australia remains prosperous there will be a requirement for domestic travel but it won’t grow in the way overseas travel has grown.”

He concludes, “We’re a young and vibrant country. We may have our problems but it’s still better than any other nation on earth, in my view.”