Future tourists older, richer

13:33, Jun 22 2009
NEW FACE OF TRAVEL: Associate professor of tourism futures Ian Yeoman is warning the tourism industry to prepare for a new kind of visitor to New Zealand's shores.

New Zealand's tourism industry will need to cater for a vastly different type of traveller in the future, one expert says.

Victoria University associate professor of tourism futures, Ian Yeoman, says beyond the short-term focus on boosting visitor numbers, the industry will be faced with a radical change in the traveller demographic over the next 30 years.

Speaking ahead of an address to the TRENZ national tourism showcase today, Dr Yeoman said tourism had relied on baby boomers in recent years, but there was a marked growth of the "grand traveller" sector grandparents taking their grandchildren on holiday.

"Retirement is changing, and tourism is one of the beneficiaries," he said.

Younger people were becoming more laden with debt and older tourists were staying fitter and more active for longer.

As technology evolved, the "in-home" experience was being enhanced and younger travellers were opting for more domestic technology-enabled experiences than the classic overseas experience. Japan, one of New Zealand's key tourist source markets, was a case in point, he said.

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"The youth market in Japan has lost the desire to travel, they have lost the bug."

New Zealand's adventure tourism market was one example of a sector that might have to revisit its core customer.

Dr Yeoman said older travellers would still be looking to skydive and bungy jump but there would be a shift from "extreme sports" to "soft adventure".

New tourism products were making the most of the evolving traveller demographic. One in five tourists to India and Malaysia were there for "health tourism", he said.

The other major focus New Zealand had to face was the increasing incidence of "pure" destinations to compete with the "100% PURE New Zealand" brand.

At the bottom of the world, New Zealand was often the first to be ruled out as a destination when other countries offered similar experiences. The cost of reaching the South Pacific was going to preclude anyone but the wealthy from coming.

The cost was only going to increase, with a likely oil price more than double current levels if demand returned after the recession eased, Dr Yeoman said.

Subsidising air travel was not the answer and should not be a consideration for the industry.

The Dominion Post