Once upon a time going to Majorca was considered an adventure to an exotic destination. Nowadays, many older people are traveling much further afield to more far-flung destinations.
In response, researchers at The DEMAND Centre, based at Lancaster University, which researches the dynamics of energy, mobility and demand, have been seeking to understand this rise in international travel in view of its consequences for energy demand.
After talking to groups of older people, their work points to the importance of mass tourism as well as wider infrastructural changes that have made traveling abroad more convenient.
Because of this, exotic or exciting destinations are now often found beyond Europe, whilst European leisure travel may increasingly be seen as ‘conventional’ and ‘easy.’
In this way, their research shows that this trend towards more travel cannot be explained merely by changes in changing amounts of post-retirement disposable income.
Rather, they point to how this growth in international leisure travel is equally shaped by changes in how leisure travel in later life is understood as normal, exciting or attractive and how it is undertaken by those in later life.
The paper “Demanding Distances in Later Life Leisure Travel,” by Emmet Fox (Anglia Ruskin University), Rosie Day (University of Birmingham), Russell Hitchings (University College London) and Susan Venn (University of Surrey) also highlights the importance of how older people respond to new opportunities as they age.
For example, some people who were once willing and able to ‘fly the distance’ talked about switching to the ‘comforts’ of European travel or to cruise holidays as they got older and found travel physically more taxing.
Others persevere with long distance travel, supported by more accessible airport infrastructures and travel operators catering for their needs.
As the authors explain: “These social and material arrangements matter for what is considered as desirable and doable as people get older.”
“The current trend is toward more travel. But this is not the only option: there might be ways of enjoying new experiences closer to home that could be less personally taxing and less energy intensive. However, they argue that, in promoting them, we need to pay attention to how broader expectations for travel kick in and how they are reconciled with physical ageing.”
Emmet Fox et al. Demanding distances in later life leisure travel, Geoforum (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.04.007