Academic journal article Australian Journal of Hospitality Management

Changing Travel Patterns with Age: Australian Evidence and the Need to Modify Current Theories

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Hospitality Management

Changing Travel Patterns with Age: Australian Evidence and the Need to Modify Current Theories

Article excerpt


This paper examines the influence of age on the distance travelled by outbound Australian tourists. Australian departures from 1991-94 were analysed and the results compared with those of Becker (1992). Similarities existed across all age groups apart from the 34-48 year old group, where the propensity to travel a distance increased rather than plateaued. The influences of travel motivation and destination choice are discussed, with the paper concluding that age related functions of overseas travel by Australians are likely to change in the longer term.

Keywords: Australian Travel, Mature Traveller, Travel Patterns, Distance Travel


It has been observed, for example by Becker (1992), that, on average, the distance individuals travel varies with each stage in their life cycle. From his observations, Becker noted that the probability of travel to distant destinations seems to be a bimodal function of the age of individuals. Based on a longitudinal analysis in Germany, he found that the propensity to travel to distant destinations rises until 34 years of age, then exhibits a slight depression for the 34-48 age group subsequently ascending to a second peak and then falling away with increased age. The purpose of this paper is to observe the relative frequency of overseas travel of individuals from Australia as a function of their age and furthermore, to observe whether this pattern is in accordance with the pattern suggested by Becker's theory. Secondly, it will report data on age-related frequencies of outbound Australian travellers to major overseas destination countries, observe differences in these patterns and provide possible explanations for discrepancies in these patterns. The destination countries or regions considered are New Zealand, United States (US), Europe, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and Fiji. The distance of these from Australia varies, as does the degree of their cultural affinity with Australia, ensuring that they are a disparate group. This disparity enables some interesting observations to be made about relationships between age and the choice of destination. But before these empirical results are reported and interpreted, it is useful to review theories of travel demand which depend on age-related factors such as family life cycles. This theoretical review begins first by examining demographic/sociological approaches to determinants of demand for travel and then examines temporal dimensions.

The majority of economic studies of demand for overseas travel only consider traditional economic factors like income, prices and exchange rates but ignore life cycle factors. These theories tend to be macro-based, rather than micro-based, but there can be little doubt that demographic segmentation and the analysis of temporal dimensions are important in predicting tourist demand and can be relevant to managerial decisions in the tourist industry.

Demographic/Sociological Segmentation -- Review of Demand Theory

Demand for travel may be affected by demographic and sociological relationships such as ethnic identity and nationality, age, family size, family life cycle (FLC), gender, religion, occupation and educational background (Lawson 1994). Travellers from countries with dissimilar cultural backgrounds may have different destination choices, stay varying lengths of time and exhibit different expenditure patterns. Some societies also have close cultural affinity with others, which can affect the travellers' choice of destination (Divisekera 1993). For example, the Japanese tend to choose package tours that `jam pack' all the tourist sites of a destination into a short time period. In addition, the Japanese do not have a close cultural affinity with any country so they tend to switch destinations if their needs are not met. Divisekera (1993) found that substitution between the United States (US) and Australia was highly price elastic for Japanese. …

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