Perry Morcombe is the CEO, founder and managing director of Brisbane-based company Travel Team, formerly known as Seniors Holiday Travel. He’s been running the company for 20 years and was in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for 23 years before that. We thought he’d have some interesting experiences to share as well as observations on how travel has changed over the years. We almost had to handcuff him to his desk, but he very kindly made the time to answer these questions.
You’ve visited 28 countries?
Yes – so far! Whenever I’m asked if I’ve been to XYZ country, if I haven’t, my answer is always: Not yet! I’m planning on visiting a few new countries every year, but of course, I also want to go back to my favourite ones, so it’s a real balancing act. Decisions, decisions!
Now that Travel Team is 20 years old, I’ve created a new travel concept, ‘Live Y♥ur Life’ travel, where I create bucket-list holidays and personally accompany our happy travel club members. So my list of visited countries will rapidly grow over the next few years.
What have you noticed over the journey in relation to travel for or by the over-50s? Are more people travelling?
They are. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age and rewarding themselves with regular overseas holidays.
One of the most popular tour styles to Europe 10 or 20 years ago was the multi-country grand tour of Europe. There was a famous movie many years ago, If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium – Google tells me it was made in 1969, in fact, so that’s nearly 50 years ago!
Are they heading to different countries compared with 20 or 10 years ago?
Travellers are taking shorter tours, or they may combine two shorter tours, to focus on the regions that really catch their eye.
Or they may combine several travel styles, e.g., a Europe river cruise, with a coach tour, with a couple of train trips and two or three cities with a few nights in each city.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that baby boomers are wanting to visit more and more different destinations.
Are people more adventurous?
People are going to more adventurous places, but having said that, most still go to the traditional destinations before moving on to the more adventurous ones.
Are they more physically capable?
We are fitter than our parents and grandparents were at the same age. We exercise more, we eat better, and we have access to better healthcare.
I’ve been going to a gym for nearly a decade now and I’m fitter and stronger than when I was 50, 40, 30 or even 20! I’ve just started yoga, at 66, and I’m loving it.
Are they more demanding?
Baby boomers are looking for advice and assistance, support and care.
They often research what they’re interested in before contacting one of our travel experts for advice and assistance in putting together their ‘dream’ holiday, which is what we specialise in. I don’t think that they or we are ‘more demanding’ than we used to be, but we do appreciate someone taking care of everything for us. After all, after a lifetime of working, I think we’re entitled to this!
My view is that travel should challenge, stimulate, broaden the mind and get you out of your comfort zone. What are your thoughts?
There is a lot of research now showing that physical and mental exercise can combine to keep our body and brain younger and healthier. Travel is one way to help achieve both. As an example, when I was at school, I didn’t study history – being in the maths and science classes – but I’m so excited about my ‘Live Y♥ur Life’ tour to Spain with a cruise across the southern Mediterranean Sea next April – so much history to experience, to learn about and to enjoy.
Are destinations and support services keeping up with any increase in travel by those aged 50-plus?
As a general rule, yes. One of the growth areas in the over-50s travel market is for solo travellers. This term can mean a range of things. Some want to share with another solo traveller, some want their own cabin or room with a single supplement, others want to travel in their own cabin or room but with other “solo travellers, while others want to travel in their own cabin or room with no single supplement, and so on. Over the past 20 years, we have booked literally thousands of solo travellers in each of these categories.
Another example is with travel insurance. A couple of decades ago, insurance companies didn’t like to cover passengers over about 65 years of age, from memory. These days, our travel insurance companies are happy to offer travel insurance – at a premium, naturally enough – for up to 75 years of age, for annual policies, but with no age limit for individual policies!
Are more 80-plus-year-olds travelling?
Yes, I’ve noticed a trend over the past 20 years that as we age, we are actually ageing better than previous generations. I have no interest in retiring, as I’m having too much fun here at Travel Team. On the Regal Rhine river cruise ship that we chartered in April, we had a number of 80 year olds who were having the time of their lives. For some of them, it was their first overseas holiday, for others, they were regular travellers.
What delights you about changes in travel over the past 25 years?
The price of airfares has tumbled. Cruising for Australians has grown massively in the past 15 years.
And what saddens you?
In a word … terrorism. Having said that, while terrorism attracts worldwide media attention, especially in these days of social media and smartphones, the world is still a very safe place to travel around. My family and I still travel regularly, where and when we want to, and plan to for the next decade or more.
What are the current hotspots?
Eastern Europe has been on the travel radar for a while now, with more and more destinations able to handle tourists and travellers. Northern Scandinavia in winter to see the amazing northern lights; Harbin in China to see the ice carvings; the UK is always popular, especially after royal weddings.
Is there such a thing as an undiscovered destination?
A different way of looking at this question is to ask if there is a different way of looking at an existing ‘favourite’ destination? For example, you may have done the grand tour of Europe a few years ago, and decided that you’d just love to go back and visit Italy in detail, and at the same time, you’ve been learning Italian recently, to keep your brain active, and you just love all the cooking shows on TV. You would probably love a holiday in Italy that combined all of these, with some time spent buying ingredients at the local market, speaking with the store-keepers in Italian, then being taught how to cook what you’ve just bought by an Italian chef, all the while spending a few days staying in an Italian villa in Tuscany. Mm, so who’s salivating at the moment?