In ageing Europe, "greycationers" seek local thrills

Sat Sep 5, 2009 8:14pm EDT
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By Brian Rohan

BINZ, Germany (Reuters) - When the Iron Curtain fell, Edith Behrenstengel and Crista Schlatow leapt at the chance to go traveling across the globe. Now the two pensioners are just as likely to take a holiday in their native Germany.

"We've traveled the world and never would have thought to come here 20 years ago, but it's rather nice and was built up so fast," said Behrenstengel, a former secretary day-tripping in the state of Western Pomerania in the country's east.

Close-to-home holidays dubbed "staycations" by trend-watchers have proliferated in the financial crisis, but now the travel industry is gearing to draw another crowd -- aging populations in countries like Germany whose spending power may outlast the downturn.

You could call them "greycationers": the 50-plus age group mutating under a massive influx of baby-boomers who grew up in the 1960s. After redefining youth culture, they are now making their mark on older age.

Health pursuits and sports, spas, swimming and cycling are all popular, as are vacations organized around cultural events like concerts and museum visits, tour operators say.

In Britain, where domestic holidays are also in vogue, summer rock and folk festivals are multiplying and boomers seeking to shun the coach-tour badges of old age are taking road trips in cult autos like the Volkswagen Microbus.

The most recent report by the United Nations Travel Organization in June said domestic and short-haul travel in Europe was holding up better than long-haul so far this year.

The impact of the trend is particularly marked for Germany, Europe's largest economy and home to the world's most diehard tourists. Germans spend more abroad in absolute terms than any other nation -- including the United States, whose population is four times greater.   Continued...

<p>A tourist guide shows an PMN anti-personnel mine used at the former East German border to tourists during a tour in the village of Moedlareuth, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Berlin, July 24, 2009. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch</p>