The “bank of mum and dad”, that increasingly common source of financial support for young adults struggling with student loans and booming house prices, is going into the travel business.
Tourism experts are predicting a surge this year in the number of parents planning to take their cash-strapped twentysomething children away with them when they go on holiday.
It appears that the baby-boomer generation is weighed down with a sense of guilt for still having cash to spend when its adult offspring are laden with debt, struggling to find work, and finding it almost impossible to save for a deposit.
While the rise of what travel firms are calling the “genervacation” has been building for some time, it has received a turbo boost from pension reforms and soaring property prices.
Since last April, people over 55 have the option of withdrawing 25% of their pensions tax free. Research suggests that 99% of those eligible to make a withdrawal are considering the option. Of those looking to withdraw funds, research conducted by Souk Response, a travel consultancy, found that almost three-quarters are planning on spending some of the windfall on travel, with many now considering a big-ticket holiday for them and their children.
The research showed that, outside of the UK and Europe, the most popular destinations for parents planning on holidaying with their older children were the US, Canada and the Caribbean.
While children at university are most likely to experience the rise of the genervacation, those in their late 20s and even early 30s are benefiting from the trend, which experts say has caught holiday companies by surprise. Many travel firms had believed that much of their future growth would come from the “silver traveller market” – parents holidaying together once their children had flown the nest.
But Huw Williams, director of Souk Response, said the travel market was in flux. “There is a growing trend for parents to holiday with older age children,” he said. “The top end of the market is very comfortable with the empty-nesters – the traditional affluent, double-income couples who are either pre- or post-children, but the picture is becoming more complicated. We’ve now got a squeezed and stressed generation which is more than happy to go away with their parents. Travel companies have got to find ways of attracting them all in. It can’t just be about cottage holidays in Devon.”
Demographic shifts have also played a part in changing the nature of the modern holiday. Williams points out that in 2012, 14% of brides were under 25, compared with 76% in the late 1960s. With the average woman in the UK now having a child in her early 30s, the adult population is finding itself without commitments for longer. And, unlike previous generations, today’s twenty and thirtysomethings, unencumbered with offspring, have more in common with their parents, who are living longer.
“There is an overlap in interests,” Williams said. “It’s not an oil and water situation; both generations mix well.”
However, while the generation gap has shrunk markedly, a yawning economic gap has opened up. In addition to tapping their pensions, older people have been able to remortgage and take equity out of homes that have soared in value. But an inflated property market has meant that their children, especially those burdened with debt from university, are unable to afford homes of their own. This has made them economically reliant on their parents for longer.
The research suggests the trend for parents to holiday with their adult children is being driven more by fathers than mothers. Many said they felt it was the only time they got to see their children and that holidays “were a lot more fun”.
But Williams said a large number of parents were also plagued by a sense of guilt because their “children can’t afford the holidays that they can”. “They feel honour-bound to take them,” he said. “Now that people in their 50s are looking to go farther abroad, they feel obliged to take their adult children with them.”
Trips with teens
Andy Imrie, 54, a creative director, went on a three-week holiday to Vietnam and Bali with his wife, Tina, and their daughters, Jessica, 19, and Georgia, 17.
“We hadn’t really been on a holiday as a family for a couple of years,” Imrie said. “The girls had just wanted to do their own thing. But then we said we were thinking of Vietnam and they wanted to come. We felt far more at ease with them. It felt like I was going away with people who weren’t just my daughters. I thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind going on holiday with you if you weren’t my kids’.
“They saw us in a different light; we were much more relaxed, quite chilled. We keep telling them, ‘We’re going to do China next’, and they say, ‘if you do that we might come’, because they can’t afford to do it on their own.
“My advice is to make sure you mix it up, do something that each person will enjoy. I remember this holiday as much as the ones when they were very young. This one left memories.”