Holiday companies have raised concerns older customers may start to cut back on their travel plans to help younger members of their families survive the economic downturn.

Currently the grey market is helping to prop up travel sales, particularly in the cruise sector, because they are less affected by the current credit crunch, having already paid off their mortgages while benefiting from higher interest rates on their savings.

There are signs grandparents are deciding to spend money on helping out younger generations in the family as the price of household items and bills soar as a result of the rise in oil prices. This could be anything from helping them out with their deposit to get on the housing ladder to simply helping them out with day to day living expenses.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has admitted there has been “ancedotal evidence” of older customers choosing to forgo a cruise holiday to help their children or grandchildren weather the financial storm. The cruiseline’s average customer age is 67.

Marketing director Nigel Lingard said: “There is a little bit of evidence that some of our more elderly customers are cutting back a bit to support their families, to pay for their grandchildren’s deposit on a house for example.

“We have even had customers writing in to apologise for not taking their cruise.”

Luxury tour operator Classic Collection managing director Nick Munday said there was the possibility older customers could feel guilty for spending large sums on holidays when their families are struggling to pay the bills.

He said: “At the moment we can’t answer all our calls because there is so much demand, so the credit crunch definitely isn’t affecting us.

“But with the tidal wave of government stupidity and negative publicity on the credit crunch talking us all into a hole, it could get to the stage where older customers feel that it isn’t right for them to take a £10,000 holiday while their grandchildren are suffering.”