EVERYONE needs holidays. ARE our tourism operators aware of the demand for holidays for people with disabilities? Small tourism businesses – especially regional operators – do not do well in difficult economic times and yet as Sheila King of the Australia For All Alliance maintains, this market segment seems to be largely ignored.
Clearly there would be some financial outlay but this would be an investment in a large niche market. Sheila can provide details of what is needed to cater for various disabilities, as can Local Government Planning Departments. She says accessibility is not just about wheelchair access and lists ten of the many questions tourist operators should ask themselves when thinking about making their venues accessible to the disabled:
Q Do you find it hard to read some signs from a distance?
A You could benefit from clearer signage
Q Have you ever found it hard to determine which tap is hot or cold?
A A You could benefit from clearly visible hot and cold indicators on taps
Q Do you often wonder which floor the lift has arrived at?
A You could benefit from audio and visual floor level indicators
Q Do you ever go to pull open a door and find it’s a push?
A You could benefit from clearer signage around doors
Q Do you worry what would happen if the lift broke down?
A You could benefit from well trained staff who know the exit procedure
Q Have you been walking & needed to sit down and could not find a seat?
A You could benefit from seats placed around grounds and buildings
Q Have you ever thought you were at the bottom of the stairs but still found you had a step to go?
A You could benefit from clearer markings on the top and bottom steps
Q Have you ever had difficulty carrying out simple tasks with your hands?
A You could benefit from many of the recommended criteria e.g. grab-rails, wide corridors and doors and lever-type taps.
Q Do you ask for directions but only catch the first part of the answer?
A You could benefit from clear signage at regular intervals
Q Do you find it hard to hear someone speak above background noise?
A You could benefit from seating away from areas of noise.
You can contact Sheila by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We have previously profiled Ann and Dallas Andrews’ Frog Gully Cottages overlooking lovely wetlands in Gippsland, Victoria, as one business who designed her accommodation with disabled people in mind. Check out the cottages at www.froggully.com.au.
“What is accessible tourism in the 21st century, and how is it designed? Do the products and services currently available really cater for the demands and needs of a constantly evolving market? Is there a concrete dialogue between users and service providers that has developed sufficiently to guarantee an effective response? Is it possible to measure the accessibility of tourism services? And, ultimately, is this the sort of investment that pays? These are questions that still confront us – is the tourism industry listening – I am not sure that it is!
Is accessible tourism a viable size market to entice tourism providers to confront?
At the end of 2008 it is a fact that accessible tourism was the fastest growing business opportunity in the tourism industry. It is also a fact that the tourism industry needs to recognise that this business opportunity also includes the world-wide growing older population, and see this unique market of people with disabilities as being very profitable.
More than 54 million U.S. residents, or about 19% of the population of the USA, have some sort of disability, the U.S. Census Bureau reported in December 2008. In Europe there are approximately 50 million people with a disability. 63% of people with disabilities are older than 45 years. Nearly 30% of people in the age group 55-54 report a disability. Is this a big enough market for the tourism industry to come to terms with?
70% of people with disabilities are able to travel, but because of the lack of accessible tourism accommodation and other venues such as restaurants, museums, theme parks etc, they do not. There is an enormous mismatch between demand and what is offered by tourism providers in the way of infrastructure and services, neither of which are meeting the needs of people with disabilities. All stakeholders in the tourism industry, including transport companies, need to make more effort to improve the quantity of accessible tourism facilities. People with accessibility needs have the desire and the right to travel like everyone else. However their travel experiences are still highly restricted by physical barriers such as transport, inaccessible accommodation and other tourism sites as well as other barriers such as a general lack of information or poorly designed web sites.
A recent study undertaken by the Balearic Islands School of Catering in Spain found that 90% of hotel chain websites and 75% of individual hotel web sites were inaccessible to certain groups of users. As a result tourism providers lose market share. www.australiaforall.com.au is a prime example of an international web site which is devoted entirely to tourism accommodation and venues which are accessible to people with disabilities.
A survey carried out by Viajes 2000 in Spain found that people with disabilities nearly always return to the place they initially found accessible
With these figures in mind it is obvious that this cannot be termed a ‘small niche market’. Accessible business is big business and the market is growing fast – partly because the world is growing older.
The tourism industry should realise that open access benefits all customers – accessibility is a competitive and economic advantage, not just a social or legal responsibility.
Various providers in the tourism industry, both private and public, have started, although too slowly, to be aware of the importance that a substantial portion of potential customers pay for products and accessible services.
In many countries legislation is in place, but its implementation is not mandatory, but this does not mean that accessibility should be ignored by the tourism industry.
Returning to our question: “Is the tourism industry listening?
It is very clear in relation to world-wide accessible tourism the demand is increasing very rapidly. The demand is not only coming from people with disabilities, but also from elderly tourists, who do not see themselves as being in any way disabled, but who appreciate the fixtures and fittings in accessible accommodation, to aid their balance. There is also a lesser, but increasing, demand from families with young children for accessible facilities.
So the answer to the question posed above is “I am not sure that it is”!