Many tourism operators want to be more inclusive, but not sure how to go about it. Customer feedback tells you what’s missing, but doesn’t always tell you how to fix it. Some operators fear any change will be expensive, but sometimes it’s the little things that count. Online booking company Expedia Group has stepped into the inclusive travel market by commissioning some research.
Expedia Group partnered with the Leonard Cheshire organisation to set out a roadmap for inclusive travel. It includes case studies and stories of travellers. Interviews, surveys and focus groups highlight why the industry should be more inclusive.
As with many other reports targeted to business, it covers the rate of disability in the community, and why inclusion matters. Economic arguments, size of the market, and customer retention are all featured.
The title of the report is Breaking Down Barriers to Traveland calls on the travel industry to be inclusive post COVID. The report draws on the experiences of disabled travellers to form recommendations. Key sections of the report are:
Designing barrier-free travel experiences
Making information clear
Providing inclusive customer service
Involving people with disability
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has launched an Inclusive Recovery Guide. It has three sections:
The quote on the picture says, “Tourism can be a force for good in our world, playing a part in protecting our planet and its biodiversity, and celebrating what makes us human: from discovering new places and cultures to connecting with new people and experiences. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
There’s a lot of potential for accessible tourism in Australia, and everyone stands to win, both operators and travellers. The business case has been well researched over many years and in different countries. However, the data are not convincing many tourism operators to re-think their business model.
Nicole Healy’s presentation at UD2021 Conference covered the facts and figures. Tourism Research Australia commissioned a research project which involved Victorian and Queensland governments. Nicole listed the research objectives which included:
The size of the market and drivers and barriers
Needs of travellers with disability and their companions
The best communication channels
The best ways to support businesses and explore opportunities
The results show the potential of accessible tourism to be in the billions of dollars representing 10% of the total domestic spend. And that’s only for those who are willing to travel. Many others say it is all too hard.
Travellers with and without disability choose trips for the same reasons. Eating out and visiting family or friends are top of the list for both groups. Sightseeing, pubs, clubs, and shopping are all popular. Going to the beach was not high on the list for people with disability.
Lack of awareness of what’s on offer and not knowing what to expect were barriers to travel. Attitudes of tourism operators and staff was not encouraging either. Higher costs for people with disability were an issue as well as not enough accessible rooms.
Travellers with disability want to see better staff training and more practical information. Better access to toilets, public transport and airports were also important. More detail is available in Nicole’s presentation slides and the data report. You can download the executive summary of the Victorian and Queensland report.
Not surprisingly, relatively wealthy countries have the best adapted hotels for accessibility. The US, Canada, Ireland, Qatar, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand come out top of each region’s list. That’s according to a study of Booking.com’s website of hotels. Despite government and community organisations promoting the need and benefits of inclusive tourism, hotels are slow to provide accessibility.
A study using the international Booking.com data compares continents and countries for the level of hotel accessibility. The researchers worked with a sample of 31,868 hotels in the 100 most popular tourist destinations. They found some type of adaptation in 18,368. Even in the countries with the highest levels, wheelchair accessibility is only provided in 30%. Other features are just 5% or less.
Booking.com is a popular website for booking tourist accommodation. It leads the market by having the greatest distribution of beds worldwide. In the filter search there is a section on accessibility features. However, the information is not always reliable because standards vary across international borders. Although an hotel states it is adapted or accessible there is no guarantees it is.
The accessible features included in the Booking.com filter search are: wheelchair accessible, toilet with grab rails, higher level toilet, lower bathroom sink, emergency cord in bathroom, Braille, tactile signs, auditory guidance. The hotels themselves provide the information on Booking.com. So, the information is not always reliable.
There is a lack of comprehensive international studies on accommodations for people with disabilities; only small, local-level studies exist. This study aims to show the status of the tourist accommodation sector through the online distribution channel in terms of accessibility to offer more inclusive tourism. A descriptive analysis has been carried out with more than 31,000 hotels from the online travel agency Booking.com, in the 100 most touristic cities in the world. For the first time, an accurate picture of adaptation in the hotel sector for people with disabilities is presented. Results show that the adapted hotel infrastructures by countries are uneven. The main adaptations are those that help to avoid mobility barriers, and in contrast, hotels offer very few adaptations for sensory disabilities such as visual disabilities. Moreover, this study shows that, worldwide, countries with the highest income per capita, such as the United States of America, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, have the highest degree of hotel adaptation.
The Business Victoria website has a sub-section on accessible tourism. Unfortunately it is listed as separate from other aspects of tourism such as starting up a tourism business. Nevertheless, the Accessible Tourism Resource Kit has some useful information for existing businesses in the sector.
Management perceptions of disability are key to encouraging inclusive tourism. A study comparing national parks in two countries highlighted this and other factors that impact universal accessibility. A legal perspective and no penalties imposed for lack of accessibility means the status quo remains. Taking an economic perspective and an inclusive attitude is more helpful.
National parks within South Africa and Zimbabwe were the subject of a study comparing them for universal design and accessibility. The attitude and perceptions of national park management was found to be a contributing factor for accessibility.
In South Africa there was an understanding that people with disability wanted to experience nature as much as anyone else. There was also a recognition that there was a good economic argument for being inclusive. In Zimbabwe, management considered disability to be a legal issue and did not believe that tourists with disability wanted to visit national parks.
The study revealed that, generally, the management of parks in both countries appreciate the plight of people with disabilities who want to visit their parks. However, the managers from South Africa seemed more willing and prepared to make their parks universally accessible compared to their counterparts in Zimbabwe.
This study was the subject of a doctoral thesis which takes a holistic approach to the issues. The conclusions and recommendations beginning page 184 are relevant to all national parks. Staff training, an understanding of the economic benefits and community consultation are just three of the recommendations. It’s an easy read and the conclusions and recommendations easy to follow.
Hotels in Australia are required to have a percentage of rooms that offer accessible accommodation. Hotel managers generally refer to these rooms as “disabled rooms” and think the job of access is done and dusted. Little thought is given to other hotel facilities. This is where legislation brings compliance but not inclusion. It is still a matter of non-disabled people doing “special” things for disabled people. A charity approach is no longer good business.
A book chapter explores the issues reflecting on equity in terms of sustainable development. The aim of sustainable development is to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations.
The author considers different approaches to the issue of social participation. Charities began the “special” recreational activities and social enterprises developed them further. The commercial uptake of these activities still has a way to go. The concept of “reverse integration” is introduced and discussed.
The title of the book chapter is, Accessible and equitable tourism services for travelers with disabilities: From a charitable to a commercial footing. It is free to download from ResearchGate.
Until recently, charities and nonprofits have been the primary providers of recreational services for persons with disabilities (PwD). Increased pressure for a self-sustaining financial existence, as well as the acknowledgment of the value that the market of PwD has, have led to such services increasingly finding their way in competitive commercial environments as well. The chapter traces the development of inclusive holidays for persons with and without visual impairment based on sighted guiding from the historical changes in the understanding of the concept of disability as well as the provision of recreational and tourism services for PwD. The author argues that reverse integration – the approach that these holidays follow – is a viable and efficient way of offering equitable tourism services, particularly when businesses embrace social entrepreneurship. The chapter is built on the assumption that offering accessible and equitable tourism products for PwD is an integral element of corporate sustainability and responsibility in the tourism industry.
Citation: Tomej, K. (2019). Accessible and equitable tourism services for travelers with disabilities: From a charitable to a commercial footing. In D. Lund-Durlacher, V. Dinica, D. Reiser, & M. Fifka (Eds.), Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility in Tourism: A Transformative Concept (pp. 65-78). Springer Nature
What brings repeat business to an airline? Improving snack selection, smiling staff, warm welcome messages on video screens? None of these. Anyone who has travelled by air, even those who do it regularly, will know that the aircraft itself is rarely the issue. The issue is anxiety. And you can double that for anyone with a cognitive or physical condition which makes it more difficult. So what can be done to make flying less miserable?
An interesting article in FastCompany explains how the anxiety begins before leaving home. Will I miss my flight? Is my baggage under the weight limit and will it arrive safely? Will there be room for my carry-on? And in the current situation, will I catch COVID? The anxiety continues with queues for passport control, waiting for baggage and finally getting to the destination. No wonder travel is tiring.
So the answer to improving customer satisfaction and repeat business is finding ways to reduce anxiety and smooth the the travel experience. The article makes no mention of travellers who need additional supports, but the content of the article has some good points. It is basically about designing the travel experience to be more convenient and easy to use – aligning with universal design concepts.
There is a related article about the future of air traveland how problems might be solved with AI. The article covers boarding processes, linking ground transport with air transport, and minimising poor passenger behaviour.
Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. So what customers talk about when they share their tourist activities is important information. But what do they talk about and how can destination businesses listen to this information?
A study published in Current Issues in Tourismlooks at customer to customer (C2C) co-creation of inclusive tourism. The study was carried out in a heritage context. The perceptions of customers with disability were interviewed and observed. The aim was to identify what was of value in terms of inclusion or exclusion. The bottom line, as is almost always the case, is to involve users in designing the visitor experience. It’s a basic tenet of universal design.
The title of the paper is, C2C co-creation of inclusive tourism experiences for customers with disability in a shared heritage context experience. You can ask the authors for a copy on ResearchGate. If you have institutional access, it is available online from Taylor & Francis.
Abstract:This study explores customer-to-customer (C2C) social co-creation practices in tourism when customers with and without disability share a heritage service environment. Despite a growing prevalence of heritage- and disability-related research in the tourism literature, few scholars have examined the phenomena from the emergent customer-dominant logic (CDL) perspective. This study makes empirical use of the perceptions of customers with disabilities (CwD) in a recent process of co-creation of CDL within the context of heritage sites through qualitative ethnographic techniques, interviews and observation methods. A sample of 125 individuals with and without disabilities participated in the fieldwork. The objective was to identify C2C social practices that occur among CwD and their related value, leading to either inclusion or exclusion. The results reveal the importance of focusing on C2C co-creation opportunities which create a value outcome. This paper provides heritage managers with clear guidance for creating inclusive and enabling servicescapes.
Promotional material continues to under-represent the diversity of the population. We’ve been so used to seeing white faces in advertisements that to see anything other is a surprise. But is that the response marketing experts want? Then there are the stereotypical images, especially related to older people and people with disability. People with disability also like to travel, often within a family group. So how well are these, and other groups, represented in promotional material?
A recent research project in the US critically assessed promotional materials: brochures, rack cards, websites and online booking platforms. They found that fifty per cent mentioned disability in some form. This included “disabled” and “handicapped”, “wheelchair” and “special needs”. They found that outdated language remained the norm. Indeed, some language was considered harmful for people with disability.
The article covers some important ground in the area of inclusive tourism. Promotional material gives an impression of a destination or venue. Visual and textural representations were either absent or stereotypical. Industry as a whole has been slow to respond to what is estimated to be 25% of the prospective market. Their promotional material reinforces their lack of interest in this market.
Globally, over one billion people experience some form of disability. The number of people with disabilities (PWDs) continues to rise due to an ageing population, the spread of chronic diseases, and improvements in measuring disabilities. However, tourism promotional materials continue to perpetuate a homogenous gaze catering to non-disabled audiences. Thus, informed by critical disability theory, and an inclusive tourism approach, this study explores how PWDs are represented in tourism promotional materials, specifically tourism brochures, from the American Southeast. Through a content analysis of over 200 county level brochures from nine south eastern states and interviews with state level tourism marketing directors, three emergent themes were identified: ADA compliant is ‘good enough’; ‘Diversity’ means including more people of color or ‘ethnic’ groups; and Pets are welcomed but how about PWDs? The findings offer insights for inclusive tourism and breaking down the physical and psychological barriers that hinder PWD participation in travel and tourism.