ACCESSIBLE AND INCLUSIVE TRAVEL IS ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING SECTORS IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY.
But it’s also the most overlooked.
Recent data from My Travel Research revealed that one-sixth of the global population lives with some kind of disability and with an aging population that number is only going to get bigger.
The research also showed that the estimated value of the accessible tourism sector is around $10 billion, which is on par with the estimated value of the inbound Chinese tourism market.
To find out more about this growing sector and how agents can better serve them, we spoke with My Travel Research Co-Founder, and travel industry veteran, Carolyn Childs to bring you this exclusive Q&A.
Travel Weekly: Do you think the industry is inclusive towards those with a disability or the elderly?
Carolyn Childs: Overall no.
THE MARKET IS CURRENTLY UNDERSERVED, WITH 20 PER CENT OF TRAVELLERS SAYING THEY WOULD TRAVEL MORE IF THEY WERE AWARE OF PRODUCTS AND SERVICES THAT MET THEIR NEEDS.
We see some destinations and businesses doing really well and some interesting innovations are appearing. For example, apps that list businesses that are well set up for people with disabilities.
One sector that is doing a lot is cruise. People will argue about the extent but most of the travellers with a disability I have spoken to have said this is an industry that does well by them.
Globally the UK is a big leader in this space and has begun developing not just product but wonderful marketing campaigns that remember a big truth. There are way more things a traveller with a disability has in common with the rest of the market than what divides them. Most importantly – they are travelling for experiences.
TW: Why, besides promoting inclusivity, why is it so important for travel companies to cater to the disability market?
CC: Because it is a bloody good business opportunity!
There’s lots of evidence to show that for many people with a disability finding somewhere that sees them as a customer (and not an imposition) and works on that basis is so refreshing they will head back regularly.
While average incomes are lower – as many as a third of Australians with a disability, for example, are in the top two income quintiles (above average earnings).
WITH AN AGING POPULATION BOTH HERE AND IN MANY MAJOR MARKETS AND A SECTOR THAT IS NOT REALLY BEING ADDRESSED I’M STILL COMPLETELY AMAZED THAT MOST BUSINESSES ARE NOT EMBRACING THIS OPPORTUNITY THE WAY THEY COULD.
Finally, the UK Business Disability Forum has estimated that the value of poor service to this market costs UK businesses (not just travel) GBP 1.8bn PER MONTH.
TW: Is there anything agents can do to help? Seeing as they are on the front line?
CC: Get wise as to where the great experiences and products are.
This market is very welcoming of advice especially as they get further down the path toward the final booking phase. So, travel agents are a sector that can really benefit from this market.
Because the accessible market has such diversity, agents need to do their research and provide the information in a well-structured format, so people can work with their agent on what is needed.
THOSE AGENTS WHO PERFORM WELL IN THIS MARKET WILL HAVE A STRONG COMPETITIVE EDGE AS THEY WILL ENJOY HIGH REPEAT BUSINESS AND LOYAL CUSTOMERS WHO ARE WILLING TO ADVOCATE FOR THEM.