Report reveals tourist industry shortchanging disabled travellers

A recent report states the travel industry worldwide is reluctant to make more efforts to attract and assist disabled and elderly travellers.

Dimitrios Buhalis, deputy director of Bournemouth University’s International Centre of Tourism and Hospitality Research, says many travel services and destinations are not sufficiently well-equipped to be able to deal with the special needs of disabled and elderly tourists, and are making little effort to improve their facilities.

Mr Buhalis is highlighting disabled travel as a major challenge for the global tourism industry in the 21st century, stating the present number of over 650 million disabled people worldwide is likely to increase along with life expectancy. This, he adds, constitutes a business challenge for the global travel sector, which should be more proactive in the provision of accessible services and infrastructure.

The Leonard Cheshire disability survey polled disabled holidaymakers about their experiences, with almost half of respondents noting non- specialist travel agencies lacked basic disability awareness, making the procedure very ‘hit and miss’. Acting director of the charity Guy Parckar said he hears regularly about nightmare travel experiences with unprepared providers. He added the disabled travel market is huge, with travel companies missing out if they don’t provide accessible services.

Philip Scott of specialist tour agency Can be Done agrees high street agencies can’t provide a reliable service, and adds availability of adapted rooms can be limited, with disabled infrastructure in third world and even developing countries often completely lacking. Jennie Kermode, a writer on disabled travel, said although awareness of disability issues is growing, most disabled travellers stick to specialist tour agencies to avoid problems.

Ms Kermode believes it’s high time the brand leaders in holiday travel made an effort to offer designated disabled services. Holiday companies and service providers need to take into account accessibility, equipment hire including shower chairs, assistance at airports and adapted transfers. Mr Scott praised Co-op Travel for their five-year plan involving disability advisors and wheelchair accessibility for all their agencies, saying it’s good to find agents making the effort for disabled travellers.



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