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News and views about  tourism, travel, and leisure that is accessible to people with disabilities, seniors, and Baby Boomers who will experience increasing disability as they age.

Blog by Sandra Rhodda, Director, Access Tourism New Zealand

Views are strictly my own


City of Rio’s accessibility improvement plans praised by IPC President‏

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International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven has praised plans to improve accessibility at major tourist attractions in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the next year’s Paralympic Games and said he hopes it is the start of greater things to come.  During a recent visit by Sir Philip to Rio, the city’s Mayor Paes announced Projeto Rotas Acessíveis (Accessible Routes Project). The six month long initiative (started last month) will see 4,000m² of accessible pavements and 5,831m² of concrete resurfacing undertaken at the entrances to 10 popular Rio locations. Attractions that will benefit from nearly EUR 1 million of accessibility improvements include Sugarloaf Mountain, Corcovado (the mountain that hosts Christ the Redeemer) and Copacabana beach.

Sir Philip said “Due to the very nature of the city’s geography, Rio can be a difficult place to get around and realistically it will take more than a generation to transform it into one that is accessible for all. However, thanks to the Paralympic Games heading to the city in 2016, improving accessibility for all is now a hot topic.”  He pointed out that Games act as a catalyst for further improvements to take place after the Paralympics.

Improvements will include the levelling of pavements and roads, installation of ramps and tactile flooring, the removal of obstacles, and improvements to bus stops and car parking areas.   The other areas that will be improved are: Barra da Tijuca beach, Praça XV, Paço Imperial, Cinelândia, Jardim Botânico, Vista Chinesa and Mesa do Imperador.   Away from the city centre a number of other accessibility projects are also taking place.  Rio 2016’s Olympic Park, which will host nine of the 22 Paralympic sports, will be 100 per cent accessible; whilst improvements are being made to all other competition venues ahead of the Games.   Improvements in transport are also being made with the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) capable of accommodating all passengers.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @paralympic @ipprio @Prefeitura_Rio

Spanish hotel takes silver at WTM for accessible accommodation

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Photo of exterior of accommodation from the RSHA website

RuralSuite Hotel Apartamentos (RSHA) has won silver at World Travel Market (WTM) Responsible Travel’s World Responsible Tourism Awards.   They received the award at a ceremony at the WTM in London on November 4, 2015, for their work in providing accessible accommodations for travellers of all physical and mental abilities, seniors, and anyone needing better access.  RSHA – in the Navarre region of Northern Spain – fully understands and embraces the fact that people with disabilities want to travel just as much as other people, whether it is for work or play. They understand that, just like everyone, people with disabilities want an adventure, to stay in beautiful accommodations, discover new places and cultures.   RSHA realised that in order for them to be inclusive, they had to do more than the basic, legal requirements.   Being inclusive is also about being insightful. Finding out not only exactly what people’s needs might be, but also what their travel desires are. So, they have created a very informative website, giving all the details travellers with disabilities might require. They also aim to have their website fully accessible in the next year or so too. They have created stylish apartments that are in keeping with the designer feel to the hotel generally, but which also cater for various needs, with accessible kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. The common areas, from the outdoor Jacuzzi to the restaurant are also designed with accessibility in mind. Activities at the hotel are inclusive, with adapted quad bike trips around their vast estate, horseriding and cycling being just a few of the things to do. Their attention to detail is superb, helped along by their partnership with Spanish accessibility experts Fundation ONCE, PREDIF and RedStable.

WTM, which is held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day, is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism award is sponsored by Enable Holidays, which was established in 2004 as the first UK tour operator to be accredited for its competence in auditing the accessibility and grading the suitability of accommodation abroad for people with mobility impairments.    As with all the WTM award winners in this category, RSHA realise that people with special needs would like their needs to be catered for, but they do not want to be treated as ‘special’. They just want to be treated as guests.

Follow on Twitter: @ruralsuite @Fundacion_ONCE @Predif_Estatal @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards

Accessible tour of Cambridge, UK

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UK Disability campaigner and entrepreneur Martyn Sibley has just launched an accessible tour break in Cambridge for people with disabilities and mobility problems.  Martyn, who has spinal muscular atrophy and uses a motorised wheelchair, is a keen traveller and wants to use his own experience to help other people with disabilities make the most of their lives.  He also believes there is an opportunity to benefit from the £17 billion in spending money potentially available from wheelchair users in North America and Europe.

The five day, four night Cambridge tours will be run in 2016, and they and accommodations will meet customer’s requirements.  “I live here and know Cambridge well. It is not far for me to go and I can show people around,” said Martyn, who plans to take in traditional Cambridge sights including the colleges and Backs, the Fitzwilliam Museum and an excursion to Ely, as well as shopping and entertainment.

The Cambridge tour is a spin-off from Accomable, which is designed to be the AirBnB for disabled and older people, set up by Martyn and business partner Srin Madipalli, who also has spinal muscular atrophy.  “Our vision for Accomable is to provide an efficient, one-stop shop so anyone with a mobility problem or disability can enjoy travel in the UK and abroad,” Martyn said. “I have been a wheelchair user all my life and love to travel but it can be extremely difficult to arrange if you have a mobility issue.”  Accomable originally stemmed from the Disability Horizons Group, an online magazine that Martyn and Srin co-founded in 2011. It has since become the fastest growing disability-related lifestyle publication with over 40,000 regular readers and over 200,000 unique visits a year.   Accomable was supported by a grant from the Skoll Foundation, a charity founded by Jeffrey Skoll, eBay’s first president, which supports start-ups with a social purpose.

Source: Cambridge News and Accomable website.  Martyn can be contacted at or by calling 0779 874 6551.  Follow on Twitter: @Accomable @martynsibley @ Srin Madipalli @SkollFoundation

Scandic Hotels– World Travel Market winner for accessible accommodation

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Scandic Hotels – already a world leader in access – is the joint gold winner in the category “Best accommodation for disability access” at Responsible Travel’s World Responsible Tourism Awards.   They received the award at a ceremony at the World Travel Market in London on November 4, 2015, for their work in providing accessible accommodations for travellers of all physical and mental abilities, seniors, and anyone needing better access.

“Scandic Hotels is applauded for their top-down, all-encompassing approach to inclusivity, integrating accessibility into all parts of their hotel business. They address a wide range of disabilities and particularly impressed the judges with their leadership by developing an e-learning course and making this freely available to their peers across the tourism industry,” said Harold Goodwin, Chair of the judging panel for the World Responsible Tourism Awards.

World Travel Market, which is held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day, is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism award is sponsored by Enable Holidays, which was established in 2004 as the first UK tour operator to be accredited for its competence in auditing the accessibility and grading the suitability of accommodation abroad for people with mobility impairments

Scandic’s Accessibility Director, Magnus Berglund said at the awards, “I’m extremely happy that we have won this award. It is proof that the hard work we do to make our hotels accessible to everyone makes a difference and is recognized in the world”.   Scandic consults with organizations for people with disabilities, hotel guests, and team members to improve access.  They have drawn up a checklist of 110 points, their Accessibility Standard. This Standard covers everything offered by Scandic and it is an integral part of all of Scandic’s products and services. Scandic has also implemented smart design features in rooms to make them accessible for people with disabilities. In 2013, Scandic was the first hotel chain in the world to launch online interactive training on disabilities.  This training can be used by anyone who wishes to do so and is on Scandic’s website.

Scandic has featured many times on the Access Tourism NZ website.  Further information about them can be found by searching this website or by contacting Magnus Berglund, Director of Accessibility, Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 077 Anna-Klara Lindholm, PR Manager Scandic Hotels, +46 70 97 35 231,

Follow on Twitter:  @ScandicGlobal @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards

New Zealand Accessible Tourism website launched

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Congratulations to Richard Fanselow and team on the launch of the New Zealand-wide  accommodation and activity guide especially designed for anyone who has mild to major mobility difficulties.  Access4all ( uses specially positioned photos so people can check out bathrooms, entrance areas, bedrooms and living areas and find places to stay that are suitable. All accommodation listed has a combination of at least one access unit and other easily accessible standard units. It also uses photos so people can choose suitable attractions and activities at their destination.

The ACCESS4ALL Accommodation Guide has been developed by Fanselow, Websight Architects, Profitsense, and Gorilla Business Advisors, with assistance from the Ministry of Social Development.   Fanselow has been in a wheelchair for 14 years and travelled extensively during this time in New Zealand and overseas. His personal travel experiences are the inspiration behind this guide.

The guide is a major advance in its use of photographs as well as reviews of places visited.  The website encourages any kind of feedback on the guide itself and their approach to providing information.  It is fully functional, meaning people can book directly from it in the same way as other guides like the AA, and Expedia.  Using the website will help it to increase listings and further expand throughout New Zealand next year.   More northern destinations will be added in the coming weeks before Christmas. For news and updates check out

Follow on Twitter: @access4allNZ @websitearch @SenseProfit @msdgovtnz

“Map My Day”: an event for anyone to note accessible places anywhere

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A worldwide event to raise awareness for disability rights and accessibility kicks off on December 3.    The “Map My Day” campaign is designed to improve the availability  of information on the wheelchair accessibility of public places.  Such information is often scarce or hard to find, making it very difficult for people with mobility impairments to participate in communities.  “Map My Day” is being launched by the German NGO Sozialhelden (‘Social Heroes’), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNESCO on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.   The Day marks the start of a worldwide event to raise awareness for accessibility. For millions of people with wheelchairs, walking aids, or baby carriages the most common obstacles which limit their freedom of movement are stairs.

People around the world can post the accessibility of public places such as restaurants, train stations, tourist attractions and government buildings on, a free online map which is also the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessible places. It is hoped that many people in many places around the world will contribute information to Wheelmap, and that a new conversations about accessibility is started, thus ensuring the success of the campaign.

The campaign not only addresses people with a disability. It is really easy for everybody to contribute to the map by adding new local information with a few clicks. In this way users have already rated nearly 600,000 public places, making the map the world’s largest database for wheelchair accessibility.   Wheelmap is available as an app for iPhone, Android Smartphone and Windows Phone   (Windows 10), as well as on the website – in more than 20 languages.

Participants can be part of “MapMyDay” individually or in groups, with colleagues, teammates or friends and family.   NGOs, government authorities, businesses, schools, associations and celebrities are invited to help spread the word to their networks and ideally, to organize local mapping events themselves.   There is a checklist on the website to help individuals, businesses, and organizations set up events.

More information: Follow on Twitter: @SOZIALHELDEN @WHO @UNESCO @wheelmap #Machmitbei #MapMyDay Fabebook:

Accessible Holiday Guide from Responsible Travel

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Responsible Travel in the UK connects the world’s best small holiday companies with travellers looking for more from their holiday than just a brief stay.  They offer personal holidays or holidays in a small group from over 375 small and specialist tour companies in 190+ countries.   Convinced that small holiday companies are run by interesting people who founded them out of a deep love for destinations, cultures, landscapes and wildlife, their aim is treat local people and places well.   Responsible Travel now has an Accessible Holiday Guide about accessible travel for people with disabilities.   It covers places to stay and things to do, and has advice on travelling with a disability.

As the website points out, the world’s travelling population is getting older, with varying access needs. Many businesses are starting to hear the message that tourists who travel with special needs are increasing in number. The term ‘purple pound’ or ‘dollar’ has even been coined to describe this rapidly growing worldwide market.   Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet (Australia) is a world-travelled wheelchair user.  He writes on the website that “Baby boomers are now retiring with access issues, whether they identify as disabled or not, they are increasingly subject to varying degrees of disability, whether it is hearing, sight or mobility. And this is a market that I think the smart national tourism bodies are actually thinking about. Examples of these are England, Scotland and Wales, on the back of the last Olympics and Paralympics in London – but also Catalonia and Germany”.

Follow on Twitter: @r_travel @Martin_Heng @lonelyplanet

Derbyshire Peak District tourism businesses improve access with EC grant

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Eight businesses in the Derbyshire Peak District have become part of a project to improve tourism access for disabled people.  Using money from a £93,000 European Commission grant, the businesses have been picked out as leaders in the Visit Peak District and Derbyshire-backed campaign to make it easier for disabled tourists to visit the region.  The businesses are: Hoe Grange Holidays in Brassington, Rivendale Caravan and Leisure Park in Alsop en-le Dale, Chatsworth, Crich Tramway Village, East Lodge Hotel and Restaurant in Rowsley, High Peak Borough Council’s Pavilion Gardens in Buxton, and the Peak District National Park Authority’s Parsley Hay Cycle Hire.  They were subjected to a site audit to review their facilities and pinpoint areas that could be improved while staff were given classroom-based and on-line training to boost customer service.  A mystery shop was also carried out by people with a range of disabilities and tips were then given to improve their accessibility and websites.

The firms taking part also shared a £100,000 print and on-line media and marketing campaign by VisitEngland, which aimed to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses across England.   Greg Potter, manager of Rivendale Caravan and Leisure Park, said: “Our involvement has enabled us to work with some wonderful people with a down-to-earth but inspirational approach to helping guests with mobility issues and also to provide the information guests need to assess if our accommodation is suitable for them.  The marketing boost we have received is also helping to ensure we make a return on our investment and that continuing improvements are sustainable in the long run.”

Research by Visit England suggests the accessible tourism market is now worth £3 billion per annum to the English economy, with day visits boosting the figure to £12.1 billion.  Over the past few years, overnight trips by disabled tourists and their companions have increased by 19% and their spending is up by a third.  Lindsay Rae, deputy director and head of industry engagement at Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, said: “Visit England estimates that the overall annual value of overnight accessible tourism to Derbyshire is £45 million, so it makes sense for local businesses to invest in improving their facilities and services for this key sector of the market.

Source: Follow on Twitter: @vpdd @HoeGrange @Rivendale_hol @ChatsworthHouse @CrichTramway @eastlodgehotel  @GardensBuxton @peakdistrict  @AshbourneNews on Twitter

Tourism and Disabled Access Day in Scotland, 2016

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The UK has a Disabled Access Day, an annual national initiative created to raise awareness of the importance of disabled access and started in 2015.  In 2016, it will be held on 12 March.  The day aims to encourage disabled people, their friends and families to visit somewhere new and over 50 venues across the UK, including Westminster Abbey, Tate Modern and The Scottish Parliament, have already signed up to be involved.  In Scotland, a launch event was held in October 2015 at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with Maureen Watt MSP, Minister for Public Health, in attendance.  This marked the beginning of the lead up to the second annual event, building on the 2015 result when over 200 companies and venues took part, including VisitScotland, BT, Caffè Nero, Caffé Concerto and Barclays. The events attracted over 1,000 disabled people and their families, friends and carers.

Venues can take part in the 2016 event by hosting an event or simply opening their doors to show that they welcome disabled visitors and their friends and families. Whether it is a cinema, hotel or visitor attraction, there are plenty of ways for businesses to get involved. For further information on how to get involved, please visit:

The Scottish Government is providing VisitScotland with £38,000 (this on top of other funding; this for example) to boost the engagement of disabled and older people in the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.  Scotland’s Minister for Business Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing MSP said that these funds will support a series of new and enhanced partner projects, each of which will contribute to the wider Accessible Tourism Drive, contributing to the Innovation and Architecture themes of the 2016 year and creating a legacy whose benefits will be felt well into the future as the accessible tourism project rolls-out.

Chris McCoy, Head of VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Programme, said: “We are delighted to lend our support to next year’s Disabled Access Day as part of our ongoing Accessible Tourism Programme. I would encourage businesses to sign up to take part as we look to make this country a fully accessible destination.”  An overwhelming 94% of disabled people would revisit a venue that has good accessibility, according to a survey carried out by Euan’s Guide, the main sponsors of Disabled Access Day. With the UK’s 12 million disabled people estimated to have a combined spending power of over £200 billion, venues with poor disabled access or information are potentially missing out on gaining a significant amount of revenue.

Euan MacDonald, co-founder of the disabled access reviews website, said, “The success of last year’s event has given us a firm foundation to build on. Not only are we raising awareness of disabled access, but also showcasing the venues with good accessibility and highlighting the commercial value held by the UK’s 12 million disabled people and their family, friends and carers.”

Source: Edinburgh Reporter.  Follow on Twitter:  @Access_Day @VisitScotland @EuansGuide   For more information on Disabled Action Day, please visit:

Cyprus action plan on accessible tourism

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File:20061019 Episkopi Bay.jpg

The Republic of Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) is preparing an action plan to provide people with disabilities accessible holidays in the country.  CTO recognizes this as a big market.  During a conference held last week, CTO Deputy Director Annita Demetriades said that accessible tourism is not for a small group of people.  “In the EU, there are about 138 million people with increased accessibility needs, usually traveling for holidays during the low seasons. Disabled-friendly infrastructure and services give our island a positive image, enhance the quality of our tourist product and show our tangible respect for our fellow people,” she added.  Demetriades noted that accessible tourism ensures more people get the opportunity to travel. “Undoubtedly Cyprus is an attractive tourist destination, so the tourist industry stands to get more visitors, who prefer to travel off-peak periods,” she said.

According to data, in 2012 direct revenue from accessible tourism in the EU amounted to €352 billion, giving employment to 4.2 million people. Taking into account the multiplier effect, total turnover increases to €786 billion. Studies indicate that improving accessibility could lead to a 24.2% increase in demand and 18% increase in the spending of European tourists by 2020.

The CTO is creating the infrastructure on 37 beaches making swimming experience for the disabled more comfortable. Specifically, 11 of the 37 beaches are fully equipped for this purpose. In addition, the CTO now has a grant scheme for hotel units which upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate guests with disabilities.

Source: In-Cyprus.  Follow on Twitter: @visitcyprus

Be Able Travel: businesses miss customer revenue if inaccessible

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Be Able Travel (UK) was created in 2015 by a wheelchair user with FSH Muscular Dystrophy and a vision impaired person who has been blind since shortly after birth.   In this guest post, Mandy Altoff of BAT describes why reliable information about access is important to people with disabilities.

Be Able Travel logo

At Be Able Travel, we found that despite our best research, what was classed as accessible by websites/other people’s reviews, in reality wasn’t always the case.  There are over 1 billion people worldwide (11 million of those here in the UK) living with a limiting long term illness, impairment or disability.  Much more needs to be done to improve accessibility in the UK and the rest of the world. How many business are missing out on customer revenue because their establishment is simply not accessible!
I recently wanted to meet up with friends for a drink at a local pub (bar) so called ahead to check it was accessible.  A member of staff assured me I would be fine in my wheelchair so off I went. Upon arrival the pub did indeed have a ramped entrance.  Great start! Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the bar to order as it had 5 stairs up to it, and sadly, the toilets were the same! Something as simple as meeting friends for a drink had suddenly become impossible without having to rely on others for assistance.

Thankfully, not everywhere is like this! Brighton Marina, UK is a very accessible place with numerous restaurants along the waterfront, a particular favourite of ours is Zizzi, which has wheelchair access, plenty of space between tables & a Braille menu to hand.
With Be Able Travel we hope to achieve a comprehensive database of reviews from all over the world to enable disabled people to be informed without having to rely on the venues for the information. Who knows, maybe together we can change accessibility for the better, one review at a time!
Please show your support and like our Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter @beabletravel or leave a review at Zizzi on Twitter: @WeAreZizzi

New guide for wheelchair visitors to Paris

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Access Now has launched the first in a series of European wheelchair access guidebooks –  Paris Access Now.  The guide is a comprehensive guidebook written specifically for wheelchair users and travellers with mobility disabilities. It is designed to give readers all the tools they need to plan an accessible trip to Paris, from start to finish.  It includes information about:

  • Getting from the airport into Paris
  • Accessible hotels
  • Accessible restaurants
  • How to get around the city
  • Accessible tourist sites
  • Accessible itineraries and guided tour recommendations
  • Route maps
  • Accessible toilet guide
  • Accessibility resources

Travelers with disabilities are virtually ignored by the travel industry, making it difficult, if not impossible to find the resources needed to plan an accessible trip independently. An overwhelming number of travel resources are available online and in print, but when it comes to specific accessibility information, travellers must rely on informal resources like forums, blogs, or homemade websites.  Other options exist, like traveling with an organization or using a specialized travel agency, but this choice may be expensive to some, and may preclude travelling alone or with family. The accessible travel industry is unfortunately very limited.   Access Now goes part way to addressing this issue, at least for people with mobility disability.

Access Now was founded by Paula Bates.  Its goal is to remove the barriers that may hinder a wheelchair user or someone with limited mobility from planning their own trip to Europe.  Paris Access Now is available for purchase as digital download.

Follow on Twitter: @AccessNowGuides.  For more information, visit

UK Airports improving service for children with ASD

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Guest article by Will Davies of Fubra Limited.  Fubra is a small creative technology company located in Hampshire, England.   It runs many websites including Airport Parking Shop and the UK Airport Guides Network.  Recently, it was brought to Fubra’s attention that accessibility at airports for people with disabilities or special needs was something that needed improving and so they decided to create features relating to disabilities and special needs at the airport to spread awareness. So far these have included – looking at facilities across 22 UK airports and adding them to each airport guide, Changing Places Facilities at UK airports and Autism at the airport. This article looks at how UK airports are improving their services for children with autism.


In years gone by, many parents with children on the Autistic spectrum would have avoided airports like the plague! Whilst it may be true that airports (and planes) aren’t a great place for Autistic children, due to the large crowds, long cues and boredom that can occur whilst on long flights; parents whose children suffer from the disorder cannot be expected to never take their child abroad, after all, they need to see the world too!

This is something that a few UK airports have really taken on board, there may still be a long way to go but it’s great to see some of them making an effort! Manchester Airport is probably the stand out – the airport have created individual booklets for each terminal, videos to help guide parents through the whole process and brightly coloured wristbands to help fast track ASD children (beating the long queues that can cause problems). Gatwick have also got on board with the booklets but it’s clear to see that Manchester have really had a good think about the situation and they even managed to get Keith Duffy (former Boyzone member) to feature in a few of their videos! He has been campaigning for Autism awareness since his daughter was diagnosed at 18 months.

Edinburgh Airport have recently partnered with Scottish Autism in a bid to improve the experience for ASD children at the airport. Families can now book pre-flight visits in order for the child to familiarise themselves with the airport and see how things work.

Airport Parking Shop have put together a really handy piece of content that gives parents some tips on how to keep ASD children occupied at the airport and on the plane; it also looks at things you should consider before setting off for the airport. If you’re travelling from the UK with any other disabilities then be sure to check out the Heathrow Airport Guide, they have a dedicated page for special assistance at the airport and other airports can be accessed from the bottom of the page.

Follow on Twitter: @Fubra @airportparkshop @HeathrowTweets @CP_Consortium @manairport @Gatwick_Airport @KeithDuffyExp @EDI_Airport @scottishautism

New study shows that disabled and older consumers want better customer service

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Oxfordshire (17)

The Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (Rica UK) focuses on issues of concern to disabled and older consumers.  Rica’s consumer panel members were surveyed earlier this year to identify current consumer issues and tips. Analysis of the results show that – to summarise – the primary concerns of respondents centred around customer service and accessible environments and services. Respondents stated that services can be made more accessible and acceptable by organisations that train their staff to respond positively and flexibly to disabled consumers, and design their facilities and services to be accessible to all. This training and design would be successful if it involves disabled people closely at every stage. Respondents also said they need good information about products and services, and often look to community groups and peer networks to provide it. However, they want and expect suppliers and service providers to give better information.

These results echo the findings of a 2011 study in New Zealand of New Zealand and international travel consumers with hearing loss. That study found that for about 90% of these travellers, the most important access needs when travelling away from home include customer service staff who have a ‘can-do’ attitude and the provision of reliable information.  Both NZ and international respondents highlighted the importance of understanding, patient staff trained to know how to accommodate people with hearing loss, how to meet their needs, and what to do in an emergency.

Follow on Twitter: @RicaUK

Brazil focuses its accessible tourism drive on visually impaired visitors

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Overlooking Rio de Janiero

Brazil has launched a set of unique projects based on sensory experiences aimed at visually impaired tourists, reports Tourism Review.   Sensory tourism allows people with visual impairments to enjoy attractions through other senses such as touch or smell.   It is a concept Brazil’s Tourism Ministry has been working on in several of its most iconic cities.  The Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, for example, invites visitors to experience the textures and aromas of plants such as orchids and herbs.  Every second week, Brasilia Zoo offers walks for groups of up to 15 people, where visitors are allowed to touch the animals.  Tour itineraries linked to coffee and the taste and aroma of traditional drinks have also been piloted in Araguari in the State of Minas Gerais.  Visually impaired visitors experience the stages of coffee production: harvesting, drying yards, pulped coffee, the bean selection process, the levels of roasting, and even tasting the quality of the drink.

São Paulo’s Pinacoteca Museum allows 12 bronze sculptures that are part of the museum’s collection to be touched.  Size, shape, texture and aesthetic diversity facilitate understanding and appreciation of these artistic works when felt with hands.  The selection of works took into account recommendations by the people with visual disabilities.   There are also projects aimed at facilitating access to beaches in Pernambuco, Río de Janeiro, Alagoas, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul. These sites make provision for equipment such as mechanical belts or amphibious chairs, and also promote activities like sitting volleyball and an adaptation of traditional bowling.

Rosangela Barqueiro, who is part of the Brazilian Association for Assistance of the Visually Impaired, says that minor adaptations are all that is needed in order to include the visually impaired in tourism.  Barqueiro pointed out that the training of guides and assistants to deal with visually impaired visitors can solve most of the problems in this segment.  Also helpful is the provision of audio descriptions and texts in Braille.

For its part, the Tourism Ministry has created the Acessível Tourism website in collaboration with the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic and the National Council on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CONADE).  On the website you can check the accessibility of tourist sites, hotels, restaurants and various attractions in Brazil. Users can also suggest new facilities or places of interest which will help people with disabilities or reduced mobility to travel around the country with greater independence. This initiative, which is also available on a Smartphone app, won last year’s National Prize for Web Accessibility.

Follow on Twitter: @Tourism_Review @Laramara_Assoc @MTurismo @DHumanosBrasil

Spain: Survey of Accessible Tourism

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ONCE Foundation for cooperation and social Inclusion of disabled people is Spain’s leading disabilities foundation (Fundacion ONCE). Since 2011, the Universal Accessibility Directorate of the Foundation has been running multiple researches on Universal Accessibility in different environments such as urban planning, transport, and beyond. During 2015 and 2016 the Observatory will focus the research on the situation of Accessible Tourism in Spain. Accessible tourism accommodates not only people with disabilities, but families with children, people with trolleys, bags, and with special needs over a lifetime.

Spain welcomes over 53 million international tourists a year and tourist activity is 10.9% of GDP. Current tourism trends show an increased sophistication of supply and demand, the presence of older tourists, and the ever increasing demand for quality.   The Foundation has created a questionnaire for tourists who have travelled to Spain. Data gathered by this research will help analyse consumers’ habits and diagnose the state of accessibility in tourism facilities. The survey has questions about frequency of travel, preferred destinations in Spain, means of transport, and other factors. In addition, there are questions about satisfaction with adaptation of tourist facilities, resources and services regarding the needs of travellers.

This questionnaire is open to ALL TOURISTS, whether having a disability or not, who want to participate in this study and wish to contribute regarding their travelling experience. It can be found here:
Source: Reduced Mobility. Follow on Twitter: @ReducedMobility @Fundacion_ONCE @ILUNION

CanGoEverywhere: One-stop-shop for accessible tourism in Australia

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Melissa James is the CEO of Inclusive Tourism, the parent of in Australia.  She has built up a wealth of knowledge in the accessible tourism space.  She provides advice and support to operators wanting to implement change within their businesses.  By helping them to identify barriers and implement simple, inexpensive improvements she enables them to maximize accessibility.  Melissa is also a sought after speaker who addresses many business groups, educating them on the practical elements, as well as the economic and social benefits of being accessible. CanGoEverywhere logo

Back in 2012 I had some first-hand experience travelling with a person with a disability.  It was quite the eye opener and after listening to many stories of the difficulties my friend had trying to find accessible places I decided to do something to help.    I did some research in my local area and found that 84% of accommodation providers had accessible rooms.  I then followed them up with a short questionnaire and almost 71% of those respondents said they would be interested in listing their properties on a website promoting accessible tourism.

This gave me the impetus to create  It has been designed to be the ‘one stop shop’ for accessible tourism in Australia.  It caters to seniors and baby boomers, the less mobile, people with disabilities as well as families and groups.  It provides information on accommodation, restaurants, tourist attractions, service providers and more.     The database has basic information on over 9,000 records of accommodation and restaurants that say they are accessible, but the level of accessibility is unknown.

However, the real value is with the businesses that have chosen to become ‘Premium Providers’.   Premium providers undergo an assessment and the information gathered is included in their listing on the website.  This is the key to making it easy for people to choose the best fit for them.  The website is growing steadily with more and more tourism providers taking up premium listings and more and more people using it to help them plan their holidays.

We’re also keen to hear from people who have been travelling and would like to share their experiences with others.   If you’d like to send in a story just email to – we may even feature it on our blog.

Source: Follow on Twitter: @CanGoEverywhere

Scandic Hotels finalist in World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 for access

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Scandic Hotels is a finalist in the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 in the category for “Best accommodation for disability access.” This category awards a hotel or other accommodation provider that is accessible and enjoyable for all, welcoming travelers of all physical and mental capabilities, and serves as an example to the tourism industry.  “I’m very proud that we have made it to the finals for such an important award thanks to our extensive work in the area of accessibility,” says Frank Fiskers, President & CEO of Scandic Hotels.

The judges consider accommodation providers who have integrated progressive policies and practices of inclusion and accessibility into the heart of their operations. It is not just about providing wheelchair access, but having an ethos of accessibility that runs through the entire company. Several Nordic tourism companies are included on the list of 37 finalists for the Awards,  but Scandic is the only hotel chain on the list.  “I’m really looking forward to attending the award ceremony and hope that we’ll take home the gold medal,” says Magnus Berglund, Accessibility Director, Scandic Hotels.”

Scandic Hotels is a chain with 155 hotels and around 30,000 rooms across Europe. Started in 1963, it has, over the years, increased accessibility in its hotels. It was the first hotel chain to appoint a Director of Accessibility to work on improving accessibility for disabled guests. Now all the hotels have rooms adapted to guests with special needs. Scandic has also improved online information about access at its hotel. Scandic Hotels has won numerous awards for accessibility over the years. For further information, see herehere, here, and here.

In 2013, Scandic was the first hotel chain in the world to launch on its website online interactive training on disabilities that is open to everyone. More information is available at Special needs.   Scandic believes that everyone should be offered the same high Scandic standard, regardless of ability. In consultation with organizations for people with special needs, hotel guests and team members, Scandic has drawn up a checklist of 110 points called Scandic’s Accessibility Standard. This standard covers everything offered by Scandic and it is an integral part of all of Scandic’s products and services. Scandic has also implemented smart design features in rooms to make them accessible for people with disabilities.

World Responsible Tourism Awards were founded by Responsible Travel in 2004 to celebrate the most inspiring stories in responsible tourism. The Awards are organized by Responsible Travel and ICRT (International Centre for Responsible Tourism). The award ceremony is hosted by World Travel Market, the leading global event for the travel industry on World Responsible Tourism Day, November 4, 2015.  2014 winners in the access category can be seen here.

Source: press releases.   Follow on Twitter: @ScandicGlobal @WTM_London @RTAwards

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EC grant helps VisitEngland to expand its Access For All initiative

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VisitEngland has a grant of €125,000 from the European Commission to expand its “Access for All” initiative.   This follows a successful pilot project in 2013-14 with four destinations: VisitBath, goLeicestershire, NewcastleGateshead, and VisitBrighton.   The current project is partnering with Visit Kent, Marketing Birmingham, Visit Lincoln, Visit Northumberland, Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, Experience Nottinghamshire and VisitBrighton to develop and promote their destination for visitors with access needs.  The project has been running for almost a year now.  It comprises two phases: product development, where businesses are supported in improving their accessibility with the help of access advisors Access New Business , and a national consumer marketing campaign.

Over 50 tourism businesses are being directly supported as part of the project to improve their accessibility. Each business has received:

A second national marketing campaign will be launched in this month (September 2015).   The campaign aims to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses in England, improving perceptions of Accessible England.

Source: press release.  Follow on Twitter:  @VisitEnglandBiz @VisitEngland @BrianMSeaman

EU Parliament-financed study: Catering for Accessible Tourism demand in Europe

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A new study on the supply of accessible tourism services in the EU Member States, financed by the European Parliament, shows that there is a general lack of provisions for visitors with access needs.  Greater commitment and cooperation is needed between tourism authorities, destinations and enterprises, if supply is to meet the growing demand for accessibility, especially from increasing numbers of senior travellers, many of whom face access difficulties.  The study found that by 2020, over 4 million tourism businesses need to provide accessible services in order to accommodate the lowest forecasted demand from those already with disabilities, and the predicted increase in this number. Thus, there is a strong rationale for targeted actions by policymakers to improve support structures and incentives that will foster the growth of accessible services and to market these services to travellers within Europe and those from other source markets.

The study gathered data from a wide range of sources, showing that an estimated 9% of Europe’s tourism services already have some level of provision for travellers with specific access needs.   A number of leading destinations and “mainstream” suppliers are integrating accessibility measures into their products and services, enabling them to serve a wider market, thus making their business more sustainable over the long term.

However, the distribution of accessible services is highly uneven across Europe.   The “front-runner” countries, with the greatest numbers of accessible services, are France, Italy, Spain and the UK. These and other countries have invested not only in adapting and building accessible infrastructure but also in developing staff training schemes focusing on disability awareness and accessibility as part of customer service training. This, in turn, helps to give customers the confidence to travel with greater security, knowing that their needs will be met.  However, where accessible services are offered, the vast majority of these address the needs of people with reduced mobility due to motor difficulties or impairments.  Visitors who have other access requirements, such as those who need services for people with low vision or reduced hearing or special diets, are under-served in the market.  Visitors with intellectual disabilities or learning difficulties are the least served of all customer groups.

Lack of services for these groups means that their travel choices are limited – but it also implies “lost” income to tourism providers.

The study has identified important gaps in awareness and knowledge about accessible tourism among suppliers.  The European Commission’s tourism policy officer, Antonella Correra, states: “One important result of this study is that the first barrier is not the lack of financing. There is a perception that accessibility is expensive but when businesses were asked, it was mainly the lack of available guidance that holds them back. Knowing what needs to be done to make their services more accessible is the primary issue.”

Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director of the European Network for Accessible Tourism, which carried out the study together with VVA European consultants and EWORX S.A., adds: ”The study shows that businesses are largely unaware or cautious of the market potential and the business case for investing in the accessible tourism market.”

Referring to some of the good practices that the study has identified, Ambrose continues: “We have developed fifteen Case Studies, from Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus in Finland, to Paris Région – the world’s number one city for tourism. The studies highlight destinations that are working to create accessible itineraries and experiences for seniors, people with disabilities and families with small children, enabling these customers to enjoy a visit on equal terms with everyone else. Experiences from these destinations have been used to draw up recommendations and explain the tools and methods that other aspiring accessible tourism destinations and suppliers can adopt. We hope these will be a source of ideas and inspiration to many destinations and businesses”.

The study points to evidence that improvements to accessibility, whether they are in infrastructure or in many kinds of service, can increase sales, encourage repeat visits and bring higher average spend. However, proving the business case for accessible tourism is still a challenge in many areas. More regular and systematic market data is required in EU countries to guide business investors and public sector actors.  Another recent EU study of tourism demand has estimated that the accessible tourism market in Europe is made up of over 138 million people, of which only about half are regular travellers. The gross value added contribution of those who did travel in 2012 was estimated at 150 Billion Euro and the direct contribution to employment was about 4.2 million persons.

The Supply Study concludes that ‘mainstreaming’ accessible tourism policies in destinations can enhance the quality of tourism products for all visitors, as well as providing a pathway to local development. “It has been shown that, with stronger cooperation between decision-makers, destination managers, suppliers and the third sector, the focus on accessibility can lead to new jobs and business opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors” says Ambrose, concluding: “This recipe can give a boost to the tourism industry and also improve conditions generally for local communities”

Recommendations from the study are being adopted in the current EU tourism development programmes, in particular through support for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises to improve their staff skills for serving customers with various access needs and to develop accessible itineraries and supply networks.

Source: Adapted from press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EU_Commission @visiteurope @EUaccesstourism @VVA-Europe @eworx