Travel businesses failing to take into account the disabled market are missing out on up to £80 billion of potential spend in the UK alone. The headline figure was discussed a round table conversation organized by The Travel Tech Show at the World Travel Market (WTM) and Amadeus, which focused on disabled and responsible travel. The event featured an in-depth and informed discussion as eight experts from both business arenas gathered to discuss the markets. But it was the figure from the UK Government’s 2012 Legacy for Disabled People, Inclusive and Accessible Business which provoked much discussion. Ataxia South Wales Chairman Alan Jones said the report showed the UK’s estimated 10.6 million disabled people have a combined annual spend on goods and services of up to £80 billion, adding: “It is a big market out there. What’s the travel industry doing about it? In a word, nothing.” Jones said the problems start as soon as he tries to book a holiday as many people in the industry see his wheelchair rather than the human being using it, leaving agents too embarrassed to deal with.
Enable Holidays Managing Director Lynne Kirby said such problems are endemic in a trade which has failed to educate staff how best to handle disabled people. Amadeus Director of Marketing Rob Sinclair-Barnes added if the market is to be adequately served, it must be all encompassing: “Accessible travel is the only type of travel that has implications from the moment of departure from home to the moment of return.” However, Virgin Atlantic Passenger Disability Adviser Geraldine Lundy said the trade would need to go even further to meet the market’s needs, adding: “It is even before they (disabled travelers) leave home. It is when they’re thinking about the holiday and booking it. It is about getting the information about where they want to go.” Lundy said the information needs to be accurate to allow disabled people to make informed decisions. She added it must also take in to account that some disabled people are blind or have learning difficulties and will need the information presented in a different way. Sinclair-Barnes pointed out that as Baby Boomers enter old age and face increasing health problems, the industry must take action. “It (accessible travel) is a growing market. I’ve found it quite astonishing how little (product) there is.”
Source: World Travel Market. WTM is the leading global event for the travel industry, and holds a four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Almost 48,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.