What is Access Tourism

Access Tourism is tourism, travel, hospitality, and leisure for people with disabilities, seniors, ageing Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965) who may not be as agile as they once were, families with pushchairs, people with temporary injuries, pregnant women, travellers with heavy bags, or anyone else that might need better access to tourism products and services.

Access Tourism is also known as Accessible Tourism, Inclusive Tourism, or Universal Tourism. Tourism that is accessible enables people with access requirements to “function independently and with equity and dignity through the delivery of universally designed tourism products, services, and environments” (Darcy, Cameron, & Pegg, 2010).

Access Tourism is better understood – especially for those with physical disabilities – and developed overseas, and is beginning to be appreciated for economic and sustainability reasons. In New Zealand, the economic benefits that would accrue from developing Access Tourism have not been researched. Absolutely nothing is known about the number of visitors with disabilities in and to New Zealand; and little is known about their wants and needs. This is in spite of the fact that the Access Tourism market is already potentially a large one, and is set to grow. It will grow because the large Baby Boomer generation is ageing and disability increases with age (World Health Organization, 2011, p. 35). Population ageing will lead to changes in the profile of domestic and international tourism demand and tourism operators must adapt or face the real danger of losing market share (Glover and Prideaux, 2010). In order for individual businesses and destinations to be successful, they need to address the specific requirements of different markets. However, while there is an abundance of marketing segmentation studies on ethnic, age, and socio-economic sub-groups, the potential of the accessibility market is largely ignored, and research in this area is still in its infancy (Buhalis & Michopoulou, 2011). Few operators have made substantial connections between a high standard of access provision and other corporate performance indicators and the accessible tourism market is seen as low yield (Darcy, Cameron, & Pegg, 2010).

Other important factors that will shape the profile of visitors are changes in family structure, with ageing Baby Boomers travelling more and also playing an increasingly important role in family travel (Schänzel & Yeoman,2015), the generational distribution of wealth, and time available to travel. Surprisingly, the potential impact of factors and demographic changes on tourism demand has received little attention from tourism researchers (Glover and Prideaux, 2010). Certainly, in New Zealand at least, demographic change has only recently been mentioned as a factor in future tourism demand. As yet, there is no move apparent by government or the upper levels of the tourism industry in New Zealand to act on that fact.

The accessibility market is not homogenous as it has diverse sub-markets, with dissimilar needs and requirements. As do other sub-markets, this one has demographic, socioeconomic, psychographic, and behavioural variable. From a tourism point of view, the market sector comprising people with disabilities can be divided into six segments, namely, people with

  • Mobility
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Speech
  • intellectual
  • Cognitive/learning, and
  • Hidden disabilities such as sensitivities, diabetes or allergies

Some people may have more than one disability, and the degree of disability experienced varies from person to person.

It is difficult to give accurate figures about the number of people worldwide who have disabilities because of the challenges of measuring disability and because of the different ways disability is measured between and even within countries. The World Health Organization (2011) estimates that there are more than one billion people worldwide with a disability. A few examples of estimates of the number of people with disabilities in some of the countries or areas of traditional or growing importance to the New Zealand tourism industry include:

  • Australia: 4.4 million (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010).
  • United Kingdom: 10 million(Office for Disability Issues HM Government, n.d.).
  • China: 83 million (China Disabled Persons Federation, n.d.)
  • Japan: 5.5 million (Cabinet Office Japan, 2010)
  • United States of America: 49.7 million (United States Department of Labour, n.d.).
  • European Union: 47 million (Buhalis & Michopoulou, 2011)
  • India: 24.9 million (World Health Organization, 2011)
  • Canada: 4.4 million (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, n.d.).

In New Zealand, the most recent data available on disability statistics is from the national post-census Disability Survey, usually conducted every five years and released two years later. The latest census, conducted in 2013, showed that 24% of the New Zealand population were identified as disabled, a total of 1.1 million people. This is an increase from the 2001 rate (20 %), and is partly explained by our ageing population. People aged 65 or over were much more likely to be disabled (59%) than adults under 65 years (21%) or children under 15 years (11%). For adults, physical limitations were the most common type of impairment. Eighteen percent of people aged 15 or over, 64% of disabled adults, were physically impaired. For children, learning difficulty was the most common impairment type. Six percent of children, 52% of disabled children, had difficulty learning. Just over half of all disabled people (53%) had more than one type of impairment.

World tourism is a major industry which, despite recent challenge, continues to grow. In the first four months of 2011, international tourist arrivals increased by 4.5% (UNWTO, 2011). This growth is expected to continue over the next several decades. In New Zealand, tourism is a major industry and our top export earner. To the year ended March 2011, international tourist expenditure accounted for NZ$9.5 billion (18.2%) of New Zealand’s total export earnings), directly contributed NZ$6.5 billion (3.8%) to the total GDP, and a further NZ$8.6 billion (5%) in indirect contributions in industries supporting tourism. Domestic tourism accounted for $12.9 billion. Furthermore the tourism industry directly supports more than 92,000 full time equivalent jobs (4.9% of the total workforce; MED, 2011d). Domestic tourism has remained comparatively strong in spite of the recent economic downturn. International arrival numbers to New Zealand have stagnated in the last few years, but have increased in 2011 (Tourism New Zealand, 2011).

Also increasing is population ageing. In fact, population ageing is unprecedented. A population ages when increases in the proportion of older persons (those 60 or older) are accompanied by a reduction in the proportion of children (those under age 15; United Nations, 2010). The number of older persons is expected to exceed the number of children for the first time in 2045, and population ageing is occurring in nearly every country in the world. By 2050, two billion people worldwide (22% or 1:5) will be aged 60 or older. An ageing population will lead to an increase in prevalence of all the disabilities (United Nations, 2001).

A result of population ageing is that older people will comprise a larger and larger share of the tourism market and spend (UNWTO, 2010). Older people and in particularly Baby Boomers are an emerging market embracing tourism in increasing numbers (Patterson & Pegg, 2009). Many intend to become “SKINs”, that is, people who “Spend Kid’s Inheritance Now” (SMH, 2008). Unlike their parent’s generation, many Boomers are not willing to save their financial assets for their children and this has also led to the trend in longer holidays. This is a wealthy generation, and one that should not be ignored. A recent study by Deloitte notes that there will be a rise in affluent, time-rich, and travel-hungry Baby Boomers. For example, the Boomers account for 60% of USA wealth, and 40% of spending (Deloitte, 2010). They will drive growth in hospitality in the leisure sector, and be a source market for the global tourism industry for several decades. Australians over the age of 50 years already by the turn of the century accounted for nearly half the spending in consumer segments (Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human rights, 2000, cited by Tourism Queensland, 2008).

By 2050, more than 2 billion trips will be made by people over the age of 60 (UNWTO, 2010). An increase in the age of visitors in or to New Zealand is already evident in arrivals data. New Zealand visitors 45 or older have increased from 38% in the year ended March 2007 to 44% in the year ended March 2011, while international visitors 45 or older have increased from 29% to 32% (RVM, 2011). Certainly, visitors aged 40 or older already comprise about 50% of international arrivals from our main market, Australia (MED, 2009b), and around 60% of visitors from the United Kingdom (MED, 2009c). In fact, visitors aged 60 to 69 showed the strongest growth rate (up 43%) for arrivals from the United Kingdom in 2009 (MED, 2009c). In Australia, the average annual growth rate of domestic visitors over 55 years of age has been 3% and of international visitors 4% since 2000 (Tourism Australia, 2009). In Britain, international visitors over 55 years of age increased by 92% between 1995 and 2008 (Deloitte, 2010) while overseas visitors to the United States and Canada aged 55 or older are 24% and 35% of all visitors (Daines & Veitch, 2010).

As well as the effect of an ageing population on tourism, demographic pressures are elongating the shape of many families so that families comprise more generations with fewer members in each generation. This means that family groups are likely to have a wider age range – and by implication, differing abilities – and require holidays that cater for more diverse tastes (Flatters, Foa, and Gill, 2010). In addition, as grandparents now have more leisure time and parents lead increasingly complicated lives, a new trend is emerging: “grandtravel” or travel by grandparents with their grandchildren (Yeoman, et al, 2010). This is a reflection of the vertical nature of modern families. Thirty percent of American grandparent leisure travellers have taken at least one vacation with their grandchildren, and 56% of children aged 6 to 17 would “really like to” vacation with their grandparents (Yeoman, 2010).

A further factor is that the growing number of older visitors has led to an increase in longer holidays as older people have more time to travel (Glover and Prideaux, 2010). By 2021 Baby Boomers will be aged between 56 and 75 years old. In addition, retirees are not confined to taking holidays during traditional high-season periods or at weekends, but can travel mid-week and out-of-season.

All these factors point to the fact that tourism businesses must improve access to people with disabilities and seniors if they are to maintain and increase market share. Certainly, our society is built in a way that assumes that we can all move quickly from one side of the road to the other; that we can all see signs, read directions, hear announcements, reach buttons, have the strength to open heavy doors and have stable moods and perceptions (New Zealand Disability Strategy, 2001). Although New Zealand has standards for accessibility, places like movie theatres, sports grounds, transport stations, pubs, restaurants, and hotels, are, in the main, designed and built by non-disabled people for non-disabled users. In the realm of tourism in New Zealand, a study has shown that over 60% of the built tourism environment examined is difficult or impossible for people who are wheelchair users to access, and it is probably true that people with other types of disability would also find difficulty accessing these businesses. Sadly, about 86% of the operators of these
businesses state that they are indeed accessible (Rhodda, 2007).

Estimates of the Access Tourism market elsewhere show that it is already a vital segment of many economies. The Australian accessible tourism market is thought to be currently worth about A$4.8 billion a year (Dwyer & Darcy, 2008). In England the market is estimated at £2 billion per annum (domestic trips only; DCMS, 2010). In the European Union, there are currently 81million seniors and 47 million people with disabilities. Buhalis and & Michopoulou (2011) estimate that this represents a direct accessibility market of €128 million per annum. This does not include people under 16 years of age with disabilities, nor the family and friends of people in the accessibility market. It is estimated that if access were improved, Europeans with disabilities could generate 630 million overnight stays in Europe (Ferrer, 2010). In Canada, the market is worth C$16 billion (Kemper, Stolarick, Milway, and Treviranus, 2010), and in the United States US$13 billion (Van Horn, 2007).

Nothing is known about the size of the accessible tourism market in New Zealand. In fact, it is only very recently that the importance of the older market and disabilities has received passing acknowledgement by upper levels in the tourism industry in New Zealand. To our knowledge, the first mention of the fact that “travellers in the older age groups will become even more significant in the future” occurred in the Ministry of Tourism report, Tourism sector profile: International visitors (MED, 2009d). In 2010, the Ministry recognized not only that Baby Boomers are New Zealand’s largest domestic market segment, but also recognized the role that disability may play in travel by this group. The Domestic Tourism Market Segmentation report notes that for New Zealand’s largest market segment (made up of 98% Baby Boomers and called the “Being There” segment) the

major barriers to travel are health or disability (their own or that of a travelling companion) as well as a lack of travelling companions” (MED, 2010, page 30).

In this way, the report reinforces the idea that it is a person’s disability that is a barrier, rather than environments such as inaccessible transport and accommodation that are disabling, and which therefore reduce tourism and travel opportunities for people with disabilities (Rhodda, 2010a).

Darcy (2001) reports that people with disabilities travel on a level comparable with the rest of the population, or would like to do so. Seventy percent of peoplewith disabilities in the United States and Europe are able to travel (Corominas, 2010). There have been some suggestions that people with disabilities face more income restrictions on travel. While they do face income restraints, 10% of the world’s population of people with disabilities earn equal to or above the average weekly wage of their country (Curtin University of Technology, 2004).

In recent years, tourism information for people with disabilities has increased dramatically internationally. Compared to a scarcity of such information just five years ago, there are now dozens of website and blogs offering general information about travelling with a disability (including some with user-generated content), information about Access Tourism in towns, cities, regions, and/or countries on government or non-government, and information about commercial Access
Tourism products and specialist travel agencies. There is also plenty of advice for businesses wishing to improve their access, including improving access for people with hearing loss (Rhodda, 2011). Over 30 national and international conferences about accessible tourism have been held worldwide over the last decade. In spite of this, people with disabilities still find information difficult to find, especially reliable information that they can trust (Darcy, 2010).

There are many tourism umbrella websites in New Zealand that carry misinformation or inadequate information about, for example, accessible accommodation. The government’s newly minted Tourism New Zealand website newzealand.com (which has many access issues; Lona, 2011) is just one example. It has a section entitled “Disabled access” which provides very little information (http://www.newzealand.com/int/article/disabled-facilities/). It links to a website called Accomobility (http://www.accomobility.co.nz/Home.html) Currently (October, 2011), the later website lists about 150 accommodations throughout the country that have assessed themselves as accessible to a greater or lesser degree. This website is a major step forward for Access Tourism in New Zealand, but Rhodda (2007) has shown that self-assessment by tourism operators is not always accurate or reliable. Nevertheless, the website provides a service that has been lacking to date (Rhodda, 2010). Hopefully funding will in future become available so that commendable organisations such as Accomobility can list independently assessed and rated tourism products, perhaps through an organization such as the National Foundation for the Deaf. Neither the Accomobility website, nor the Tourism New Zealand website reveal any information when a search is made for “Deaf” or “hard-of-hearing”. This is perhaps understandable in the case of the former as it is a privately run organization. The Tourism New Zealand website, by carrying information (albeit sparse) only about wheelchair access ignores people with other disabilities, such as those with hearing loss.

We certainly have nothing in New Zealand to compare to the kind of information about Access Tourism available, for example, on the UK Tourism for All website (https://www.tourismforall.org.uk/), which lists tourist board graded properties that have been inspected and given an access rating useful to people with disabilities, Accessible Barcelonahttp://www.vienaeditorial.com/barcelonaaccesible/angles/index.htm)
which has assessed listings in conjunction with Barcelona Turisme, Accessible
Tourism Naples (http://www.turismoaccessibile.org/?lang=it), which assesses
properties in conjunction with Turismo Comune di Napoli and Turisom Provincia
di Napoli, or Australia for All (http://www.australiaforall.com/). A list of government and non-government websites involved in Access Tourism around the world is available on the European Network for Accessible Tourism website

In conclusion, it can be seen that New Zealand is missing out on a large and growing market and will lose market share if it does not begin to meet the requirements of people who need better access to tourism products and services: seniors and those with temporary or long-term disabilities. There is little understanding of the size and potential of this market in the industry. Certainly there is little understanding of the Access Tourism market in general. With the increase in social media expanding the reach of “word-of-mouth”, New Zealand cannot afford to be complacent about the lack of provision and information for this market. Certainly, an examination of aspects of provision would go some way to quantifying how hearing-loss friendly the
supply-side of the New Zealand tourism industry is and what is needed to fix any shortfalls. It would also go a long way to narrowing knowledge gaps in the industry.

Update January 2012. Sandra Rhodda of Access Tourism New Zealand under contract to the NZ Tourism Research Institute, Auckland University of Technology conducted a survey looking at the tourism, travel, and hospitality needs of people with hearing loss for the New Zealand National Foundation for the Deaf. The survey covered some aspects of tourism provision for people with hearing loss in New Zealand.