Inclusive tourism – an opportunity for everyone

 Wednesday, November 23, 2022 

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In a world where people have differing travel needs – from wheelchair users to vision-impaired, less mobile seniors or parents with toddlers – embracing inclusive travel offers significant opportunities according to inclusive travel advocate, Martin Heng.

Heng, whose recently published report examined the 10 most accessible cities in the world as voted by respondents to a survey across five countries, warns as the industry recovers from the pandemic it can’t afford to ignore 20% of the travel market.

“People with disability have the same travel aspirations as every other tourist. They want access and to be able to do what everyone else wants to do; they just have specific requirements that need to be met,” Heng says.

“Inclusive travel is more than ensuring you have accessibility; it’s about considering the needs of all of your visitors and is really no more than good customer service.

“The Valuable 500 Accessible Cities Report showed that while physical access is a concern, the 3500 respondents strongly stated that being treated with kindness and respect was their most important consideration.

“Just by asking how can I help or what can I do for you, you are showing a willingness to offer service and that attitude can go a long way towards mitigating any other physical challenges. And it signals you are not making assumptions about someone’s ability.

The Australian Tourism Export Council, in partnership with Tourism Australia, has worked with Heng to develop and deliver the new Accessible and Inclusive Host training program. It aims to help tourism businesses understand key considerations for successfully servicing and attracting travellers with specific access needs with a focus on addressing service expectations and tips for successful promotion to reach this target segment.

“Becoming an accessible tourism business need not be expensive.

“My primary advice for a tourism business is: don’t be scared. Don’t worry about not being fully accessible because an inclusive mindset can help to overcome a lot of barriers.

“Many operators see financial barriers but the cost is a myth. There are many low- or no-cost solutions so start small and do low-cost alterations that will really benefit a wide range of people in a lot of different ways.

“Ask yourself, how can I welcome people more effectively and remember inclusion is less about physical and more about attitudinal change.”

Heng says inclusive travel is not only equitable but valuable as people with disability tend to spend more and travel in bigger parties.

“When people find a travel product or provider who gives them a great experience, you can rely on them to become a loyal customer, repeat their visit often and share their experience with other people. In the disability communities, the value of word-of-mouth recommendations is huge – and potentially hugely valuable to a tourism operator.

“Small changes can make a huge difference and embracing inclusiveness is the first step in attracting anyone with different access needs.”

Tourism Tropical North Queensland Chief Executive Officer Mark Olsen said accessibility was not just about infrastructure, but about attitude.

“Being helpful by providing the information people need to understand whether a boat is suitable for prams or a wheelchair can be used in a hotel room can help someone with accessibility issues plan the holiday of their dreams,” he said.

“This year TTNQ launched an Accessibility Hub on the Cairns & Great Barrier Reef destination website to assist travellers with mobility impairment select activities and itineraries for their Tropical North Queensland holiday.”

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