For examples of imagery that showcases people with a disability actively involved in leisure and tourism see PhotoAbility.net
Advocates for Inclusive Tourism
Working Towards Making the World Accessible For All
Accessible Tourism is a lucrative but underserviced market. It is like any other tourism product but needs a mindset change at all levels of the industry to understand its nature.
The tourism industry is facing a rapidly changing environment. The population is ageing and living longer. The retiring Baby Boomer generation will control over 50% of the total tourism spend and will be demanding experiences that differ from those generations that have preceded them.
This active generation, who will be carrying with them age related disabilities, will expect a new level of accommodation from the tourism industry. They will not identify with the traditional disability sector, but will instead expect accessible tourism services to be provided by the mainstream industry. This generation is tech savvy and online and will expect accessibility information to be provided in the same place as all other tourism information, whether that is accommodation, attraction specific or destination wide.
Government policy encouraging diversity of employment will also greatly affect the MICE market. Conference organisors and venue operators will have to accept that almost all future conferences will have to cater for people with a disability at all levels of client companies.
The tourism industry has to make a quantum shift in the way it views people with a disability and has to learn how to provide fulfilling experiences as it does with any other sector.
The economics driving accessible tourism are enormous with the contribution predicted to be 25% of the total tourism market by 2020.
It is imperative that the changing demographic is taken into account and that future Tourism Strategies around the world incorporate an active role in encouraging the industry to adopt Accessible Tourism product. Further, tourism advertising should incorporate Accessible Tourism to attract the market. Major events should all cater for people of all abilities as part of the normal operation.
Access in tourism has long been regarded as a social issue. It has been driven by the Social Model of Disability and backed up by regulation in the form of the Disability Discrimination Acts in various forms around the world. From a tourism point of view that has translated through building codes and other standards.
The result of a compliance first approach is that travellers with a disability have been regarded as a risk management issue and the accessible facilities that have been created regarded as a cost impost and not a valuable commercial asset. It has been argued that those assets are excessive as they have below industry average utilisation.
The incorporation of Accessible Tourism into a Tourism Strategy creates the opportunity to review Accessible Tourism as a viable tourism market and not just a social responsibility, and in so doing, it affords the opportunity to create a competitive advantage in the Tourism Market.
Exploring Accessible Tourism from a Program Approach
Travability’s opening presentation to the Destinations for All World Summit.
All sorts of terms have been used to describe this growing market from Barrier Free Tourism in the United Kingdom, Accessible Tourism in Australia, Access Tourism in New Zealand. All of those terms have their foundations based on the physical term of “access” More often than not those expressions also have a narrow interpretation as people think of them applying only to travelers with a mobility related disability.
More correctly what we are describing in talking about basic cultural change within the Tourism industry is an “Inclusive” environment where people of all abilities are felt welcome and wanted as customers and guests.
Accessible Tourism has to be about understanding a new market and developing products and services to match those customer expectations in a programmatic not risk management approach.
In recent years the economics of the Accessible Tourism and Leisure sectors have started to come to the fore. The ground breaking research of Dr. Simon Darcy in 2008, as part of the CRC on Sustainable Tourism, put a value on the market of $8bn per year or 11% of overall tourism expenditure.
His findings were:
US research by McKinsey & Company predicted that by 2015, the baby boomer generation will command:
The impact on the Inclusive Travel sector is significant as over 40% of them will be retiring with some form of disability, raising the total value of the Inclusive Tourism sector to over 25% of the market by 2020.
2014 research from VisitEngland confirms the Darcy research and the McKinsey predictions.
In 2015 the Open Doors Organisation conducted further research on the US Economy:
The full report is available from Open Doors
From the 2015 Intergenerational Report - Australia in 2055
The number of Australians aged 65 and over is projected to more than double by 2054-55, with 1 in 1,000 people projected to be aged over 100. In 1975, this was 1 in 10,000.
The number of people aged 15 to 64 for every person aged 65 and over has fallen from 7.3 people in 1975 to an estimated 4.5 people today. By 2054-55, this is projected to nearly halve again to 2.7 people.
Baby Boomer Attitudes will change the required product mix
It is clear from the demographic data that the Baby Boomer generation will have a significant impact on the tourism market. The Baby Boomers will be unlike any other generation of retirees that have come before it. It is an adventurous and consumer driven generation. Further, unlike previous generations, it will spend its accumulated wealth rather than build a nest egg to pass on to future generations. It will dominate the tourism market for the next 20 years.
The Baby Boomer spending power is significant.
(US Statistics from 2009)
The Elephant in the Tourism Room
The Tourism Industry sees itself as a “sexy” industry dominated by glamour, youth and activity.
Both the older generation and people with a disability have an image problem and are seen as passive non-involved people. As a consequence they are ignored in the product offering.
“Older people have an image problem. As a culture, we’re conditioned toward youth. .… When we think of youth, we think ‘energetic and colorful;’ when we think of middle age or ‘mature’, we think ‘tired and washed out.’ and when we think of ‘old’ or ‘senior,’ we think either ‘exhausted and gray’ or, more likely, we just don’t think.
The financial numbers are absolutely inarguable — the Market has the money. Yet advertisers
remain astonishingly indifferent to them.”
Marti Barletta, PrimeTime Women
“We are the Aussies. Kiwis, Americans and Canadians. We are the Western Europeans and Japanese. We are the fastest growing, the biggest, the wealthiest, the boldest, the most (yes) ambitious, the most experimental and exploratory, the most different, the most indulgent, the most difficult and demanding, the most service and experience obsessed, the most vigorous, (the least vigorous), the most health conscious, the most female,the most profoundly important commercial market in the history of the world … and we will be the Center of your universe our for the next twent twenty-five years ears. We have arrived!”
Travel, recreation and leisure are all about the “experience” which ideally should be seamless from planning, to arrival back home. Enjoyment comes from those experiences and the way they are shared with others. The experience lingers in the memories of those who participated. A truly remarkable travel experience leaves the visitor changed in some way.
The reason it is so difficult for people with a disability to participate freely is that industry as a whole has not yet recognized that fundamentally a person with a disability is no different from any other person in their aspirations for a remarkable experience.
Industry and organisations still think about access and not the experience. There is a fundamental difference and it stems from a misunderstanding that Universal Design means design for the disabled and not human centered design.
While the business case is strong, it is not tangible to individual business owners and operators or small not for profit service providers. Too often presentations concentrate on big numbers, percentages and 20 page checklists and access statements. What a business owner needs to know is what to do about it, not how big the market is. The size of the market arguments need to be directed at the strategic influencers who’s job it is to translate those trends into tangible action plans based on customer needs.
“The essential difference between the frog and the bicycle, viewed as systems, lies in the relationship of the parts to the whole. You can take a bicycle completely to pieces on your garage floor, clean and oil every single part, and reassemble the lot, confident the the whole thing will work perfectly, as a bike, as before. The frog is different. Once you remove a single part, the entire system is affected instantaneously and unpredictably for the worse. What’s more, if you go on removing bits the frog will make a series of subtle, but still unpredictable, adjustments in order to survive. This sort of system, at the level beneath consciousness, wants to survive and will continue for an astonishing length of time to achieve a rough equilibrium as bits are excised - until it can do so no longer. At that point, again quite unpredictably, the whole system will tip over into collapse. The frog is dead and it won’t help to sew the parts back on.”
Intelligent Leadership - Alistair Mant - Allen & Unwin, 1999
Conversely, when there is a well established and sophisticated system, simply bolting on new pieces doesn’t change the fundamentals. Those additional pieces are never nourished and never form part of the overall system. They simply exist on the edge until, through lack of maintenance, they fade away into oblivion.
Tourism and Leisure are examples of well established and very intricate systems aimed at delivering a multitude of different experiences to the customer. The complexity exists both within the destination management structure and within the industry that brings together an array of components to deliver its overall service. A successful tourism/leisure product incorporates, transport, accommodation, attractions, booking systems, information systems and customer service. Those products are bundled and further require the integration of service providers, consolidators, tour operators and an extensive retail network whether online or offline.
Over time the system evolves as products change and the tastes of the market changes. New products and experiences become available and get incorporated into the overall offering.
Bicycle thinking, where a new product is bolted onto the system invariable fails if it doesn’t fit into the overall management plan or isn’t powerful enough to change the plan.
The approach to accessible tourism and leisure, has to date, largely been Bicycle thinking. Adding accessibility requirements doesn’t fundamentally change a product offering or affect cultural change. The concept of systems thinking in relation to the tourism industry was explored in our paper Accessible Tourism is the Tourism Industry’s Bicycle.
While that definition may be tongue in cheek, it goes a long to explain why Accessible Tourism/Leisure has not become mainstream product. Tourism/Leisure is all about creating an experience and a memory. It is about engaging people and taking them into a new realm. The ability to transport someone to a new sensory level requires an understanding of the person for whom that experience is designed and a knowledge of their capabilities to enjoy and appreciate what is going on around them.
People with a disability are present in all sectors in roughly the same proportion as the general population. They are not like the backpackers, adventure tourists, or luxury travelers that can be conveniently put into unique product boxes with targeted marketing campaigns. The common misconception is that the needs of all people with a disability are the same. In one sense that misconception has been reinforced by the social model of disability which, in defining the social barriers, has concentrated on a narrow sub set of physical access requirements largely limited to car parks, toilets, building access and hotel rooms. By concentrating on the narrow access requirements the industry has effectively created an artificial sector of people with a disability that ignored their actual aspirations.
A disability, in reality is just a different level of ability. Physical ability is just one element in the total capability set of the human being.
Disability is often regarded as a homogeneous concept. The opposite is true. As with the general population ability is on a continuum.
The arbitrary line defining disability is exactly that, an arbitrary line. The advent of modern alloys and design has opened up a vast range of activities including some at the extreme adventure end of the spectrum. People with a disability can be found across the full range of sporting and leisure activities. Their tastes and budgets, likewise, spread from economy to five star and include the conference and meetings market. The key to developing tourism/leisure product is to look at the aspirations of potential customers, the opportunities that exist within a destination and the technology available to allow participation by people of all abilities. Customer expectations should drive the product development.
New technology is opening adventure to all - Images available from Photoability.net
What if the first question we asked was, “What is so unique about this situation that it justifies exclusion?” instead of, “How much does it cost to make it accessible?”
Dr. Scott Rains
Universal Design is at the very core of an inclusive society. In the context of tourism UD must be able to produce an experience that meets and exceeds the expectations of all people. Further, as we have said, tourism experiences are SHARED experiences hence the design of tourism products is about bringing together people of all abilities, not designing specific activities for people with a disability.
The key element in developing tourism/leisure product is the incorporation of Universal Design from the first inception of the product concept.
Knowing what the customer, not only wants, but is capable of doing is the foundation for the capacity review. The capacity review must look at all of the existing infrastructure and what needs to be altered to accommodate the proposed new product. Too often the path of travel is ignored or the simple and inexpensive alterations overlooked because a helicopter view is not taken out the outset.
Product design must be all-encompassing and actively seek out new product innovations. Today venues have a great range of new equipment at their disposal from the freewheel wheelchair extension, off road handcycles, road handcycles, all abilities sailboats, adaptive fishing equipment, paddle boards designed for wheelchairs, adaptive canoes and canoe launchers, in addition to the tradition hearing loops, tactile markers etc.
In creating built infrastructure it is important to look to the future and the impact the aging population will have on anything built today. The Baby Boomer generation will dominate the travel market over the next 20 years. That is a big enough tome horizon to justify any capital expenditure. The vision and application should be broad. Why fit a toilet seat with a 30% luminosity contrast to just the accessible toilet. The contrast is needed by anyone with low vision whether or not they have any mobility issues requiring and accessible toilet. The small things like maximizing the accessible paths of travel through garden and bar areas should be part of any infrastructure upgrade.
In creating a tourism/leisure offering the Soft Infrastructure is just as important as the built environment. Accessibility information should be plentiful, easily found within the main context of the attraction/venue/activity/destination description and written in the same style as any other information. Booking systems should reflect the experience a visitor wants or expects to have. If there is space for only one companion, then the booking information and system needs to talk about where the rest of the party is located, or better still reserve the row in front of the accessible seating to accommodate family and friends. Create interactive maps and signage to allow easy wayfinding through a venue without the need to search for a step route. Create large print registration forms or mobile apps to simplify the process for people of all abilities. In other words every action should be enhancing the customer experience and it should blend in with existing forms and presentations and systems. Customers want an inviting experience, not one that makes them feel different or puts under pressure.
Finally there is the marketing. Imagery plays a critical role in saying to a customer from the outset that we want your business. It is about positioning potential clients as valued and welcome guests and nothing says that more strongly than people with a disability enjoying a venue or activity on offer. That imagery should not just encompass the particular product but more generally reflect the destination as whole.
Universal design is not design for the disabled. It is an all encompassing philosophy to create a culture of inclusion. Get the vision right and all else follows with creative and innovative solutions that will attract one of the fastest growing markets of any industry.
“Customers who have specific access needs are part of every tourism ‘segment’. Their interests are as wide as any other group of people. They may be looking for mountain adventures, concert performances or a honeymoon hotel. In business terms, they are simply ‘customers’ but they need good access – otherwise, they will choose to go elsewhere. They also travel with family and friends so you could not just be losing one customer but potentially many more. It is about gaining market share.”
Bill Forrester, Co-Founder, PhotoAbility.
“Inclusive tourism should be treated the same as any other destination marketing. Accessible facilities are one thing, but the right imagery sends a powerful message that ‘we want your business’.”
Deborah Davis, Co-Founder, PhotoAbility.
Travelers with disabilities and their families represent a strong and growing market that can be captured by travel properties, destination marketers, wholesalers, tour operators and the retail tourism sector.
Customers who have specific access needs are part of every tourism ‘segment’. Their interests are as wide as any other group of people. They may be looking for mountain adventures, concert performances or a honeymoon hotel. In business terms, they are simply ‘customers’ but they need good access – otherwise, they will choose to go elsewhere. They also travel with family and friends. Through not marketing to travellers with a disability, tourism organisations risk not one customer but potentially many more whether it be family groups, groups of friends, wedding functions or corporate conferences. It is about recognising people with a disability as an inclusive part of the traveling society.
Incorporating imagery featuring people with disabilities enjoying travel all around the world with their families and friends will give those potential customers with disabilities the inspiration and confidence that they too can enjoy the opportunity to experience new destinations that can accommodate their accessibility needs
Inclusive tourism should be treated the same as any other destination marketing. Accessible facilities are one thing, but the right imagery sends a powerful message that ‘we want your business’.
Money spent in structural modification of a property, but not followed up with Inclusive imagery that demonstrates this accessibility, is a missed opportunity. It is also a relatively economical way of increasing market share.
When potential customers with a disability log onto a page for a resort, or see an advertisement in a magazine or brochure, and see an image that represents them, they will more than likely want to patronize that provider, and if the experience is positive, return again. Loyalty is an important aspect of this market as well, as a good experience and will be shared among various disability oriented social networks.
The reality is that people with a disability are active and involved travellers.
Take a journey around the world to get a true picture.
When we talk about mainstreaming Accessible Tourism, it is important that advertising and marketing reflect just that. Accessible Tourism is not a separate market segment but crosses all existing tourism markets. It is important to reflect people with a disability as just part of the scene of any destination or product marketing campaign.
However when framing advertisments it is important to remember that people with disabilities are a discerning loyal market who want to feel that they belong and are valued as customers or clients. When an able-bodied model is put into a wheelchair that is obviously not their own and the image is then used in a website, publication, or advertisement, it is seen as fake and disingenuous and gives a poor impression to the audience. Using models with an actual disability conveys a clear message about genuine representation and creates real employment opportunities for people with a disability.
South African Tourism is currently running a campaign that sends an extremely powerful message of inclusion.
The following diagram illustrates the contrast between Accessible Tourism product and mainstream offerings.
Private sector industry players do not act alone, but are part of a greater destination management plan that stems from a national brand value proposition. The brand proposition and national branding is a strategic decision that comes from a National Tourism Authority. It is filtered down to State/Provincial Authorities. Underlaying those bodies there is normally a layer of Regional and then Local Tourism Authorities that develop their own identities, branding and destination management plans. The nexus with the national branding is broken at this point unless the particular region is a national icon and part of the international marketing plan, e.g. America’s Grand Canyon or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. At a regional and local level the emphasis is on developing the key attributes of the destination for a more local market. The influence of the National and State Tourism Authorities becomes more advisory and a source of information on global tourism trends.
The various elements of the Universe can be depicted in the following diagram.
“Imo the monkey has become famous over the years, originally as a result of Robert Ardrey’s wonderful work of science popularisation, The Social Contract, first published in 1970. Ardrey had learned of the trail-blazing work of Japanese scientists in studying the behaviour in the wild of large, self-contained and highly structured monkey
societies. The scientists had established the practice of ‘provisioning’- providing some of the monkey population’s food needs but without distorting the natural pattern of foraging in their island habitat. This allowed the observers to study at first hand, and continuously, the patterns of social interaction amongst the monkeys and, above all, their learning-the way that intelligence diffused in the social systems. Imo excited their attention from the start. When sweet potatoes,which monkeys love, were placed on the beach of the tiny islet of Koshima, all the monkeys laboriously picked the grains of sand from the food in order to eat it. It was Imo, just 18 months old, who made the mental connection with the little stream that crossed the beach not far way. Imo carried the sweet potatoes to the stream and allowed its fresh waters quickly to wash away the sand. After a while another youngster copied this method of food preparation and then, after a further period, Imo’s mother did so. Very slowly the innovation diffused amongst the band, mainly amongst the young, and within families. The normal pattern was for the young to make the breakthrough, followed by their mothers, and then for new infants to copy their own mothers.
The point of the story, for observers of human behaviour in organisations, is that the clever new ideas never penetrated to the powerful males at the top of the social hierarchy. They never came into contact with the young. When caramels were introduced to another band, the pattern was repeated-it took a year and a half for the innovation to spread from the juniors to half the entire troop. But, in a parallel experiment, the ‘alpha’ (boss) monkey was induced to try another new and delicious food-wheat. The alpha female promptly copied him and the entire band of 700 monkeys took to the new food in just four hours. Why? Because everybody watches the leader. Nobody much attends to an Imo. By now a mature four-year old, Imo devised a method for ‘placer-mining’ the wheat too. Interestingly, the youngest monkeys had figured out that it made sense to get downstream of Imo, so as to catch any floating grains that escaped the panning process. Something similar occurs near the smartest operators in big corporations.”
Intelligent Leadership - Alistair Mant - Allen & Unwin, 1999
The story of Imo is used a lot in corporate management and leadership training to keep organizations continually fresh and new by encouraging a “think tank” process to capture the new and innovative ideas coming out of the youngest minds. The best organizations do that successfully and keep innovating and changing. The key to that change is to recognize, however, that to get organization wide adoption rapidly to take advantage of the associated competitive advantage, the idea has to be owned from the top down. Without that ownership most ideas will be slow to evolve or die all together.
Without the national structure embracing Accessible Tourism the emerging trends and business case is never translated into regional, local and individual plans that can be effectively implemented. It becomes a Black Hole with some isolated and disconnected bright stars. Like Imo, they will each be getting their own satisfaction both financially and socially, but the impact on the overall destination will be small and slow.
VisitEngland, as England’s National Tourism Authority, has identified Accessible Tourism as a key strategy for maintaining its competitive advantage in the European tourism market.
It has adopted a mainstream approach in line with its strategies for other tourism products.
To harness the growing, high value accessible tourism market to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs. This will contribute to 5% growth, year on year, in the England tourism market by 2020.
1. To motivate tourism businesses across all sectors to improve accessibility.
2. To improve and develop tourism products across all sectors to meet the requirements of people with access needs by:
a. Ensuring staff are access aware and have the key skills and knowledge to meet the requirements of people with access needs.
b. Providing information on the accessibility of facilities and services that is detailed, accurate and readily available to enable people with access needs to make an informed choice.
c. Improving facilities and making reasonable adjustments as per the Equality Act 2010 for people with access needs.
3. To increase consumer awareness of accessibility initiatives and the accessibility of tourism products.
To achieve those goals it recently ran a mainstream advertising campaign with 3 objectives:
A framework for destinations to engage businesses in accessible tourism
A means for destinations to target the accessible tourism market
Campaign to act as an incentive for businesses to improve product
The marketing was unique and different.
The campaign changed perceptions of both the travelling public and the tourism industry to wards Accessible Tourism as a mainstream market.
The campaign has been backed up with a Tourism Awards system that rewards excellence in Accessible Tourism.
The awards are now in their third year and reward accommodation, attractions and destinations on excellence in creating a visitor experience.
Destination Germany has also seen the strategic need to invest in Barrier Free Tourism with an ageing demographic.
It has invested heavily in developing a nation wide system of certification that concentrates on both the individual operators and and destination as a whole.
Destination information is available in all Tourist Information Offices and supported by well trained staff.
The Destination Germany web site features Barrier Free tourism on its homepage as one of its core product offerings. It is interesting that it chose to launch its Barrier Free web site in the Tower of London, a clear indication that it sees Barrier Free Tourism as key attractor.
Destination Germany’s homepage:
The Barrier Free page is integrated into the mainstream site and provides detailed tourist information on destinations, attractions and accommodation.
It is rich in inclusive imagery.
In Flanders (the northern region of Belgium), implementation of the tourist accessibility policy is in the hands of Visit Flanders. Visit Flanders is a government institution, whose key task is to promote and market Flanders as a tourist destination at home and abroad. Another important task is to develop tourism products
in Flanders. Quality control, product innovation by means of direct investment, co-funding and grants are important instruments.
One of the four overall objectives of Visit Flanders1 is to enable every Flemish citizen to participate in tourism. In this context, ‘Tourism for All’ is now the ambitious goal of the organisation. The tourist attractions of Flanders will be emphatically aimed at everyone – including young people, low income families, young families with children, older people, disabled people – in short, anyone who presently finds it difficult to experience a carefree holiday.
Last year the Catalonia region of Spain was recognised at London’s World Travel Market for its work advocating accessible tourism and has garnered First Prize in Europe’s CHARTS awards for its work fostering cultural and sustainable tourism. “The Way of Saint James for All” initiative was chosen from amongst 27 candidates from all over Europe as a benchmark of excellence and good practices in the field of cultural and sustainable tourism.
TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester and Deborah Davis.
Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.
We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:
For examples of imagery that showcases people with a disability actively involved in leisure and tourism see PhotoAbility.net