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 is a must.
And with research showing that more than 20 per cent of the travel market requires accessible travel measures, inclusive travel advocate Martin Heng has warned that the travel industry can’t afford to ignore this segment any longer.
Heng has worked with the Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) and Tourism Australia to develop and deliver the new Accessible and Inclusive Host training program, which aims to help tourism businesses understand key considerations for successfully servicing and attracting travellers with specific access needs.
The program focuses on addressing service expectations and offering tips for successful promotion to reach this target segment.
“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,” Heng said.
“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 Accessible and Inclusive Host program is designed for tourism operators large or small, with or without experience in the accessible and inclusive market.
Featuring three modules, the program aims to help operators understand the needs of travellers with different functional and cognitive impairments, including senior travellers and provide information on what influences their travel decisions and how best to attract and retain members of this large and growing travel segment.
Heng said inclusive travel is not only equitable but valuable as people with disability tend to spend more and travel in bigger parties.
“In the disability communities, the value of word-of-mouth recommendations is huge – and potentially hugely valuable to a tourism operator,” he said.
“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.
“Small changes can make a huge difference and embracing inclusiveness is the first step in attracting anyone with different access needs.”
Many operators see financial barriers as an issue in providing more accessible product, but Heng said this is a myth.
“Becoming an accessible tourism business need not be expensive,” Heng said.
“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.
“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?”
Image: iStock/Edwin Tan