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The benefits of embracing accessible travel

Many assume, incorrectly, that accessible travel is a niche market...

Julie Jones, Travel Without Limits

AS THE travel industry strives to recover from the impacts of the global pandemic, there’s a sector of the tourism market which continues to be underserviced.

That’s the 1 in 5 Australians, or almost 20% of the population, living with disability.

As a travel-loving family, which includes a son who lives with a disability, I feel it’s a missed opportunity. In fact, I believe the accessible and inclusive tourism market should be embraced and seen as part of the industry’s recovery process. 

©Celebrity Cruises

Potential value

Many assume, incorrectly, that accessible travel is a niche market. The annual expenditure by tourists with a disability in Australia is estimated at A$3.2 billion. Our family takes no fewer holidays because our son is disabled. Instead, escaping the grind of therapy and doctor’s appointments has us seeking out more holidays. And when we do travel, we often travel with additional support to assist with our son. This increases our overall travel spend with additional accommodation, tours and airfares being purchased. We are not unique. Many people with a disability travel with family, friends or support workers to assist them at their destination. 

Loyal travellers

It can be hit and miss with accessibility, so when we find a destination or hotel that suits our needs, we are the most loyal customers you will find. Return business is almost guaranteed, and word of mouth marketing within the disability community is powerful.

There is no greater recommendation than that of someone with lived experience with a disability similar to your own.  

Longer stays

Research, planning and exploring takes more effort when taking into consideration accessibility requirements. To make the most of that additional effort, travellers with a disability usually book longer stays. As a family, we don’t tend to book short getaways. Whether it’s a long-haul destination or a domestic break, on average we stay longer than travellers without a disability. Due to our son’s mobility restriction we need to allow extra time to sightsee and travel. Everything requires greater effort when supporting another person to travel. As a result, we stay longer and spend more.

Spend at destination

Just like any other sector of the travel market, the budget of travellers with a disability varies. While some may travel premium economy or business class for the additional comfort it provides them, others may be travelling on a backpacker’s budget. Our family tends to spend big on holidays to ensure our son doesn’t miss out on experiences. We replace hikes with scenic flights and book VIP or private experiences to better tailor travel to our family’s needs. 

The financial benefits of catering to the accessible travel market is compelling, and the benefits of being an inclusive industry will be even greater.

 

Julie Jones began her career in the travel industry as a travel consultant, working for almost 20 years for a specialty agency. She is the creator of the award-winning website Have Wheelchair Will Travel and co-founder and editor of Travel Without Limits magazine, Australia’s first disability-specific travel magazine. Julie is also mother to Braeden who lives with cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user.

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