The digital receptiveness of travel websites as a first step towards accessible travel was discussed during a session at this year’s World Travel Market London (WTM).
During a session entitled “Accessible Travel: How are we really doing?”, a panel of accessibility heads and tourism professionals discussed recent developments and pinpointed improvements that need to take place to assist the travel experience of people with disabilities.
Accessibility Lead for British travel agency Skyscanner Heather Hepburn pointed out that 95 percent of travel websites are currently not disability-friendly which contributes to the disproportionate amount of time and cost involved in booking accessible travel.
The company’s recent research with disability charity Scope found that 73 percent of those surveyed were more likely to use a website that was accessible while 80 percent would recommend it to others.
Hepburn also stressed the worth of wooing travelers with accessibility needs.
“It’s a huge opportunity to expand your audience size and increase your bottom line,” she said.
Further highlighting the financial potential of the sector, Ross Calladine, Visit England’s head of business support, government disability and access ambassador for tourism, pointed out that around 17% of the international population has a disability.
“Improving accessibility for tourists also improves it for local people,” Calladine added, continuing that tourist boards had a “natural role to play” in giving free practical guidance to tourism suppliers.
He went on to praise the tourist boards of Germany, Portugal, Spain and Flanders for their similar progress on the field.
Meanwhile, Robin Shepherd, president of Bespoke Hotels, called for better incentives for companies to improve accessibility.
He pointed out that currently UK law allows for a ‘pass or fail’ scenario whereas a gold, silver or bronze award structure would be more attractive.
Shepherd used Bespoke Hotels’ accessibility suites as a positive example, adding that the main problem until now with how the hospitality sector dealt with accessible rooms was that it “built in disappointment. It’s no surprise when the accessible room is next to the lift, has no view and is painted grey.”
In England alone, the pre-pandemic spend generated by travelers with impairments and groups where a member has accessibility needs was estimated to be around £15.3 billion a year.
WTM, a leading global event for the travel and tourism industry, took place in full pre-pandemic format this year at London’s ExCeL with over 35,800 people participating in the event between November 7 – 9.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) is an official media partner of WTM London.