The online travel world is so vast that it’s pointless trying to compare modern-day holiday offers with those from 30 years ago. The same goes for accessible travel. The internet is a chaotic jungle, where there is no clear route to follow when it comes to accessible tourism. So the question is, what do travelers facing disabilities do? They find accessible travel agencies.
Accessible travel is booming and it’s big business. Today you can find countless accessible related travel blogs and pages on Facebook and Instagram of people promoting their experiences and stories! The list of pages and videos at our disposal has become endless, and yet it seems that accessible travel promotion has only just begun.
Although existing travel categories, such as family, culture, outdoors, sustainability (the list goes on) are separate from accessible travel, we need to see accessibility woven into these genres and fast. For too long, accessible travel has been either non-existent or badly organized but with the help of the digital age, it is becoming a growing market that is still far from reaching its peak.
The right approach
When ‘talking accessibility’, I always explain that businesses can make a 50% positive change at zero cost. How? It’s about how you approach your customers or guests. Ask what people need, look them in the eye and treat them like you would any other customer. This sounds pretty basic, but the reality is that even today, people tend to talk to the companion of someone in a wheelchair or with an assistance dog, rather than the person themself.
Read more about taking the right approach in the article: ‘Accessibility is a bare necessity, a series in ‘Awareness First’.
To better understand accessible travel, I suggest reading the article ‘SWITCH’.
Before you decide to offer accessible tours or travel packages, you need to adopt a new way of thinking. It takes a lot of detailed planning, tailor-made solutions and a reliable network of suppliers in the destinations you work with.
Many customers make a decision based on accessibility, so if there’s no information on accessible travel available on your site, it’s very likely that they won’t stick around to read about all the great destinations and attractions available for a great holiday. Make accessibility your unique selling point and stand out from the crowd.
If you need a starting point on your accessibility marketing, choose your website. For people with disabilities (wheelchair users, motorized wheelchair users, people with service dogs, hearing impairments, visual impairments, the list is long) share as much information as you can and please, be specific.
At AccessibleTravel.Online you can find many examples. Although written for hotels, you may find these free downloads handy to know when you welcome your guests. For starters, how to welcome guests with visual impairments or how to welcome assistance dogs.
Local networks are crucial
Accessible travel is a specific area of the market. The ATO (Accessible Travel Online) members have years of experience. They are a vast local network and know exactly the ins and outs of the industry. This one-of-a-kind business network is building globally and working locally.
You cannot simply offer accessible tours on your website without checking every single attraction, hotel, restaurant or location included in your tours. It takes time and specific knowledge.
To do this, you need to know about accessibility. This is a term loaded with meaning as it isn’t just a ramp in front of a door. It’s about website access, facilities for the blind and visually impaired, customers with hearing loss, travelers with assistance dogs, mobility impairment, accessible restrooms, family travel, singles travel, group travel, and much more.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
My advice is to try not to reinvent the wheel. Instead, team up with other accessible travel agencies who have the experience and expertise.
The purpose of the ATO accessible travel network is to make travel planning easier for travelers with a disability and here’s how. We set a strict reliability policy for all involved in our network and we offer the opportunity to be able to answer questions from customers quickly. The network at its best promotes connecting and caring on the same frequency.
Accessible travel is a huge market that will continue to grow. As baby boomers travel all around the globe, quite a few need extra services or facilities. At the same time, other areas of accessible travel such as couple and group travel are becoming fast-growing markets.
Couples and groups
Accessible travel should be the starting point of all travel. The key message to understand is it’s not an us-versus-them mentality, as stated in the article SWITCH.
If a person with a disability is traveling, it’s almost always in a couple or group setting. It is not a given that everyone in the group has a disability. In fact, it’s the opposite if there is one person in the group in a wheelchair or with an assistance dog, the decision to book a tour or a holiday package for the entire group will be based on the needs of this one person.
I hope these tips prove helpful to those rethinking their approach to travel. Accessible travel is a market segment where demand drastically outweighs availability. We want to welcome new members to Accessible Travel Online as the network grows and tour operators increasingly see the importance of this sector.
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