Simple changes to boost accessible travel sector

Revealing insights into the needs of travellers with a disability in Australia by author Carolyn Childs.

Around 20% of Australians have a disability or long-term health condition. With increasing life expectancy and an ageing population, demand for disability travel will grow steadily.

ÔTourism for all’ is the credo tourism operators and policy-makers should be aspiring to. Hard-headed tourism businesses should also note that this is an opportunity to make money while doing good. Let’s look at the stats:

  • There are currently 1.3 million accessible tourists travelling in Australia, which is 7% of the adult population. When travelling carers and other companions are figured in, it rises to 14% of the population or around 3.4 million people.
  • When travel with carers is included, the Australian domestic accessible travel market is worth $8bn. This would rise even further if inbound tourism from overseas were included.

In the long term, there will be a need to develop all infrastructure using universal design principles. However, there are many ways tourism operators can easily boost their appeal now. One way is to simply put more information online about existing facilities.

Not surprisingly, travellers with a disability want information related to their disability. Many travellers with a disability face multiple issues. So providing very specific information makes their planning task much easier.

  • eHotelier Essentials Banner
  • APN Solutions Banner
  • Duetto Trends Banner

Tourism operators also need to remember that disabilities are diverse. They are not always physical or visible. Disabilities can be mental, cognitive, visual, noise- and hearing-related, and more. Our study found that physical mobility is the biggest disability category, followed by mental health and cognitive issues.

So what do travellers with a disability need? In a survey of 1,400 Australians including travellers with disability, 405 carers, and some individuals with disability who don’t travel, our study found that:

  • 43% of tourists with a disability want deals and offers for those travelling with a carer. (This doesn’t mean that they are necessarily financially disadvantaged. More than a quarter of those who identified as having a disability are in the top two income quartiles with an income above $900 per week).
  • 41% want information for accessible/inclusive travel on review sites.
  • 36% want accreditation or recognition for businesses that do a great job for travellers with disabilities.
  • 29% want specialist planning tools so that they can map out their entire journey.
  • 23% want dedicated review sites or information for specific disabilities (for example, children with autism spectrum disorder).
  • 19% want case studies that encourage them by showing what is possible.

Like everyone else, travellers with a disability are inspired to travel by internet content and word of mouth. And while travellers with a disability do slightly fewer activities, they are mostly the same ones as other people: eating out, beach trips, nature and culture appreciation.ÒReconnection and unwindingÓ are the stated travel objectives of 40% of disability travellers in Australia.

In any strategic planning in tourism, it always makes sense to target a growing and under-served part of the market. Especially when that market shows a high degree of loyalty when it finds a travel experience that meets its needs. Accessible tourism is such a market. Operators who can seize this opportunity will profit and enable a better future for tourism in Australia.

Want to know more? People interested in accessible tourism can hear Carolyn chair a panel on the topic at the Mumbrella Travel Marketing Summit in Sydney, 12 April 2018.

About the author

Carolyn Childs is the co-founder ofÊ, a market research and marketing firm specializing in the travel, tourism and aviation industries. Its specialty is providing insights that are actionable. Founded by principals with lifetime careers in travel, tourism and aviation, exists to build the visitor economy and successful tourism businesses. It does this by putting the voice of the customer and best practice business thinking into an easy to implement, hands-on approach via an innovative membership model. Email:Êcarolyn@mytravelresearch.comÊorÊ
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