Companies should not overlook digital accessibility when considering travellers with disabilities or additional needs, a session heard at World Travel Market London.
Up to 95% of websites are not disability-friendly pointed out Heather Hepburn, accessibility lead for Skyscanner and this contributes to the disproportionate amount of time and cost involved in booking accessible travel.
The company, which is a founding member of the Champions of Accessibility Network (CAN), has recently been testing improvements to its own website with the help of potential customers with dyslexia and visual impairments.
Hepburn stressed the worth of wooing travellers with accessibility needs. Skyscanner’s recent research with disability charity Scope found that 73% of those surveyed were more likely to use a website that was accessible while 80% would recommend it to others.
“It’s a huge opportunity to expand your audience size and increase your bottom line,” said Hepburn. “It has to be built into the beginning of our design process.”
The company is also overhauling its training to include more on accessibility. One of its recent additions is an Empathy Lab in which staff members are asked to complete tasks with simulated impairments such as restricted vision.
Further stressing the financial potential of the sector, Ross Calladine, Visit England’s head of business support, government disability and access ambassador for tourism, pointed out around 17% of the international population has a disability.
In England alone the pre-pandemic spend generated by travellers with impairments and groups where a member has accessibility needs was estimated to be around £15.3 billion a year.
“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.
Besides its advisory role, Visit England is also working on more representative marketing. Calladine praised the tourist boards of Germany, Portugal, Spain and Flanders for their similar progress on accessibility.
Robin Shepherd, president of Bespoke Hotels meanwhile called for better incentives for companies to improve accessibility. He pointed out currently UK law allows for a ‘pass or fail’ scenario whereas a Gold, Silver or Bronze award structure would be more attractive. “Why not celebrate doing things better than you were asked to?” he said.
Some of Bespoke Hotels’ own properties make 10% of rooms accessible rather than the usual 5% and include little-considered facilities such as hoists. The group also has accessibility suites. “Why not put some fun, flair, design and joy into how you fulfil your accessible room?” he asked.
“The main problem is we build in disappointment. It’s no surprise when the accessible room is next to the lift, has no view and is painted grey.”
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World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents. The events are:
WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. The show facilitates business connections for the global (leisure) travel community. Senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating travel industry contracts.
Next live event: Monday 7 to 9 November 2022 at ExCel London and 6-8 November 2023 at ExCel London. http://london.wtm.com/
Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 30th year, is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals. ATM 2022 attracted over 23,000 visitors and hosted over 30,000 participants including 1,500 exhibitors and attendees from 150 countries, across 10 halls at Dubai World Trade Centre. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #ATMDubai
Next in-person event: Monday 1 to Thursday 4 May 2023, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai
Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2023. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, it includes ILTM Arabia, ARIVAL Dubai, Influencers’ events and activations, ITIC, GBTA Business Travel Forums, as well as ATM Travel Tech. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, ATM Speed Networking Events as well as a series of country forums.
WTM Latin America takes place annually in the city of São Paulo and attracts around 20,000 tourism professionals during the three-day event. The event offers qualified content together with networking and business opportunities. In this its ninth edition – there have been eight face-to-face events along with a 100% virtual one, which was held in 2021 – WTM Latin America continued to focus on effective business generation, and achieved the advance booking of six thousand meetings that were held between buyers, travel agents and exhibitors in 2022.
Next event: Monday April 3rd to Wednesday 5th April 2023 – Expo Center Norte, SP, Brazil
WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2022, WTM Africa facilitated more than 7 thousand unique pre-scheduled appointments, an increase of more than 7% compared to 2019 and welcomed more than 6 thousand visitors (unaudited), the same number as in 2019.
Next event: Monday 3 to Wednesday 5 April 2023 – Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town http://africa.wtm.com/
About ATW Connect: Africa Travel Week’s digital arm, is a virtual hub packed to the seams with interesting content, industry news and insights, and the opportunity to hear from experts on a variety of topics in our new monthly webinar series. All with the aim to keep all of us in the travel and tourism industry connected. ATW Connect focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology.
WTM Global Hub, is the new WTM Portfolio online portal created to connect and support travel industry professionals around the world. The resource hub offers the latest guidance and knowledge to help exhibitors, buyers and others in the travel industry face the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic. WTM Portfolio is tapping into its global network of experts to create content for the hub. https://hub.wtm.com/
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RX is in the business of building businesses for individuals, communities and organisations. We elevate the power of face to face events by combining data and digital products to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors. RX is passionate about making a positive impact on society and is fully committed to creating an inclusive work environment for all our people. RX is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. www.rxglobal.com
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