Reply To: Successful case of accessible destination development

  • Chris G Veitch

    June 18, 2021 at 12:45 am

    Eleonora, you are right in the points you make, completely agree with you.

    From my perspective and experience here in the UK Government needs to show leadership and have ambition, this ambition has to be complete and address every stakeholder in the tourism value chain. Hence here we have Government announcing the bold ambition to make the UK the most accessible destination in Europe by 2025. There will be little funding available to do this but by ensuring that inclusion moves into mainstream development they can effect change through policy and strategy, by supplying data and relevant tools to help businesses improve accessibility, they are basically addressing market failure.

    Before the Pandemic I was working with a European National Tourism Organisation that recognised the benefits of this market and the fact that they needed to take action to support their businesses. The strongest part of the argument for doing so was the under served market of disabled people which is large, with other strong market being older people, who are used to travelling, have money in their pockets and time to do so. They recognise that many in this market will not identify themselves as disabled, but they do have access requirements that come with ageing. A major travel travel journalist here recently wrote about this market Families also benefit from inclusive design and service.

    Left to the markets alone I would suggest that improvement is likely to be slow and incremental. The public sector also plays a key role in managing the public realm at national and local level, that space that joins businesses together, so for example someone is encouraged to make their hotel accessible to wheelchair users, that investment might be lost if there are no dropped kerbs or suitable infrastructure to help them navigate to bars, restaurants, shops and attractions. To assist this transport also needs to be developed inclusively. A general policy of Universal/Inclusive design and service should be a key aim and supported by Government.

    In respect of the business case we probably need more studies like this This highlights how accessibility can pay and help a hotel profit, but the root of this based in good design, people do not want to feel they are staying in a clinic, a key factor which drove the Chair of Bespoke hotels to start an award for good design – these are now the Blue Badge Access Awards.

    So yes, data is needed and can help drive growth but it still requires the full support and driving force of government to create a synergy or initiatives and action across the value chain to help realise the necessary changes that are needed. Without this businesses like yours can be very successful, as the market is there but also very difficult if trying to work in isolation.

    Apologies I go on too much on the subject, as you rightly say though, this is a area complex of development and yet can be simple if seen through the perspective of customer service, but it requires vision to basically change the culture of the tourism sector to think differently if they are to respond to and benefit from the existing and changing markets.

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