More than one in six people in England and Wales have an ‘activity limiting’ health problem or disability. British and international visitors from this market segment currently spend over £3 billion on overnight tourism trips in England each year. In short, improving your accessibility could improve your business.
There are three aspects all businesses need to address to provide access for all:
- Customer service and training – being disability aware with the right attitude and confidence to serve all customers
- Information and marketing – providing detailed information on the accessibility of your facilities and services and making this information easy to find
- Physical facilities – making reasonable adjustments to buildings and facilities so they are easy for everyone to enter and move around
We provide a range of guidance, tools and resources to help you provide access for all. Make some quick and low-cost improvements using ‘Easy does it' (PDF, 5MB); write an Accessibility Guide and promote your accessibility using ‘Speak up!' (PDF, 2MB!), our annual Inclusive Tourism award and the National Accessible Scheme.
Understanding the accessible tourism market
Good accessibility benefits all visitors. Disabled people have the greatest need for accessible facilities and services but only around 8% use a wheelchair, with many more having other mobility, hearing or visual impairments. People with health conditions and impairments – and their travelling companions – spend £12 billion a year on tourism in England.
- In 2015, nearly one in five tourism day trips in England were taken by people with an impairment and their travelling companions, spending £8.5 billion.
- In 2015, 18% of all overnight trips by British residents in England were taken by those with an impairment and their travelling companions, worth £3.2 billion.
- Over half a million people with a health condition or impairment visit England from abroad each year, spending around £3 million.
In addition to this, our research reveals that visitors who make up the accessible tourism market are:
- More likely to take longer trips
- Find seaside destinations particularly appealing
- Anecdotally very loyal
Find out more about the value of the Purple Pound market in our full infographic (PDF, 2MB).
You can also read our 'At Your Service' guide (PDF, 2MB) to learn more about the accessible tourism market.
Becoming disability aware
Disability awareness training programmes
To be able to confidently serve disabled customers you and your staff need to become disability aware. This means developing an understanding of specific visible and hidden disabilities, appropriate language to use and practical advice on providing an accessible service.
There are a number of courses specifically for those working in the tourism industry, including:
- Online programme created in partnership with DisabledGo
- Online training resource for hotels called AccessChamp
- Classroom-style courses, WorldHost Customers with Disabilities (1/2 day) and Welcome All (1 day)
In 2015 a series of engaging classroom disability awareness training sessions were run by Visits Unlimited, The Accessible Training Company (PDF, 2.95MB) and Access Solutions as part of our Access for All Project.
To ensure all guests receive a high level of customer service, it's vital all staff receive at least a basic level of inclusive tourism training. Try including these inclusive tourism training slides (PPT, 3KB) into staff induction and refresher training. The slides cover an introduction to disability and providing access for all; they also include two activities and detailed supporting notes for the trainer.
Who is your Accessibility Champion?
In order for your business or destination to become truly inclusive, you need an Accessibility Champion driving access for all. Find out more in the Accessibility Champion brief (PDF, 75KB), developed by England’s Inclusive Tourism Action Group.
Making your facilities accessible
Accessibility is about making things easier and comfortable for your customers. Our ‘Easy does it’ guide (PDF, 5MB) lists many simple and low-cost improvements you can make from providing seating for those who can’t stand for long periods, to using coloured towels in a white bathroom to provide visual contrast.
For accommodation businesses, the National Accessible Scheme (NAS) booklet is your complete guide to improving accessibility, including a set of mobility, hearing and visual standards for you to work through, as well as diagrams, supplier contacts and more.
Welcoming customers with hearing loss
Hearing loss affects more than 10 million people in the UK. And it's growing – by 2031 a massive 14.5 million people in the UK will have hearing loss.
Watch our case study videos to discover some of the real barriers customers with hearing loss face when staying in visitor accommodation and pick up tips and advice from our Listen Up! guide (PDF, 2MB).
Further guidance is available in Access to Hotels for People with Hearing Loss (PDF, 1.4MB), published by the Inclusive Hotels Network.