In the world of travel, Lynne Kirby, managing director of Enable Holidays, and other accessibility travel specialists are leading the charge for inclusivity. At TTG’s first Accessibility Seminar, Kirby emphasised the profound impact of hearing customers say, “I didn’t think I’d be able to do this.” For her team, it’s about taking holiday bookings to a whole new level.
Ms. Kirby urged the travel industry to embrace inclusivity by creating more accessible travel products, building knowledge of the sector, and breaking down barriers. She encouraged travel agents not to fear mistakes when engaging with travellers who have additional needs. “We’re all human,” she said. “Get to know them, ask lots of questions, and talk to the person rather than their carer.”
Richard Thompson, CEO of Inclu Travel, highlighted the challenges faced by disabled travellers, noting that the industry’s global supply chain still lacks understanding of the right way to support customers with additional needs. He described accessible travel as “the last untapped market” despite a significant portion of the world’s population having a disability.
Mr. Thompson emphasised the need for the industry to educate everyone about the scale of opportunity in accessible travel. He urged the industry to recognise the potential of this market both morally and commercially. Thompson highlighted that the vast majority of disabled travellers prefer to be marketed based on destination and experience rather than their disability.
Gill Standeven, Visit Florida’s travel trade account director, shared how the destination welcomes around 130,000 visitors with accessibility needs every year. Visit Florida’s online information hub, with thousands of articles, blogs, and videos, aims to help agents overcome accessibility shortcomings.
Model, dancer, and accessibility advocate Monique Dior Jarrett shared her personal experiences as a full-time wheelchair user, highlighting the inconsistency in flying and booking accessible rooms. Ms. Jarrett stressed the desire to travel like everybody else without constant stress and worry.
Mr. Thompson said that the future of accessible travel lies with every stakeholder in the industry. He argued that there’s no reason any tour operator can’t make adjustments to be more inclusive. While specialists can help educate and influence, larger companies hold the power to create a more inclusive market by making travel accessible to everyone.