New Report Shows Travel Industry is Failing People With Accessibility Requirements

The travel industry is leaving vast segments of the global society behind.

Activist travel company Responsible Travel has just issued the latest chapter of its manifesto for the future of tourism in which it details how the industry is failing travelers who have accessibility requirements.

According to the newly released data, 1 in 7 people on the planet live with a disabling condition and more than 46 percent of people over 60 years old worldwide live with a disability.

On average, adults with a disability travel just over half the distance of others, states the report. Three-quarters of people with mental health issues, including anxiety and depression say their disability has stopped them from traveling altogether.

“The tourism industry can and must do better,” said Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel. “Change is possible if businesses can cast aside their fears of not being ‘perfect’ and start real conversations with customers. At the moment we have a dysfunctional market place: there is a demand for accessible tourism services but the market is not supplying.”

Francis said the demand for accessible tourism presents the tourism industry with a huge opportunity to not only do the right thing but also realize significant untapped revenue potential.

“And let’s not forget, by making our tourism environments more accessible, we also benefit the local communities that live there; creating a win-win for all,” said Francis.

The latest release from Responsible Travel also points out that:

—In 2018, three million travel service providers across Europe found that just 9 percent had accessible products on offer.

—At airports, free special assistance is not available across the globe.

—During the first three months of 2019 in the US, more than 2000 wheelchairs were damaged by airlines.

The manifesto goes on to highlight that the configuration of planes means that it’s often impossible for those with reduced mobility to use the toilets without the help of a companion, as cabin crew are not permitted to help. For disabled travelers, this often means having to fork out the money for an additional airline ticket so that they can have someone travel with them, according to Responsible Travel.

Getting around in popular tourist destinations is no easier. For instance, only three percent of the Paris Metro is accessible, says Responsible Travel.

“If you want to get on a bus in Delhi, drivers are not trained in helping passengers with additional needs and regularly drive on without stopping,” states the report.

Also troubling, the new chapter of Responsible Travel’s manifesto notes that pedestrian wheelchair users are over one-third more likely to be killed in a road accident than the general public, due to poor accessibility of pavements

On the legislative and regulatory front, Responsible Travel notes that unless disabled people make complaints, many businesses do not make the adjustments legally required, adding that the onus is unfairly placed on the person with accessibility needs to find the support and finances to challenge and pursue legal action.

Responsible Travel’s report says action is urgently needed, starting with travel companies publishing information about which of their trips are accessible and for who. Travel companies also need to respond to requests from people with access requirements as transparently, helpfully and quickly as possible.

“As a travel business ourselves, we opened up a conversation with our specialist holiday partners 18 months ago, to find out what was possible in the world of adventure travel,” said Francis. “We found that our partners were doing far more in terms of accommodating customers with differing needs than they actually advertised. Our response was to help them categorize and label their trips appropriately.”

Responsible Travel now lists more than 140 accessible holidays on its website, and more are being added every day, said Francis.

Responsible Travel’s new manifesto chapter detailing issues for disabled travelers follows on the heels of the manifesto’s powerful first chapter, which turned the spotlight on the aviation industry’s significant role in global warming.

The company also recently released an eye-opening report about just how widespread overtourism actually is. And last year, Responsible Travel took the bold move of announcing entirely plastic-free itineraries to help address the growing problem of single-use plastic pollution.

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