The travel industry has been accused of doing nothing to help disabled travellers – despite their hefty potential spending power.
The issue of accessible travel was discussed at the fourth round-table talk hosted by The Travel Tech Show at World Travel Market and Amadeus.
Alan Jones, chairman of Ataxia South Wales – which helps people with the incurable condition – highlighted the UK Government’s 2012 Legacy for Disabled People, Inclusive and Accessible Business report.
He said that it showed the UK’s estimated 10.6m disabled people have a combined annual spend on goods and services of up to £80bn.
‘It is a big market out there. What’s the travel industry doing about it? In a word, nothing,’ he told the debate.
He said the problems start as soon as he tries to book a holiday, as many people in the industry see his wheelchair rather than the human being using it, leaving agents too embarrassed to deal with him.
Lynne Kirby, Enable Holidays’ managing director, said such problems are endemic in a trade which has failed to educate staff how best to handle disabled people.
Geraldine Lundy, Virgin Atlantic passenger disability adviser, said information needs to be accurate to allow disabled people to make informed decisions, and must take in to account that some disabled people are blind or have learning difficulties and will need the information presented in a different way.
Rob Sinclair-Barnes, Amadeus’ director of marketing, pointed out that, as the babyboomer generation enters old age and faces increasing health problems, the industry must take action.
‘It (accessible travel) is a growing market. I’ve found it quite astonishing how little (product) there is,’ he said.
The round-table also discussed the issues surrounding responsible travel, which faces problems, largely because the market is so fractured.
Micaela Juarez, WTM head of marketing and communications, said: ‘Someone should form a body that comes up with a system that’s impartial. It is too vital an issue to be left to chance.’
For more from the WTM debate, click here.