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Why it’s time for the MICE sector to wake up to accessible tourism

Carolyn Childs, Strategist, Futurist, Co-Founder of MyTravelResearch.com, Past President APAC Chapter, Travel and Tourism Research Association (TTRA), speaks to Spice News about how the MICE sector can make events accessible to everyone.

Can you explain what accessible tourism is and why it’s important?

There isn’t one agreed term but Wikipedia defines it as: ‘Accessible tourism is the ongoing endeavour to ensure tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. It encompasses publicly and privately owned tourist locations.’

 

How can the MICE industry cater for this sector better? 

 

The most important first point is to recognise that there is an opportunity and start seeing what you already have and which sectors you can serve. On top of that there are two areas: the specialist one – the growing range of conferences that will be specifically for or about accessible tourism or inclusive design; and secondly the brand one. If you are a leader in this space, that is a selling point that can set you apart by giving people ‘braggability’ about using you.

 

What opportunities are there for venues and suppliers to make accessibility-friendly products?

 

More than I can say! There are some quick wins like finding out what you have and then telling people about it. Then, when you are planning, start thinking of your design as inclusive. One interesting focus is that if you are accessible you are also family-friendly.

 

Are there any rules around how you communicate your accessibility offer?

This is the area that often makes people afraid. For example, it’s better to talk about people with disabilities than about ‘the disabled’. The other general rule is to give people facts in a well-structured way and promote it. That way they can assess your offer against the particular challenges they face. For example, some people can’t walk a long way, while others can walk further but can’t do steps. Travellers with a disability want to be acknowledged and valued so it’s better to be doing something than nothing. There is also heaps of help out there – government, organisations like IDEAS and specialist consultancies like Travability can help you get it right.

 

How can you access the accessibility market? It seems to be more niche than mainstream.

Sorry but I get so mad when I hear that word niche used for accessible travel. The travel industry is full of stuff for luxury travel (around one per cent of the market) and here we have consumers who collectively account for around a quarter of the population. If I could change just one thing it is making people understand that this is not a niche; it is a major opportunity with multiple facets.

In terms of accessing this market, it’s not as hard as you may think. People with a disability are just as likely to use Google as the rest of us (and are going to look for reviews) and those that are more niche work with specialist travel agencies and tour operators, as well as the peak bodies.

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