More than two billion people around the world have accessibility needs due to disability, temporary or permanent, or accessibility challenges because of old age.
It is a well-known fact that people with disabilities struggle when they want to travel, both before and during their trips, and that many of their needs are not being met by the service providers of the travel industry.
Amadeus’ report Voyage of discovery: Working towards inclusive and accessible travel for all, finds that inaccurate or incomplete information is the biggest barrier to accessible travel, followed by the lack of skilled customer service.
Silvia Bottoli Hill, co-founder of Endeavour Safaris, agrees that lack of information is still a major obstacle when it comes to accessibility travel to Africa. Endeavour Safaris is a tour operator offering guided tours for people with disabilities in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia.
According to Silvia, the biggest obstacle is a lack of reliable information which can lead to stubborn misconceptions. “The biggest misconception is that Africa is wild, remote and therefore not accessible,” she says.
Also on the part of the suppliers in Africa, there is a lack of information about what it means to cater for people with disabilities. Says Silvia: “Suppliers and lodges are often scared to open their door to people with accessibility needs, thinking their properties or services have to be 100% adapted. This misconception pushes the lodges and the reservations offices to say NO straight away to any request coming from people with any type of disability.”
Silvia adds that often establishment assume people with disabilities are quadriplegic and 100% dependent on a wheelchair, while this is definitely not the case. “There are many different types of disabilities and most of them are very easy to cater for,” she says.
According to Silvia, despite the lack of information there has been a marked increase in demand from people with disabilities for travel to Southern Africa. She says: “The world is moving more towards Inclusive Tourism and this has opened numerous new destinations to people with disabilities. This in turn has increased the demand and interest of people with disabilities.”
The Amadeus report shows indeed that 86% of travellers with accessibility needs would travel more if travel information and services were made more accessible, indicating there is a significant commercial opportunity in the market for accessible travel.
Amadeus’ commitment to shaping a more sustainable future for travel includes raising important topics for debate, and stimulating efforts to find new solutions that work for everyone. Accessibility is one such topic, where all parts of the travel and tourism value chain need to work together to establish new standards and approaches to accessibility, making travel and tourism accessible to all.