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Making Tourism More Accessible - ENAT Article

15/12/2012 | 0 comments

ITB 2012-2013 Travel Trends Report bannerThis article, based on a speech given by ENAT President, Lilian Müller, forms part of the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2012-13, commissioned by ITB Berlin from IPK International, organisers of the 20th annual World Travel Monitor Forum, held in San Giuliano Terme, near Pisa, Italy, in late October 2012.

Download the full report in PDF format from the ITB website


"Millions of people around the world want to travel, have the time and  money to do so but are forced to stay at home because of insufficient facilities. With improved accessibility, however, the €100 billion travel and tourism market for people with disabilities or physical restrictions could develop strongly, Lilian Müller, president of the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), said at the 20th World Travel Monitor Forum.

Given the demographic trend to an ageing population in many countries, this underestimated market will inevitably grow in importance in the years and decades to come, she stressed.

A growing segment of the population

In Europe alone, there are 80 million people with disabilities, according to research. When including travel companions, the potential size of the “accessible tourism” market is estimated at 133 million people, the Swedish expert said. Worldwide, the number is estimated at between 600 million and 900 million, out of a total world population of seven billion. These figures mean that roughly 10% of the population needs “barrierfree” or “accessible” travel.

One underestimated fact is that with demographic ageing in Europe and other developed countries the proportion of elderly people with mobility restrictions, disabilities or other limitations such as reduced sight or hearing will inevitably increase, Müller pointed out. The proportion of people over 65 with long-term health problems and disabilities already lies at 42% for women and 30% for men, for example.

Important source of tourism spending

Nevertheless, this segment of the population is interested in travelling. “People with disabilities or reduced mobility want to travel just like everyone else. They don’t want to stay at home,” Müller emphasised. The travel and tourism industry should therefore recognise them as an important customer group both now and in future. “It’s a good idea to invest in tomorrow’s consumers,” she commented. At present, an estimated 10% of travellers have some form of disability or long-term health problem, based on diverse surveys. In the UK and Australia, for example, about 11% of visitors fall into this category, according to two separate surveys.

Disabled people are also a significant economic factor for the tourism industry, tending to be loyal to a destination, staying longer and spending more. According to disabled travel expert Dr Scott Rains, American adults with disabilities or reduced mobility spend about $13.6 billion a year on travel [- based on figures from Open Doors Organization]. In Germany, the direct turnover generated by disabled travellers is estimated at €2.5 billion, and rises to €4.8 billion when including indirect effects. In the UK, disabled visitors contributed almost £2 billion to the British domestic visitor economy in 2009, the UK Visitor Survey found. In Australia, the figures are even higher with disabled tourists contributing up to 16% of tourism GDP and sustaining up to 17% of jobs in the tourism sector, according to research.

These figures could rise even higher in future if the gap between the potential customer base and the actual number of travellers can be reduced, Müller said. In Germany, for example, about 37% of disabled people decided not to travel in the past due to a lack of accessible facilities. Yet 48% would travel more frequently if these were available and as many as 60% would be ready to pay higher travel costs for improved accessibility."

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Download the full report in PDF format from the ITB website


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