Things are definitely improving when it comes to accessible tourism.
Accessible travel holiday guide
I see myself as a traveller. Another client. Not as a disabled traveller. And yes, I have special needs, but most people have some sort of needs when they are away from home, right?
In many ways we don’t want to give this guide a name. Because tourists who have accessibility issues are probably tired of being put in a box. Or a bracket. Such as (wheelchair users welcome). At Responsible Travel we seek to promote a world of tourism where brackets are removed. Because we know that when tourism benefits everyone, travellers and hosts alike, it also makes for great holidays. And most tourists with special needs, be they an adapted bathroom, a quiet space, a fridge to store medication and so on, are no different from any other tourist. They just want to have a wonderful holiday. We hope that this accessible holidays guide shows you where to take on new adventures such as kayaking, climbing or wild swimming, or discover new places from Catalonia to Japan. Not holidays that are all about special needs. Just special holidays.
An accessible holiday is...
still a holiday. It just has special trimmings.
An accessible holiday isn't...
all about being ‘wheelchair friendly’.
What we rate & what we don't
Small ship cruise holidays
Giant cruise ships have long been the quick and easy holiday option for people with access needs. However, if you want something more adventurous, less crowded and more responsible, look into the vast array of small ship cruises on offer, from the Greenland to Galapagos, Alaska to the Amazon. Many are very switched on to access issues. You just need to ask.
Many safaris are making attempts to be more accessible, particularly in South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. Ensuring that safari lodges are on one level, have adapted bathrooms, or easy access to minibuses. Still mostly aimed at wheelchair users, however, it is also worth looking into a safari with tailor made holiday experts, as they are the dons of catering for all sorts of special requirements.
A growing market
Recent research shows that the European tourism sector is missing out on as much as €142 billion due to rubbish services and attitudes to people with access needs. If destinations were accessible, demand could increase by 44 percent a year. So, you shouldn’t need a hearing loop to catch the message loud and clear on this one. People with access needs really want to travel.
It’s hardly surprising, given the lack of inclusivity in tourism to date, that travellers play it safe when it comes to holidays. However, people are generally getting more adventurous in their travels, and the accessible tourism sector is no exception. Look into countries you haven’t thought of before, or join social media networks to be inspired by others who have scuba dived, sky dived or sailed the oceans.
This is the key information on a company’s website to let guests know that everyone is welcome. It goes way beyond legal obligations but shows that companies are at least trying to cater for everyone’s needs, what is and isn’t available, and what the company will try to make better in future. It should be a living document, being updated all the time. The VisitEngland website has superb free guidance for businesses on creating an access statement.
Photos & videos
In order to save the guest a vast amount of time in phone calls or emails, having videos and photos of adapted bedrooms, bathrooms, restaurant access, leisure facilities, local activities, and so on, is invaluable. It means the difference between someone smiling when they see the website, already feeling welcome, and then booking. Or just giving up and going to the Marriott, because it’s easier.
Making websites accessible is a great step in removing barriers and showing that all guests are welcome. There are experts out there to help companies adapt their sites; for example, by putting in code that allows the visually impaired to use text-to-speech software and/or text-to-Braille hardware. There are many simple ways to adapt websites to help people with mobility issues too.
Facilities for all
From pools to parking facilities, toilets to TVs, spas to sunbeds, having adapted and inclusive facilities makes all the difference between an OK holiday and a wonderfully welcoming one. Simple things like a unisex family changing room by the pool solves lots of issues. And please use the word accessible or inclusive instead of ‘disabled’. A disabled toilet sounds like it is out of order!
Hostility, not hospitality
Tourists with access needs have too many sorry tales about their travels. The accessible toilets are used as storage spaces, the receptionist addresses your able bodied partner rather than you, or the waiter doesn’t ask your child with autism what ice cream he would like, but asks his siblings. The list is too long. Businesses with customer care at their core get training, get switched on and get with the programme.
It is not enough for a travel company to say that it is accessible. It needs to give full details of door measurements, bathroom facilities, parking, assistance for visually impaired and so on. It is never a case of ‘less is more’ when it comes to access issues. It should be a growing list, in order to anticipate all travellers’ needs.
Ok, so they have had the resources to adapt buildings for people with access needs, and so traditionally they are the first port of call for guests. However, there is a whole world of accommodation out there that might suit your needs, from yurts to yachts, riverside cabins to riverboats. The more you ask them to cater for your needs, the more they will see how easy it can be to do so.
It is not enough for a business to say that they are ‘wheelchair friendly’. Apart from the fact that, in the UK, wheelchair users account for only 4 percent of the accessible tourism market, that is never enough information. Businesses need training and advice on catering for all access needs. See the Responsible Tourism page of this guide for more details.
If you'd like to chat about Accessible travel or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Our travel team is always happy to discuss your particular requirements when it comes to accessibility. If we know early in the process exactly what you need then through communication with suppliers we can make appropriate holiday recommendations, and ensure that every aspect of your trip will meet your needs, from accommodation to meals and support.
More Accessible travel articles
Learn about some of the top destinations in the world for accessible travel.
What to expect, and need-to-knows, for wheelchair accessible holidays.
A fantastic and diverse range of holidays for travellers with limited mobility.
Holidays designed or adapted for travellers with hearing impairment needs.
Discover our amazing range of holidays for blind and partially sighted travellers.
Holidays for people with cognitive issues blend practicality with great activities.
Accessibility needs are no limit on adventurous travel, as this guide shows.
How to ensure your tour operator meets your accessibility needs.
Advice on accessible holidays from our expert partners, and previous travellers.
This section of our guide is a call to action on improving accessible travel.