Accessible Tourism could boost Scottish economy

boots in the sand

Accessible tourism was worth around £391 million to the Scottish economy between January and December 2013 – a £66 million increase on 2009-10 figures.

Guest Blog. Friday Opinion Piece

Fergus Ewing Tourism Minister Scottish Parliament

Fergus Ewing

There are 11 million disabled people living in the UK – 14 per cent of the population – Yet it is estimated that only two million disabled people enjoy an annual holiday.

We have to question why we don’t attract more disabled people on holiday

Around 70 per cent of disabled people are able to travel, but because of lack of accessible accommodation and poor travel arrangements and basic facilities they do not. The tourism industry needs to wake up to the fact that they missing out on potential revenue because they do not readily understand access needs.

In my opinion, it is a matter of social responsibility and basic economic sense to enable and facilitate the enjoyment of a holiday or break for everyone including people with a disability. By improving access  we create business opportunities for the whole sector and the whole country. And its not just disabled people who benefit. Its also good for parents with young children in prams, or those with temporary injuries.

Helping to open up tourism

Recently I launched a new accessible tourism initiative led by Visit Scotland The Scottish Government provided £45,000 towards producing the on-line training programme which is clearly helping staff who work in hotels, B&Bs, restaurants – generally all those who serve the public.

It offers on-line training on how better to understand the needs of people with disabilities, parents with small children, elderly people and cater for their needs at tourist attractions and hotels. This training will help ensure that everyone is welcome to Scotland, especially during this year which has seen Scotland on the world stage as never before, hosting the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, and the second year of Homecoming.

The initiative will see the industry sign-up to go through a series of online training modules promoting good practice as well as gaining valuable insights.

In addition, VisitScotland is encouraging all businesses in Scotland to build an Access Statement specific to them. Access Statements are designed to give helpful information to guests pre-arrival and can be invaluable tools for businesses.

Building an Access Statement is key to the on-line accessible tourism product. By making small changes, often at very low cost, accommodation providers can help ensure all visitors feel welcome and make the most of the accessible tourism market.

Guide dog owner Caroline Boyle, who attended the launch with guide dog Dale, said she hoped the training would be taken up by business owners.

Sometimes it’s not even major adjustments that make a difference. Small things such as the feeling that you are welcome like any other guest instead of being an inconvenience, or the business having dog water bowls nearby for assistance dogs, make a massive difference to the visitor experience,” said Caroline. “I encourage all those in the service industry to use the training.

Find out more about accessible tourism here.