The industry is failing to cater for holidaymakers with mobility problems or disabilities, according to the chairman of World Travel Market Fiona Jeffery.
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly after being appointed OBE in the New Year Honours list, Jeffery said this year’s World Travel Market would explore how travel companies can tap into an increasing market of holidaymakers largely ignored by the industry.
She said: "I want to address the issues of mobility and disability; we have an ageing population with a high disposable income and desire to travel but travel companies are not geared up to help them. That needs to change."
Her views were backed by specialists in the sector. Direct-sell operator Accessible Travel, which carries about 3,000 disabled or mobility-impaired holidaymakers and their companions a year, stopped selling through agents about six years ago because of difficulties selling such a specialised product through the trade.
General manager Ali Parker said: "We found agents didn’t ask the right questions, but it might be something we progress again. There is massive demand.
"Even as a specialist operator we often struggle to get the information and even when hoteliers tell us they are accessible, we find they are not when we look at them. You have to think about transfers and getting to the beach and local restaurants."
Lynne Kirby, managing director of Enable Holidays, which sells through Thomas Cook, The Co-operative Travel and Advantage agents, said larger operators would struggle to provide the level of detail required to sell to the mobility-impaired market.
"Customers want to know we have seen the rooms in the properties and that we can get special vehicles, for example."
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