VisitEngland has unveiled plans to make England internationally recognised as a destination for disabled holidaymakers.
According to the tourism body, the industry is worth more than £2 billion a year in England in terms of spend by visitors with a health condition or impairment and their travelling companions. This compares with a £300 million spend by half a million annual overseas visitors to England.
Speaking on the day of the Paralympics 2012 opening ceremony, VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford said: "The value to our industry is £2 billion. Our vision is to harness this high-growth market and become internationally recognised as a destination for people with access needs. We have to tell people about what we have and how accessible we are."
More than a quarter of the UK population have a long-standing health problem or disability, which equates to around 11 million people. This figure is set to increase as the population ages, with more than a third of the UK population over the age of 55.
VisitEngland is working with charity Tourism For All to help tourism businesses deliver accessible services and values and as part of this has this week launched an online guide called Winning More Visitors to help regional tourist boards attract more visitors with a disability.
The tool has infomation on how to plan travel to the area, local geography, terrain and accessibility of key tourist areas and accommodation; details of local hospitals, pharmacies, and accessible toilets.
It follows a survey of 70 people with a disability or access need, or their carers/companions, by VisitEngland which showed 83% of visitors looking for access information use destination websites but only one in three, 39%, find it easy to locate the information they need.
VisitEngland recently launched a training scheme to help tourism businesses welcome disabled customers and runs the only scheme to rate the accessibility of accommodation in England.
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