At Abta’s Travel Convention earlier this month, Debbie Marshall of Silver Travel Advisor had the audience in stitches with her self-deprecating tales of growing older, such as how she’d mistaken body lotion for hair conditioner in the hotel shower that morning because the font was too small to read without her glasses!
Debbie is, of course, a very fit and able woman, but she was making the point that as people increasingly want to travel into their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s – and to more exotic destinations – travel companies need to take the market seriously to ensure they are catering for the accessibility needs of ageing customers. It was a point echoed at Accord’s Travel Trends 2016 seminar.
And it’s not just older members of the population who could be better served. It seems the travel industry is woefully off the pace in catering properly for disabled travellers too.
At the same Abta conference, delegates heard Paralympic gold medallist Lee Pearson reveal the problems he faces when travelling. He says he often can’t get his mobility scooter through hotel room doorways or up kerbs, that too many properties have steps instead of ramps, and that hotels’ shiny, slippery floors “can be lethal” when trying to manoeuvre from his scooter into bed.
It is bizarre that progress in serving the disabled market has been so slow, especially given how much it is worth in financial terms.
For a disabled or elderly traveller to fly with an airline, take a transfer or stay in a room that doesn’t meet their needs is nothing short of a nightmare; it can ruin the holiday.
It needs a concerted, collective effort by the industry to bring about change – Debbie and Lee made great cases, which must not be ignored.
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