WTM London: Why Is Accessibility Still Difficult For The Luxury Travel Sector?
With World Travel Market coming back to London last week, I took the opportunity to not only get information for brands I'd like to work with over the next 12 months to bring more reviews to you all, but also find out if the luxury travel sector has become more accessible and inclusive to those with disabilities since last years show.
As I said in last years blog post, for me, accessibility is about finding practical solutions to make a product or service inclusive to all. Whether that be installing ramps around a resort, hoists to allow guests to get into spa and pool areas, or other solutions to make a product or service inclusive and accessible to those who wish to use it.
The biggest shock I had this year though, was with river cruise companies and the fact that even those with new boats inside Europe don't have any kind of accessibility on board! In a time when there are supposedly laws within Europe that mean disabilities have to be catered for, it was pretty disheartening to see even mid-market river cruise companies wanting to work with bloggers, but not have any kind of accessibility on board their ships. In 2018, when luxury seaside resorts in the developing world have included accessibility not just within their resort site design, but also when it comes to the excursions on offer, the least you'd expect is for a company from a developed country to have accessible products.
The luxury travel sector is the sector that everyone looks up to, it's the sector that tends to have the most innovative products, as well as the sector that consumers go to for the most memorable and once in a lifetime holidays, as well as trips like honeymoons, anniversary or birthday celebrations etc. However, the luxury travel sector needs to realise that it is not immune to accessibility laws, and whilst I'm pleased to see that there are companies taking accessibility seriously, much more needs to be done in terms of progress not just within the luxury sector, but the travel industry as a whole where accessibility and inclusivity is concerned.
On the flip side, those companies who are embracing accessibility within their design should be applauded, and use the fact that they are accessible to those with disabilities as a marketing tool to show competitors and the rest of the sector that they too should have an inclusive and accessible product. But by letting the world know that a product or service is accessible to those with disabilities means that disabled people don't have to take a gamble when travelling. After all, I and others who are disabled have been in that situation where a hotel room has been classed as 'accessible' but the reality is much different. It's why I don't always stay in rooms tagged as accessible, because more often than not I've actually had more issues with a room tagged as accessible, than one that isn't.
Disability doesn't discriminate against social class, and even some of the richest families in the world have members of their family who are disabled. Regulations shouldn't be needed to force products and services to be more accessible, brands should want to make their products accessible in order to become appealing to those with disabilities, especially in times where there is an ageing population whom still love to travel where they can.