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Elspeth Knight says travelers with disabilities — a $1.2 trillion market — have plenty of adventurous spirit.
The medical definition of a “person with disabilities” may technically apply to Knight, but she refuses to let it slow her down — or stop her from going on the type of holiday she wants.
Knight is the founder and director of Kirkcaldy, Scotland-based EnCompass Disability Travel Consultancy, which offers strategy, training and audit services for international travel companies to better sell and market accessible tourism. Her business was born out of both need and frustration: She had tried to book an adventure travel tour that could accommodate her wheelchair, and only high-end experiences were available — but she wanted local lodging and an authentic sense of community. So, utilizing her backgrounds in disability support and the tourism industry, Knight decided to take matters into her own hands.
“The main reason that DMCs and adventure tour companies are not working with people with disabilities is because they are worried they’ll get it wrong,” she said. “However, it just takes training to be able to gain the confidence that it can be done.”
Here’s what travel advisors should know about this important market.
Yes, people with disabilities want adventure travel — and they’ll pay for it.According to EnCompass’ July 2017 Report on Adventure Tourism and the Disabled Traveler, 35 percent of respondents said that they have disposable income, and want adventure travel. Those disposable funds equate to $1.2 trillion worldwide, which is increased to $6.9 trillion if personal networks, such as family and friends, are included.
Thorough research is non-negotiable.Knight says it’s essential to make sure clients feel comfortable from the start. That includes knowing which questions to ask and which terms to use for each demographic of people with disabilities. For example, much of the older generation rejects the disability label because they may have only become disabled in later years, or they just “happen” to use a wheelchair or a hearing aid.
“I work with so many companies that say something such as, ‘This blind woman showed up, and we specifically asked her if she was disabled, and she responded no,’” she said. “But the wrong question was asked: Companies need to inquire about what people with disabilities need and how they can give them what they need — without doing so in a patronizing way.”
These trips may take more work, but they’re doable (and rewarding).Knight understands that planning adventure travel for clients with disabilities requires more logistics than a “sun, sea and sand holiday” that generally encompasses just one property and a single mode of transportation. But, she says, there are portable and packable pieces of equipment that turn inaccessible rooms into something accessible, as well as local resources that are helpful.
“A large number of people with disabilities don’t want to just sit on a beach and get a tan,” Knight said. “They have that adventurous spirit, and they’re willing to pay to go and do it. It just takes a bit of work to put it all into place.”
The DetailsEnCompass Disability Travel Consultancywww.disabilitytravelconsultant.com