Travelers with Disabilities: The Untapped Market

When most people think about accommodating people with disabilities in their business they get a scared feeling in their gut and their mind scrambles to search for that all-important date when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) went into effect. It doesn’t have to be that way! When business owners open their eyes and start to realize that there are literally billions of dollars to be made in the accessible travel market, I believe we will start to remove the fear associated with the ADA.

There are currently more than 50 million people with disabilities in the United States and 180 million worldwide, representing the single largest untapped tourist market in the world. According to a recent Harris Poll conducted in conjunction with the Open Doors Organization and the Travel Industry Association of America, the 50 million people with disabilities in our country have a combined income of more than $175 billion. In 2002, these people took 32 million trips and spent more than $13.6 billion on travel ($4.2 billion on hotels, $3.3 billion on airfare, $2.7 billion on food and beverage, and $3.4 billion on retail, transportation, and other activities). This study suggested that these travelers would double their spending if some minor amenities were made available. Meet and greet programs at airports, preferred seating on airplanes, hotel rooms closer to amenities, and employees who go out of their way to accommodate guests with disabilities topped the list.

The current trends in adaptive travel show most of these travelers taking advantage of destinations that they know are already accessible such as cruise ships, Florida, and Las Vegas. The visitors bureaus and businesses at these destinations that have gone to great lengths to ensure their visitors that there will not be any accessibility issues during their stay. From personal experience and years of traveling in a wheelchair, I can guarantee that these locations have built and will continue to build strong relationships with travelers with disabilities. This group is a very loyal one, who will often return to the same city, hotel, or activity provider year after year if they have a good experience. If everyone were to catch on to this we would see growth in the tourism industry like we have never seen!

With this in mind, it is a wonder that more business owners have not taken steps to make their accommodations more accessible and even start marketing to these travelers. If the staggering numbers listed above aren’t proof enough, the U.S. Census Bureau recently stated that nearly 16.5% of all people with disabilities in the U.S. leave their home two days per week or less. That constitutes nearly 11 million people that are not traveling at all. Also keep in mind that there are millions of people in their golden years that are looking for accessible travel accommodations. Many of these people use canes or walkers, travel with oxygen tanks, or have other mobility impairments, and are not included in disability statistics.

With millions of people in need of accessible travel options, and with our Baby Boomers (almost 25% of our population) starting to reach retirement age as well now is the time to start thinking about improving marketing efforts to include people with disabilities and about better overall accessibility in general. By educating business owners on the benefits of marketing to people with disabilities and educating travel agents who are fighting a losing battle with the internet, we can begin to focus on this new target market.

If you want to take advantage of the rapidly growing adaptive travel market, get started now! I recommend hiring an expert to get your business rated and start removing barriers to access as soon as possible. Think about accessibility anytime you’re planning a remodel or addition. These improvements will benefit everyone, not just people with disabilities. For those of you who have already taken steps to improve accessibility, start bragging about it.

Craig Kennedy is a published adaptive travel author, accessibility consultant, and motivational speaker with almost ten years of adaptive travel experience and more than 15 years of tourism and service industry expertise. He specializes in resort business growth and customer attraction through better overall accessibility, education, and marketing, and works with businesses who wish to become leaders in accessible travel and accommodation.

Craig P. Kennedy, Steamboat Springs, Colorado,
CK Consulting: Setting Standards for Accessibility
www.CKConsultingonline.com.

* Please visit our Web site to take a FREE accessibility quiz to find out if you are on the right track.

Thailand News – Travel Situation Update

The tourism industry in Thailand truly took off when US soldiers started to arrive in the 1960s for Rest and Recuperation (R&R) during the Vietnam War period. Coinciding, international mass tourism sharply increased during the same period due to the rising standard of living, more people acquiring more free time and due to improvements in technology making it possible to travel further, faster, cheaper and in greater numbers, epitomized by the Boeing 747 which first flew commercially in 1970. Thailand was one of the major players in Asia to capitalize on this then-new trend.

Tourist numbers have grown from 336,000 foreign visitors and 54,000 R&R soldiers in 1967 to over 14 million international guests visiting Thailand in 2007. The average duration of their stay in 2007 was 9.19 days, generating an estimated 547,782 million Thai baht, around 11 billion Euros. In 2006, Thailand was the 18th most visited country in the World Tourism rankings with 13.9 million visitors. France, comparable to Thailand in size and population, led the list with over 79 million foreign tourists.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, 55% of the tourists in 2007 came from the Asia Pacific region, Japanese and Malaysians forming the two biggest groups. The largest groups of Western tourists come from Britain, Germany, Scandinavia and the United States. The number of tourists arriving from the Middle East and Russia is on the rise. Around 55% of Thailand’s tourists are return visitors. The peak period is during the Christmas and New Year holidays when Western tourists flee the cold conditions back home.

No patience with Swine Flu in Thailand
Laboratory tests conducted on a 42-year-old Thai woman who was quarantined on Tuesday for possible swine-flu infection showed that she is free from the deadly virus, a hospital official said on Wednesday.

Two tests were made on samples from the woman. She was found to be suffering from ordinary human flu, Chulalongkorn Hospital virus specialist Dr Yong Pooworawan said at a press conference.

The woman was admitted to Chulalongkorn hospital on Tuesday after having developed a fever last Thursday on arriving back from Singapore. Her trip had earlier taken her to Mexico and the USA between April 3 and 19.

On Tuesday, the Public Health Ministry issued a warning that travelers should avoid going to Mexico or the US if possible.

Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai confirmed in parliament on Wednesday that the swine flu virus strain responsible for the global alert has not spread to Thailand.

He said he had ordered provincial health units throughout the country to stock medicines used to treat influenza and to be ready in case the deadly variant of the virus spreads to Asia.

Democrat MP Somboon Uthaiwienkul urged the government to register migrants coming to work in Thailand because they could easily become a burden on society whenever a disease spreads.

Health official’s overseas treating people who have been infected with swine fever confirm that the generic antiviral drug oseltamivir, sold commercially as Tami flu, is effective against the virus.

CNN International today announced the results of its Online Consumer Survey (OCS) on Travel and Tourism which reveals that Thailand was chosen as representing the best value for money for travelers in the Asia Pacific region. The survey conducted across CNN English websites had more than 5,000 respondents globally. Thailand came out as the best value in Asia-Pacific for respondents over China in second place and India in third.

The comprehensive survey also revealed that although times are tough, the recession hasn’t reduced people’s desire to travel. On the contrary – people are trading down, not trading out – but not compromising their experience. In addition, more business leaders are likely to travel over the next 12 months than in the past year.

    * Overall the survey indicated that more people would travel for holiday over the next 12 months than last year, but 1 in 5 would make fewer trips

    * 46% of business travelers in Asia Pacific claim the economic environment has had no impact on their business travel plans.

    * 79% of Asia-Pac respondents feel they are likely to take a vacation in the region within the next 12 months. And the economic downturn isn’t affecting everyone’s travel plans. Asia-Pacific holidaymakers spent an average of just over US$4,000 on their last vacation, – ahead of the global average of $3,700.

    * 71% of CNN’s audience of global travelers flies long-haul for leisure. Respondents take an average of 14 days vacation a year and holiday an average of three times a year.

Brand image and reputation also remains a critical factor for air travel, and survey respondents clearly feel that preferred, trusted airlines are able to command a premium. Respondents are also more likely to do fewer trips than look for cheaper hotels or discounted flights with budget airlines.

    * 58% of Asia Pacific respondents are ‘willing to pay more to travel with my preferred airline’ (vs. 50% globally and just 41% of North American respondents)

    * 61% of these Asia Pacific air travelers ‘prefer to fly with a trusted brand regardless of cost’. Furthermore, in difficult financial times, there is value for advertisers in targeting premium audiences.

    * 83% of business travelers influence the choice of airlines and hotels when it comes to corporate travel.

    * 40% of those who travel for work fly business or first class, make an average of five business trips per year and are away for an average of 19 days per year.

William Hsu, VP Advertising Sales, CNN International added “These results send a strong message to tourism boards that smart destination branding is critical for country differentiation and return on investment.”

The survey comes as the latest PAX research for the full year 2008 once again reconfirms CNN as the leading channel in its genre for reaching each of the 3 main PAX groups: Affluent Adults, Business Decision Makers and Top Management. Among the Top Management group CNN is the leading international channel regardless of genre, while CNN.com continues to generate substantially higher reach than all other measured media sites.

The Multiple Faces of Travel Are Accelerating

What will world travel look like three years from now? How about ten years from now? The field is changing almost faster than we can report it, but this article attempts to catch at least a snapshot of what we see unfolding before our eyes. It’s exciting and exhilarating, and I suspect only touches the surface of what will really occur.

1. First, let me lay your mind to rest. The travel industry isn’t faltering nor is it ripe for a downturn. In fact, leader, John Pittman, believes 2010 will be a year of recovery with many travel agencies expecting to rebound nicely. Dr. Rach of the NYU Tisch Center states that “the global demand for travel and tourism provides unprecedented opportunities going forward.” Travel is a $7 trillion industry and, within the next decade, some expect that figure to possibly double as baby boomers blast off and travelers around the world multiply exponentially.

2. American travel will continue expanding and Europe is expected to be delivering 730 million travelers by 2020. However, tourism will no longer be dominated by Westerners. Travel is beginning to boom in China, India and the Gulf States, and hundreds of millions more citizens from these areas will begin traversing the globe.

3. The internet is playing a key role in over 80% of travel-related research and bookings as more and more turn to the convenience of doing such online. Forty-three percent of all online spending is for travel, making it the largest category for e-commerce, and it’s growing all the time. Also, more people are traveling based upon consumer-led, peer-to-peer input and advice. In other words, people are depending more on fellow-travelers to search out a diversity of new and interesting destinations and experiences. Some call it the democratization or the deep personalization of travel.

4. More people want to authentically experience new locations, unusual adventures—that is, get to know the locals, the idiosyncrasies of a place, the culture and grittiness of real life. This also means that many will not only fly but will make journeys by train, boat, bus, or even bike/motorbike. They will savor the entire experience instead of anxiously rushing to a destination, then rushing back home. Many will be content to explore the nooks and crannies of their own nation, while others will want a more international or “foreign” experience.

5. Some nations not known for being great tourist attractions may turn to casinos or gaming to draw more tourism. However, other nations will draw in tourists simply because of the charm, novelty, pricing, or immensity of what they have to offer. Within 20 years, China is predicted to be the number one tourist destination. Others surprisingly expected to draw large numbers are Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Qatar, Slovenia, Slovakia, and, of course, Brazil.

6. Detailed choices will increase for travelers. Individuals are already able to instantly locate individual inns that cater to specific whims, to buy tickets to perhaps an amusement center or a sporting event across the globe before even leaving on a trip, to find out the closest gym or spa to where they will be staying in India or Japan. They can check the menu of an obscure but delightful restaurant on the other side of the globe. Thus, planning a vacation or business trip is taking on new meaning as the specificity of choices becomes more and more detailed.

7. Twelve million new users sign up on the internet every day—and, believe it or not, most of these live outside the United States. As the earth’s population nears seven billion, approximately 23%-25% are on the internet and only 5% of these users are in the U.S. At only about 15%-16% internet saturation, Asia is poised to sign up hundreds of millions more users in the next few decades. Many of these will be researching and booking travel online.

The Travel Train is just pulling out of the station. Surely you don’t want to get left behind. Begin gearing up for your own odyssey across the globe. Travel is fun, increasingly affordable, and you know you haven’t seen nearly enough of this planet yet.