The disabled and elderly people are getting a raw deal from the tourism industry, a new report claims.

Not enough is being done to ensure destinations and services are accessible to disabled or elderly travellers, according to a Bournemouth University tourism expert.

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis argues that the travel industry is failing to tap into the business opportunities posed by accessible tourism – and is thus failing to properly engage with disabled travellers as consumers.

“The ongoing fallout from the global financial downturn has meant that businesses must do more to engage with consumers and look towards developing niche markets that will drive the tourism industry forward,” he said.

“One such market that continues to be underserved by the global tourism industry is that of people with disabilities.

“Globally there are more than 650 million people with disabilities, and this figure is set to rise due to the ageing of the population. This poses a considerable challenge for global tourism. The industry must take a more proactive approach to ensure that infrastructure and services are more accessible.”

Prof Buhalis, deputy director of the university’s International Centre of Tourism and Hospitality Research, has highlighted the issues in a new book, Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues.

“Inclusion, disability and ageing population are increasingly important areas of study due to their implications for tourism demand and supply,” he said.

“A design for all principles will bring great opportunities for people with disabilities to access and enjoy products and services and at the same time offers a huge potential for industry.”

  • Published by Channel View Publications and co-edited by Dr Simon Darcy, from the University of Technology in Sydney, the book is an edited collection of contributions by leading researchers and practitioners in the field from around the world.