Travel and tourism is today being urged to be more accessible to people with disabilities.

The call came from World Travel & Tourism Council president David Scowsill to coincide with World Tourism Day celebrations in Bangkok.

Almost 15% of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability and as populations get older, the number of people with special needs is going to increase.

Scowsill argued that catering for people with disabilities goes far beyond those travellers restricted to wheelchairs.

It includes all forms of mobility restrictions, hearing or visual impairments, learning disabilities or mental health issues. It encompasses the needs of an ageing population around the world.

Scowsill said: “Travel and tourism needs to take accessibility requirements seriously. The imperative is not only moral, but it also makes good business sense.

“Many tourism businesses can be deterred from making themselves more accessible. Sometimes they have financial concerns about the investment necessary to alter or refit their facilities, and at other times they are concerned about offending people.

“That is why days such as the World Tourism Day are so important. We need to raise awareness of the opportunities of accessibility and the mechanisms by which it can be achieved.”

He identified three priorities for the sector when it comes to accessibility:

• Understand the market dynamics and opportunities when it comes to accessibility, and how they relate to your business so that you can prioritise actions accordingly.
• Look at what the leading players are providing and learn from them. Often some simple adaptations or a mere awareness of the needs of people with a disability can make a big difference.
• Partner with organisations which have experience of working in accessibility, to ensure that what you are providing is appropriate and communicated effectively.