Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Mon August 03 2015

Traveling Adults with Disabilities Generate $17.3 Billion in Annual Spending

Destination & Tourism | Donald Wood | August 03, 2015

Traveling Adults with Disabilities Generate $17.3 Billion in Annual Spending

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The tourism industry is booming once again in the United States, and adult travelers with disabilities are one of the demographics growing the fastest in recent years.

In a report from the Open Doors Organization (ODO), Mandala Research released the findings from its nationwide survey on the spending trends and market scope of adult travelers with disabilities in America.

ODO director Eric Lipp is reporting that 26 million adults with disabilities traveled for pleasure or business over the last two years, taking a total of 73 million trips. The study also investigated how much travelers with disabilities spend during vacation, climbing from $13.6 billion in 2002 to $17.3 billion annually.

In addition, adults with disabilities typically travel with one or more other adults, making the estimated economic impact twice as much, estimated at around $34.6 billion.

While adults with disabilities are a major portion of the travel industry, there are still many obstacles that must be faced. In the 2015 version of a similar study, the ODO discovered there are still barriers in air travel, hotels and restaurants.

Even 25 years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are stills strides that must be made. As much improvement as there is left to be made, the changes are already being implemented and obstacles have decreased significantly.

In this year’s study, 72 percent of adults traveling with disabilities said they encountered major obstacles with airlines, and 65 percent with airports. While the numbers aren’t good, they are down from 84 percent and 82 percent in 2005, respectively.

Lipp released a statement about the improvements the travel industry has made over the last decade-plus to better accommodate adult travelers dealing with disabilities:

“When we carried out our first nationwide study in 2002, the goal was to wake up the travel industry to the importance of this mostly underserved market segment and give them hard numbers on which to base investment decisions. Now 13 years later, our economic impact is no longer a secret, especially in air travel.  At large airports like Miami and Minneapolis St. Paul, airlines now must provide more than 1 million wheelchair assists per year. And as the Baby Boomers continue to age, you can be sure our market will keep growing for years to come.”

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