Brett Heising | August 17, 2016 2:30 PM ET
Why Overlooking The Disabled Travel Market Is A Mistake
There are more than 55 million adults in the United States with some type of physical disability, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. If you’re able-bodied and you don’t know anyone with a physical disability, this statistic may surprise you.
If you don’t know anyone with a physical disability, that would surprise me. In fact, according to Travel Agent Central, the accessible, a.k.a. inclusive travel market is growing at an astounding rate of 22 percent annually.
The statistics go on: Open Doors Organization, a non-profit in Chicago, says that in the past two years 26 million Americans with physical disabilities took 73 million trips for business and pleasure. On those trips, we spent $17.3 billion and our total economic impact was $34.6 billion because, like most people, we don’t travel alone.
The most astounding thing about these numbers is that this segment of the brettapproved community doesn’t even address Baby Boomers. They represent 80 percent of the luxury travel market, and represent 55 percent of every dollar spent on travel.
Half of the Boomers over 65-years-old are already mobility impaired. That doesn’t mean everyone in this group is using a wheelchair full-time. But scooters, HurryCanes and Elevettes are enjoying record sales. People are living longer, healthier lives and the fact is they’re not going to let mobility challenges stop them from doing anything they want to do, including travel.
As the Co-founder and CEO of brettapproved.com — a travel and entertainment website for anyone with a physical disability or mobility challenge — I have an agenda: I want every travel industry professional to know that people with disabilities travel, we’re loyal consumers and we spend money.
Predicated on user-generated content, brettapproved celebrates hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues that work for people with physical disabilities or mobility challenges. Complaining about what doesn’t work may feel great in the short-term but it doesn’t solve anything so we ask our community members to help us celebrate what works so we know where to spend our money.
Celebrate Accessible Inventory
At brettapproved, we believe accessible inventory can and should be more than a safety net. Typically, accessible rooms are sold last because they’re being “held” in case a traveler with a disability needs the room.
This is outstanding! Until … a traveler with a disability experiences a delayed flight, the front desk personnel at Hotel X think the guest who needs the accessible room is a no-show and they give said accessible room to an able-bodied walk-in.
The hotelier is simply looking at occupancy rate, but when the guest with a disability arrives to find the room he or she booked has been sold, this perpetuates the notion that our needs don’t matter.
At brettapproved, we help hoteliers market and sell accessible inventory. We do this in part by showcasing said accessible inventory on brettapproved.com. Additionally, we offer soft-skills training to frontline staff so they feel comfortable when guests who have unique physical challenges are on-property.
Knowing what to say and how to say it is critical. If you’re a hospitality professional, I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. I’m simply reminding you that words carry weight. Who doesn’t want to delight loyal customers?
Action Trumps Awareness
There’s no reason to view travelers with physical disabilities or mobility impairments as a fringe market. It’s 2016, and inclusiveness is the order of the day. The issue of accessibility isn’t “us” vs. “them.” Each of us exists somewhere on the spectrum of physical ability and eventually everyone will need brettapproved.
Now that you’re aware of the market, close your eyes and think of someone you know who lives with a physical disability or mobility challenge, within your capacity as a travel professional how are you going to help them and the millions of people across the globe like them, travel confidently? Might I suggest simply starting a conversation?
My goal is to be the most accessible CEO in America. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me prove it to you.
More by Brett Heising
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Latest Travel News
Hotel & Resort
Airlines & Airports
Features & Advice
Airlines & Airports
Destination & Tourism