Q&As about the accessible tourism market

The key questions you may have that relate to accessible tourism and travel – and the answers (where we know them)

The importance of tourism

  1. What contribution does tourism make to the UK’s GDP?
    Travel and tourism is estimated to have contributed 10.1% of UK GDP in 2019 (WTTC)
  2. What contribution does tourism make to employment in the UK?
    Travel and tourism is estimated to have accounted for almost 4.3 million UK jobs (12% of the total) in 2019 (WTTC)
  3. How many tourism businesses are there in the UK?
    In 2019 the UK tourism industry was composed of an estimated 241,000 businesses (Tourism Alliance)
  4. What are the different types of tourism? (inbound vs domestic, purpose splits)
    In 2019 the number of visits to the UK by overseas residents was an estimated 40.9 million, the number of overnight domestic trips by GB residents was 122.3 million and the number of Tourism Day Visits by GB residents was 1.7 billion. (VisitBritain)

    In 2019 the value of inbound visitor spending was an estimated £28.4bn, the value of domestic overnight spending £24.7bn and domestic Tourism Day Visit spending £67.0 bn. (VisitBritain)

    In 2019 there were 16.9 million inbound visits for a Holiday, 12.4 million to Visit Friends or Relatives, 8.7 million for Business and 2.9 million for miscellaneous reasons including Study. (VisitBritain)

    In 2019 there were 60.5 million domestic overnight trips that were for a Holiday, 42.9 trips to Visit Friends or Relatives and 16.3 million trips for Business. (VisitBritain)
  5. Is tourism more important in some areas than others?
    Yes, especially inbound tourism, as in 2019 London is estimated to have accounted for 53% of all inbound visits and 55% of visitor expenditure (VisitBritain.

Disability in society

  1. How many disabled people are there in the UK?
    In 2019/20 22% of the UK population were estimated to have a disability (Family Resources Survey, DWP).
  2. Does disability vary by age?
    Yes, less than one-in-ten of children aged 9 or younger were reported as having a disability in 2019/20 compared with 60% of those aged 80+ (Family Resources Survey, DWP).
  3. Is a disability always visible?
    No, disabilities come in many shapes and sizes. Slightly less than half (49%) of those reporting a disability in 2019/20 said this related to mobility, while 29% reported a mental health impairment and around one-in-eight a sight or hearing impairment. (Family Resources Survey, DWP).

Disabled people and tourism

  1. How important are disabled people to the current volume and value of tourism?
    £15.3 billion was spent in England in 2018 on trips taken by those who have an impairment, or who are part of a group where a member has an impairment. (VisitEngland)

    Trips taken by those with an impairment and their travelling companions made up: 2% of all inbound trips in 2018, 15% of domestic overnight trips in 2015 and 20% of day visits in 2018. (VisitEngland).
  2. Do disabled people have a different propensity to take trips to non-disabled people?
    In 2017 48% of those with an impairment in GB took at least one holiday versus 64% of the non-impaired population. (VisitEngland)

    Differences were most pronounced for international trips, with 40% of the non-impaired compared and 20% of the impaired population taking at least one trip, while for domestic trips the figures were 43% of those without an impairment taking a trip compared with 36% of those with an impairment. (VisitEngland).
  3. Do trips taken by disabled people have different characteristics to those taken by non-disabled people?
    The average length of stay per domestic overnight trip was 2.9 nights for all trips, compared to 3.3 nights for trips taken by those with an impairment and their travelling companions. (VisitEngland).
  4. Do disabled people spend more or less on tourism than non-disabled people (across a year and per night)?
    The average spend per domestic overnight trip was £191 for all trips, compared to £210 for trips taken by those with an impairment and their travelling companions – the difference being largely accounted for by length of stay. (VisitEngland).
  5. Do disabled people (or those travelling with them) use the same or different sources as non-disabled people when planning a trip?
    This will likely depend on the nature of the disability and the degree of prior knowledge regarding the destination being visited, but disabled travellers may place greater emphasis on the trip planning stage than non-disabled travellers. It is important that tourism businesses make information as accessible as possible, in terms of both what is provided and how it is presented.
  6. Do disabled people place a greater or lesser value on travel than non-disabled people?
    The vast majority of people find a holiday or short-break rewarding, and there is no reason to suppose disabled people are any different. There is currently no conclusive evidence to show whether those with a disability place a greater or lesser value on tourism than non-disabled people.
  7. What benefits do disabled people derive from travel?
    A deeper understanding of the role that travel and tourism plays in the lives of those with a disability is a topic that TfA considers worthy of further investigation.
  8. Do disabled people want to travel more than they currently do?
    There is currently limited evidence regarding the extent to which differences in trip rates between disabled and non-disabled people are driven by matters of choice or of necessity.

    However, 5% of people with an impairment reported the main reason for not having taken a domestic trip to be accessibility issues. (VisitEngland)
  9. What are the main barriers preventing disabled people from travelling more?
    Many of the issues are similar to those deterring non-impaired people from taking a trip, but “can’t afford it” was the main reason for not taking a domestic trip for 31% of those with an impairment compared with 19% of non-impaired people. 15% of impaired people reported the main reason for not taking a domestic trip was Health/ill health, compared with just 1% for non-impaired people. (VisitEngland).
  10. What are the differences and similarities in terms of reasons for suppressed travel between disabled and non-disabled people?
    There is limited evidence, however it is estimated that in 2017 430,000 British adults with an impairment did not take a domestic trip due to the lack of accessibility provision. If each person with an impairment currently not travelling due to accessibility issues took a domestic holiday this would generate £116.7m of additional revenue. (VisitEngland).
  11. There are many distinct disabled traveller segments - are there significant differences in the access needs (customer service / facilities / information provision) between segments?
    With a wide variety of different types of disability comes a wide variety of accessibility needs. A person with mobility challenges may not be hindered by background noise when conversing with a waiter or waitress but the same will not be true for someone with a hearing impairment. Finding a hotel room may be a challenge to both an individual with a memory impairment and one with a visual impairment but for different reasons.
  12. What is the untapped potential (volume and value) of travel by disabled people?
    While limited in scope the estimate that 430,000 GB adults are prevented from taking a trip due to the lack of accessibility provision suggests latent demand worth at least £116.7m. (VisitEngland).

Business benefits of being accessible

  1. What are the actions businesses can take that would make the biggest difference to the visitor experience for disabled people?
    Actions that can enhance the experience of a disabled person might relate to information, interactions or infrastructure. Information should itself be accessible, so avoiding small font sizes or poor colour contrasts, and be clear, concise and comprehensive about a venue’s accessibility. Interactions between staff and a guest with a disability can make the difference between a great experience and a disappointed customer meaning that training is crucial. Infrastructure is often uppermost in the mind of someone thinking about accessibility and it is certainly vital to some disabled guests, but very often less costly interventions can be just as effective at unlocking potential demand.
  2. Why would it be good to make my business accessible?
    Being accessible can generate revenue, bolster the resilience of a business and enhance its reputation.
  3. What sort of return can I expect to make on any investment I make in accessibility?
    There is no definitive answer as this will depend on the nature of investment made, but low-cost training may well positively impact the experience of a greater number of disabled guests equally as much more expensive physical adaptations.
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