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How to Promote a Tourism & Travel Business Which is Accessible to People with Disabilities?
Accessible and inclusive travel provides opportunities for everyone but in particular meets the needs of people with disabilities, ageing seniors, families with small children and the people they travel with, writes Mike Prescott in Access Tourism NZ.
They are currently the largest and fastest growing segment of the travel market but remain the most under-served. This means they are an opportunity for forward thinking organizations that want to be more competitive in today’s tight economic environment and realize a sustainable competitive advantage.
Persons with disabilities are the largest growing market segment for tourism. Photo courtesy Eleanor Bentall/Corbis via guardian.co.uk
If you are a destination management organization, chamber of commerce or international chain resort, the way to promote an inclusive travel experience and exceed expectations is think seamless. What does this mean? It means that you design and deliver services from end-to-end from the traveler’s perspective and promote them honestly.
The experience life cycle often begins by promoting all the great things you have to offer. This is your chance to help people “imagine themselves” there -staying in your hotel, eating at your restaurant or watching a performance in your theatre. Imagery and language can be powerful and inspirational but they must remain authentic and avoid tokenism. To achieve this delicate balance, consult experts that understand your target market and the levers they respond to.
Moving from awareness to decision making requires trusted information. This can be achieved through multiple channels. Offering detailed information about the physical layout and nature of your services through the web is an effective way. On-site opportunities are also useful to draw in people as they pass by your establishment (serendipity can get a helping hand). A word of advice here: if your business includes a registration component, make sure there are options for noting special needs if needed. For instance, if you have accessible suites listed on your website, make sure there is a way of reserving them. There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to find that the only accessible room has been given to someone else.
This transitions into the welcoming stage nicely. This is often your best opportunity to make a first impression (at least face-to-face). You don’t want to have anything that deters them from following through on the decision they have already made. This can be as simple as having signs to help people get around or friendly staff that have been trained to be responsive to all of your customer’s needs. The caution here is to not overdo it. Start with,“how can I help you” and make your way from here.
Now that you’ve successfully got them in the door, it is time to dazzle. The core of your experience should be designed with the customer in mind. Again, this includes the physical space, design of your services, staff training and orientation, policies and practices, alternative communications, adapted devices and equipment and any other need that may arise. Trying to do this last minute is not a good strategy. While you may not be perfect every time, learn from any failures and respond quickly.
Lastly, is the follow through – staying connected with customers to learn, build loyalty and extend your reach. In the world of disability, social networks can be powerful influences – for good or bad. Word travels fast and you want to be able to be in on the conversation. Reward those that endorse you and engage those that leave dissatisfied. Being quickly responsive to a bad experience can rebuild confidence and keep you in a customer’s good books. Most people who are seeking accessible and inclusive travel experiences realize that businesses are still learning and will want to
These five steps are continuous cycles of opportunity for you and your customers. To be successful in offering inclusive travel experiences, you need to understand how this will affect your ability to attract and retain a market segment that approaches 50% (this includes seniors, people with disabilities, families with small children and each of the people they travel with).
4. Deliver on the experience
5. Stay connectedThis blog was originally published at: http://www.accesstourismnz.org.nz/2012/02/how-to-promote-a-tourism-travel-or-any-business-which-is-accessible-to-people-with-disabilities/
Guest blog by Mike Prescott, BSc, MBA, former manager of 2010 Legacies Now in British Columbia, Canada, and Principal, everyoneincluded. Mike is an access strategist with over 20 years experience working with people with disabilities in a variety of roles. His expertise lie s in the area of strategic planning, social media and network analysis, knowledge management, and iclusion programming. Twitter: @every1included