Australia’s tourism strategy aims to open adventure trips to people with disabilities. Skydiving company iFLY has already pulled the rip cord.
It is Sunday and 30 people with disability are donning flight suits at iFLY. Supported mid-air by an updraft, they experience the thrill of weightlessness like any other flyer.
iFLY wants its indoor skydiving to be open to everyone, regardless of age or ability.
‘Regardless of your needs, you can fly,’ says Head of Sales Barbara McCarthy.
People with disability can attend any iFLY session. iFLY also holds tailored all-abilities events on the last Sunday of each month. They are very popular, attracting up to 30 people per session.
‘When people book, I always email and ask if there’s anything I need to do to make it a better experience for them,’ says McCarthy. ‘It might be turning down the music or lighting. It could be providing a quiet space to get changed into the flight suits.
‘Whatever it is, I work with them.’
She also works with iFLY’s instructors to refine the experience for people with disability.
‘I get the instructors involved because they’re the people who actually fly with our guests. Their input is really important,’ she says.
iFLY has appointed an All-Abilities Ambassador to show there are no limits to who can fly. Greg Pinson has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair. He has been flying since January 2022.
‘I wanted to prove to myself that I could still have fun and do all kinds of activities despite being in a wheelchair,’ Pinson says. ‘All the staff [at iFLY] were friendly, very helpful, and considerate of my and others’ needs.’
As an iFLY Ambassador, Pinson attends disability expos where he shares his insights into the experience.
Improving the accessibility of tourism destinations and experiences is a priority of THRIVE 2030, the national long-term strategy for the visitor economy.
During 2022, the Accessible Tourism Mentoring Pilot Project helped tourism operators explore practical ways to improve inclusiveness. The pilot project received joint Commonwealth, State and Territory funding, and was managed by Austrade.
iFLY was one of the businesses involved in the pilot.
McCarthy says the pilot helped identify ways to further improve inclusiveness across the business.
‘One thing was diversity of employment, which we’ve already improved on,’ she says. ‘I hired an agency and we’ve brought someone on board who has a disability. She’s been amazing.
‘We have invested in new flight suits with 2 full-length zippers. These are much easier for wheelchair users to put on. We’re also looking into hoists to further help this process.’
Supporting visitors with disability can give your business access to a growing market. Total domestic spend for accessible tourism groups was $13.5 billion in 2021. (Source: Tourism Research Australia.)
Accessibility is a key focus of THRIVE 2030 – Australia’s national strategy for the long-term sustainable growth of the visitor economy.
Tourism Research Australia (TRA) is Australia’s official provider of tourism data and analysis to support Australia’s visitor economy. TRA has a rich 35-year history of data collection at the leading edge of tourism research in Australia.