Insight – The accessible tourism opportunity

1 December 2022

After a challenging few years, tourism businesses are looking for opportunities to recover and grow. The long-term strategy for Australia’s visitor economy, THRIVE 2030, nominates accessible tourism as a priority.

Accessible tourism benefits many travellers

Making your products or services more accessible to visitors can open new and valuable markets for your business. The accessible travel community includes people with a disability, a long-term health condition, or mobility needs. It also includes their entire travel party. Other visitors also benefit from improved access, such as:

  • the elderly
  • those with temporary needs, mobility issues, or medical conditions
  • parents with prams
  • multi-generational family groups.

Supporting tourism products and experiences that are accessible to people of all physical and cognitive capabilities, disabilities, age, and neurodiversity ensures consumer demand can be met. Accessibility increases opportunities for businesses.

James ‘Buck’ McFarlane is the Founder and Owner of ‘Cocky Guides’. His company creates tactile and sensory small group adventures for blind and low-vision travellers.

McFarlane describes how a focus on accessibility can improve the experience for everyone.

‘Consider the last time you were at a restaurant,’ he says. ‘To read the menu you may have had to put your glasses on, ask someone else to read it, or hold the menu under a light. Your experience would be better if the menu had a simple font, larger text, and a high contrast colour scheme.

‘This not only helps more than 550,000 low-vision Australians, it’s likely to help most of your guests!’

The accessible tourism market  

New data from Tourism Research Australia’s (TRA’s) National Visitor Survey shows that in 2021, travel groups including people with disability or a long-term health condition in Australia accounted for:

  • $13.5 billion (17% of total) of domestic day and overnight trip spend
  • 1 million domestic trips (19% of total).

Around 18% of Australians (or 4.4 million people) have a disability. An additional 22% (or 5.5 million) have a long-term health condition (Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘People with Disability in Australia’ web report, last updated 5 July 2022).

A recent study has shown that travellers with disability in the US reported an average spend of US$500 more on leisure travel in the last 12 months, compared to those without disability (Source: MMGY Travel Intelligence, ‘Portrait of Travelers with Disabilities: Mobility & Accessibility’).  

On the ageing population, Austrade’s ‘Opportunities for the Visitor Economy’ report of June 2021, outlines that:

  • by 2025, one in 8 international trips will be taken by a retiree aged 60 or above (Source: UN World Tourism Organization, UNWTO Tourism Barometer, January 2016, Vol. 14; VISA, Mapping the Future of Global Travel and Tourism, 2014)
  • the size of the 60-plus market will almost double in the coming decade, as the global ageing population grows by 40% to 1.4 billion by 2030. They also have an increasing propensity to spend their retirement on travel (Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects: the 2015 Revision)
  • the older traveller is looking for comfortable accommodation, easy transitions through the ‘first and last mile’ of transport, and attractions with plenty of information available.

Accessibility and inclusion are Australian Government priorities

THRIVE 2030 sets out 7 priority areas to grow the visitor economy sector to A$230 billion by 2030. Priority 5 – to enhance visitor infrastructure – includes an action to develop assets, infrastructure and experiences that are accessible to all people, regardless of physical limitations, disability or age. Priority 6 – to build markets and attract visitors – includes actions to promote and market accessible infrastructure at destinations, accommodation, venues and experiences.  

Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021 – 2031 is a national disability policy framework. It is driving action at all levels of government to improve the lives of people with disability. Importantly, it also aims to engage, inform and involve the whole community in achieving a more inclusive society.

Tourism Australia has a range of resources to assist tourism businesses on their accessibility journey.

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THRIVE 2030 is Australia’s national strategy for the long-term sustainable growth of the visitor economy.