Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and Accessible Accommodation are urging service providers to train-up for Australia’s accessible needs travel market

People with a disability account for 17% of the total tourism revenue in Australia, worth $3.3 billion and the fastest growing travel sector in the country. Yet many Australian hotels fall short in offering truly accessible and comfortable accommodation for people with disabilities or accessible needs travellers.

In addition, the ageing baby boomers hold 53% of the nation’s wealth, and with many now aged over 65, seek safe accessible accommodation when they travel. This is a huge business opportunity for accommodation providers.

Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA) and Accessible Accommodation have launched their Inclusion Services Training Program – an online course to help accommodation providers feel confident in their offerings for providing accessible rooms & facilities and welcoming guests with accessibility needs. Among those who have already taken the training are Crowne Plaza Darling Harbour and Aligned Corporate Residences.

SCIA is an organisation built and run by people with the lived experience of traveling with disabilities. They understand the challenges faced by travellers with accessibility needs and advocate for inclusiveness and positive travel experiences for people, their families and carers.  

“We’ve created this training program to work with accommodation providers on their accessible offerings so they can not only improve the travel experience for people with disabilities and accessibility needs but also so these providers can maximise their business potential. It’s a win-win,” says Dianne Lucas, CEO of SCIA.

“Our training includes recognising examples of accessible and usable accommodation, and the contrary, and aims to give providers the tools to provide accommodation for all,” says Dianne. “It was created by some incredible brains at SCIA and Kerry Williams from Accessible Accommodation who worked closely with our great network of people with lived experience who are often left disappointed and frustrated when they travel.”

“While Australian hotels offering accessible accommodation are required to adhere to regulations to advertise as accessible, this doesn’t necessarily translate to guest comfort for those living a disability. The course includes practical, cost-effective solutions to create a truly welcoming guest experience,” says Kerry Williams from Accessible Accommodation.

“I’ve recently completed the training and would urge other accommodation providers to complete it,” says Eugene Human, General Manager at Crowne Plaza Sydney Darling Harbour, “We can all benefit from improving our accessibility offerings and to fully understand what is truly needed to ensure comfort for people with accessibility needs.”

Nu Nizam, General Manager of Aligned Corporate Residences Kew, has committed to the training to ensure ACR Kew can provide the highest standard of accessible accommodation.

Reflecting on his experience in hotels, he said, “Time and time again, Aussies with accessibility requirements book accommodation “catering to their needs” and arrive to find that they can’t use the shower, their carer can’t walk around their bed, or they can’t make their way into the pool. While these accommodation providers advertise as accessible, they offer the bare minimum and so often don’t meet the expectations of these travellers to make a stay enjoyable.”

Ashlee Morton has been a paraplegic since she was two years old and has had countless encounters with hotel rooms advertised as accessible yet the reality being vastly different. Ashlee travels with her two kids and knows too well the frustrations that come with accessibility issues with accommodation.

“I travel a lot – for work and pleasure and have had too many negative experiences when checking into a hotel,” she says. “Many hotels meet minimum requirements to claim they’re accessible yet having no lived experience, don’t fully understand what travellers with disabilities need to be comfortable. It’s really heart-warming to see businesses finally realising that these small changes aren’t small to people like me, who need room for my equipment and every day human needs like having a shower.”

The training is available now. Please access the page for detailed information about the online inclusion training for accommodation providers.

The training takes approximately two hours and provides a certificate of completion.

All accommodation providers are urged to do their part and complete the training so they too can provide comfortable accommodation to all.

The accessible travel market figures:

  • The recent pandemic demonstrated how important local travel can be. From March 2019 to March 2020 there was a 60% drop in international visitors to Australia. However, accessible travel in Australia is the fastest-growing travel sector, and it is in our own back yard.
  • There are approximately 4.2 million Australians with disability, which accounts for almost 20 per cent of Australia’s population, and around 1.8 billion people with disability worldwide, or 15 per cent of the world’s population.
  • People with a disability account for 17% of the total tourism revenue in Australia. This is increasing because funding bodies such as the NDIS can fund up to 28 days allowance for accommodation. People with a disability have the opportunity to travel more.
  • There are 15,000 people with a spinal cord injury in Australia.
  • There are 971k Australians with neurological and spinal conditions. 
  • Over the next 40 years the proportion of Australians over 65 will double to be approximately 25% of the total population.
  • People with disability spent $3.3 billion on tourism services in 2019, accounting for 17 per cent of all tourism expenditure.
  • Worldwide there are 1.85 billion people with a disability. When combined with family and carers, that is 3.4 billion people, a market bigger than the China and EU travel market combined. 
  • People with a disability often travel with family or a carer (resulting in non-accessible rooms booked as well). This is called the multiplier effect and is estimated an at an additional value of 0.5%.
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