VisitEngland Announces New Marketing Campaign to Develop and Promote Accessible Tourism

Todays announcement from VisitEngland is a significant milestone in recognising the economic and social significance of Inclusive Tourism. England like the rest of the western world, has an ageing demographic that is already impacting the demand for accessible holiday experiences. Worldwide now there are over 1 billion people with some form of disability and with friends and family there are over 4 billion or almost a third of world's population directly affected by disability. The tourism industry has been slow to react to the changing demographic and re-examine its product and service offerings despite repeated projections of the market share of inclusive tourism reaching 25% of the total tourism spend by 2020.

Many people often mistake Inclusive Tourism for access, and believe building ramps and "accessible" bathrooms in compliance with legislation is the end of the matter. Travelers with a disability are the same as any other traveller and they travel to see and experience the world. (see Deborah's great personal article) Why the tourism industry believes any traveller would be content to sit in their "accessible" room for their holiday defies the service culture of the industry and shows the the disabled traveler is not seen as a customer. It is not about building infrastructure, but building experiences and product and that has to start with a destination not a ramp. VisitEngland, with today's announcement have taken a significant step to leverage the cultural awareness created by the London paralympic games and in so doing create for the British tourism industry a signifcant competitve advantage. Other countries need to take a good look at the underlying reasons and the economic significance of Inclusive Tourism or they run the risk of being left out of the fastest growing market in tourism.

VisitEngland's Announcement

VisitEngland today unveiled plans for a national marketing campaign to promote accessible tourism in England next year. The national tourist board will work with five destinations to develop exciting itineraries with top class accommodation and attractions that provide a warm welcome for all visitors including those with access needs. The campaign, a first of its kind, will be promoted through marketing activity starting in late Summer 2013, and is designed to highlight the fantastic tourism experiences on offer to all across the country. 

VisitEngland will work with Leicester Shire Promotions, Visit Brighton, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Bath Tourism Plus and Chester & Cheshire to identify tourism businesses in their area that provide particularly excellent levels of service to visitors with access needs – such as those with hearing and visual impairments, wheelchair users, older and less mobile people and people with pushchairs.

The national tourist board will then work with the destinations and businesses to ensure that they all meet the same high standard of accessibility, focussing on key issues such as customer service and visitor information. This will incorporate a number of VisitEngland’s tools and resources, such as Access Statements and online disability awareness training. 

The campaign is funded by £100,000 from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) plus contributions from partners. It will provide a cost-effective opportunity for English destinations to showcase their accessible tourism businesses and attract more visits from disabled travellers and their companions; a sector worth almost £2billion a year to the domestic tourism industry*.

Paralympic Medallist and TV Presenter, Ade Adepitan, commented: 

“VisitEngland’s accessible tourism campaign is a fantastic example of Paralympic legacy. Promoting destinations in England which are easily accessible and cater to the needs of disabled visitors should inspire all of us to take a break here at home, with the peace of mind that our specific needs will be met so that we can enjoy our holidays to the full.”

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, commented: 

“The RGF money is a huge boost for accessible tourism in England; these new itineraries will showcase the best this country has to offer to all visitors, regardless of disability. We know that accessible tourism in England is worth almost £2billion, and we want to harness this growing, high-value market to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs.”

This marketing activity is phase two of a three-year investment project called ‘Growing Tourism Locally’. Funded by £19.8million from the RGF, the project aims to generate £365million in additional tourism spend over the three year period and inspire more Britons to take more holidays at home. The project should help to stimulate employment to grow jobs in the tourism sector by 9,100 over the three years.

The total investment of the three-year campaign will be approximately £41m including £19.8m from the Regional Growth Fund, £9m from VisitEngland, £12m leveraged from the national and local tourism sector.

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