Mind The Accessibility Gap – ENAT Conference 2014

Accessible Tourism Statistics UK

Visit England commissioned research in 2013 to understand the volume and size of the UK Accessible Tourism market. The findings highlight the value and volume of UK disabled visitors contributing to the total value and volume of the UK Tourist industry. In 2013 a staggering twelve point four billion pounds was spent by groups of visitors where a member of the party had an impairment, 20% of the total spent on day trips and overnight trips that year. These figures suggest the significant contribution disabled visitors and their families contribute to the overall volume and value to the UK Tourism market. The Accessible Tourism market is worth investing in!

 Accessible Tourism statistics UK The illustration below clearly suggests that only 6% of the total number of disabled visitors are wheelchair users.  Accessible Tourism statistics UK


It is fair to conclude;

  • Whilst physical access and standard of facilities is paramount for some disabled visitors, the majority, 80% of disabled visitors do not require ramps, or assistance in moving around or accessing facilities at an attraction,
  • Access is really about providing information, customer service and facilities, not just ramps.

Download The Purple Pound – Volume and Value of Accessible Tourism in England

Families with Disabled Children Statistics

There are 770,000 registered disabled children in the UK, that’s 1 in 20 of the total number of children residing in the UK. (Office for Disability Issues, 2012) Of this total:

  • 21% of children in families with at least one disabled member live in poverty, a significantly higher proportion than the 16% of children in families with no disabled member,
  • Around 20% of disabled people report having difficulties related to their impairment or disability in accessing transport,
  • In 2012, the Contact a Family “Counting the Costs” survey reported that, nearly 86% of families with disabled children reported that they cannot afford days out, and that access to leisure facilities and holidays is radically reduced when a family has a disabled child,
  • Barnardo’s reports that disabled children are much more likely to be socially excluded due to poverty, discrimination and segregation.

Figures taken from KIDS Playday Survey 2013. As a result many UK families struggle with the pressures of raising a disabled child. Typically;

  • It costs an estimated 3 times more to raise a disabled child than a non-disabled child,
  • 65% of families feel isolated from society,
  • 72% of families experience mental health issues,
  • 86% of families have not taken a family day out together in twelve.
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Research taken from: Scope Disabled Families in Flux, Removing Barriers to Family Life, 2011. Forgotten Families, Contact a Family 2011.

Visits Unlimited: Bridging the Gap

In February 2014 we conducted a survey targeting 50 popular UK tourist destinations. Following feedback from families with disabled children, we wanted to compare the wishes of disabled visitors and their families against the level of understanding, desire and commitment, tourist destinations placed on meeting the needs of disabled visitors and making their attractions truly accessible to all. The survey conclusions found:

  • All attractions want to increase footfall and revenue,
  • All appreciated the benefit of marketing to families with disabled children,
  • There is a misconception that access is predominantly related to physical access around a venue with less emphasis on appropriate information and staff training
  • Most venues desired more skills and opportunities to serve this market, including support with marketing their attraction,
  • Budget restrictions in developing an accessible strategy was an adverse factor in planning but in only a minority of cases,
  • Marketing unique aspects for individual heritage sector properties was difficult because of central control of marketing services including website content management and control.

Attraction Challenges included:

  • 50% stated physical barriers hindered attracting disabled visitors,
  • No attractions stated there were staffing challenges in meeting the needs of disabled visitors,
  • 25% stated there were budgetary restrictions in developing their offer for families with disabled children,
  • 56% stated they had budget for business development,
  • 75% stated they had budget for staff development.

Attraction Aspirations included:

  • All attractions responded stating they wished for increased footfall,
  • All respondents appreciated the benefit of marketing their attraction as disabled family friendly,
  • 88% stated they wished to maximise additional marketing opportunities,
  • 75% wished for further advice and training in improving their offer for families with disabled children
  • 69% wished to improve skill set in improving the visitor experience for disabled visitors – higher on the priority list of families with disabled children than physical access provision.

Download the VU Yorkshire Survey

Visits Unlimited Market Summary

Over the course of 2014, Visits Unlimited has networked with key bodies, organisations, policy makers and well-known figures in the UK and International Accessible Tourism industry. We conclude there is a growing awareness in the UK general population and the tourism industry, in understanding and accepting the benefits in investing time, resource and capital to formulate dedicated organisational accessibility strategy within marketing plans. A truly accessible venue or service provider will address three aspects;

  • Information they provide to disabled visitors,
  • Address training needs for employees and volunteers in improving customer service for disabled visitors,
  • Address site facilities including toileting facilities, vital for so many disabled visitors.

Visits Unlimited ensure organisations and venues meet these three key aspects in order to support disabled visitors and ensure disabled people and their families are:

“Broadening Horizons, Creating Memories”