What makes a tourism destination accessible? 🌆👩🦼🤔
Travel is one of the best experiences life has. Yet why doesn't the tourism industry actively make it easier for people with a disability?
You might be surprised with the level of thought and research it takes to ensure accessibility. To start with, why doesn't the accommodation industry commonly list that they have accessible rooms, for example?
Connect with Peta:
The website: www.icantstandpodcast.com
References for this episode:
Disability, social inclusion and the marketing of tourist attractions
Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to The I Can’t Stand Podcast. The podcast answering your questions on what life. Is like when you have a disability. This week I'm going to talk about what makes a destination accessible and what sort of things you have to think about when you have a disability in order to travel. If you have a question. That you'd like me to answer for a future episode of the podcast, there are three. Ways you can get in contact with me, One via my Instagram, my handle is @petahooke spelt Peta Hooke via email. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or via my website icantstandpodcast.com. Okay. Without any further ado, let's get into it.
Peta [00:01:10] Being the start of winter. Like many Australians, I start to think about where I go on a holiday. It's always a fun thing. To think about, isn't it? Like for many people with disabilities, going on a holiday is a pretty challenging prospect. In some ways, staying. At home can often feel like more of a holiday than being on holiday itself. Now, that doesn't mean that people with disabilities don't travel. Of course we do. I love to travel. As many of you know, it's a great passion of my life. As COVID is starting to change and we're now able to think about travel again.
Peta [00:01:57] I have been considering my options and doing a little bit of research. So today I'm going to talk you through some of the elements of what makes an accessible destination. What elements I have to think about as someone with a physical disability who uses a wheelchair that determines my ability to go on a holiday.
[00:02:22] So I. Let's pretend you and I are going to go on a holiday together. How do we choose where we're going to go? Well, if I'm going to put my nerd. On for a moment. And you look at. It from. A marketing perspective when you look at. Something called the customer journey. It starts with awareness. You have to be aware of a destination to want to go travel to it. Then you might become interested in that destination. There is then a desire to travel to that destination. There's been an action like booking a holiday or booking a trip, and then you advocate or review your experience at that destination. And based on your reviews, more people then become aware of that destination.
Peta [00:03:21] So let's just say amongst the many places that we're both aware of, we think about going to Queensland for a holiday. We have an interest in Queensland based on the marketing that we've seen or maybe Tik Tok or Instagram or YouTube, which then builds our desire. Through that desire. We decide to book our trip. We're off to Queensland. We have a great time together. Of course we do. Full of all margaritas we could ever drink. We then review our experiences at Queensland. Whether that be talking to friends and family or putting up reviews on social media.
Peta [00:04:08] I really wish that finding the best flat we can afford. Finding the best hotel we can afford and finding the best place for a margarita is all I'd ever have to research as a tourist but in reality, travelling for me. Is complicated and requires so much research. Everything from is there accessible taxis in the destination? How are we getting from the airport to the hotel? Do I have. To get a specific disabled pass to get on the trains? Well, they recognise my disabled parking permit if we hire a car. Is the hotel accessible itself? Can I physically get in the front door? Because, believe it or not, there have been hotels that have been marked as wheelchair accessible. But there's a step at the front door. What if the lift is too small in the hotel and my wheelchair physically doesn't fit? Or you get to your accessible room, you go into the bathroom and you realise the accessible bathroom only has a bath. Which for me, who cannot. Stand or transfer independently, would result in me not being able to have a shower for the whole time that we're staying in the hotel. Accessibility hasn't been defined in the hotel industry really at all. From an Australian legal perspective, there's nothing that defines an accessible room. It's up to the interpretation of the hotel chain of what makes that room accessible.
Peta [00:05:55] You would think because of that, that would entice. The hotel industry to have as much. Information about their accessible rooms on the Internet as possible. I challenge you to Google a hotel and I bet you it won't. Even list whether it has accessible rooms as an option, let alone actual photos of what the room looks like or what the bathroom looks like. I normally have to email the hotel chain individually and get somebody from the front desk to physically take photos of the room. To make sure that there isn't a little step between the bathroom and the bedroom and that there is, in fact, a role in shower and that I can. Physically turn around in my wheelchair in the bathroom, that my portable hoist can fit under the bed. And let's not forget that I might not actually be able to open the door to the room myself because the door is fire safe, which makes it super heavy. So while many people would just think, oh, it's it's bigger, right? Your room's bigger and you might have some handrails in your accessible bathroom. That itself does not make an accessible hotel.
Peta [00:07:23] But that's not considering whether the actual destination itself is accessible. I find myself constantly on Google Maps, trying to see whether the pavements are accessible, trying to see whether they have kerb ramps trying to figure out whether the restaurants have a step in front of them. Trying to figure out whether the tourist attractions are accessible. It would be really, really hard to go all the way to Rome, for example, and find that I, in fact, can't go into the Colosseum because it's not accessible.
Peta [00:08:04] Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to say let's stick a modern left in the Coliseum. If it can't be made accessible, then it needs to be stated on websites. It's all about setting expectations and allowing for good communication to be received to the potential traveller. I'm more than happy if I can't get into the Coliseum. If I've been told before I got on the plane, before I picked my trip. If I can't get into the Coliseum. And I knew that already and I booked my trip, then that's that's totally fine. But it's really disappointing to get all the way over to the other side of the world and find that the information that you've been told isn't, in fact, correct. I haven't even gone to the fact that there are also cultural barriers in certain countries. So I'm hoping this isn't correct. But through my past research, I have found that one of the reasons why places like Indonesia is an accessible is because culturally people with disabilities are considered to be coerced. So there is no impetus for the community to make Indonesia accessible. Or in some Asian cultures, steps are put in to stop bad omens, bad spirits from coming into their businesses. That's part of the reason why many of these destinations are completely inaccessible to someone like me. And while that can be tricky for me to understand, I have to respect that. That's their culture. But that is the sort of information that is really hard to find when you're trying to research a destination. Not only does it feel slightly racist to be putting those sort of questions into Google, but also you're not likely to say that on a travel campaign or any travel information.
Peta [00:10:21] Researching for a troop is really, really complicated when you have a disability and that's we're still in 2022. I get so frustrated with both the information on the general Internet through destination information and destination marketing. And also academic journals with the lack of progression, lack of information, and lack of solution to helping people with disabilities travel more freely and equitably.
Peta [00:10:56] I think it really highlights. The fact that people don't know what makes things accessible to disabled people because disabled people are not given the positions to help educate other people in the tourism industry on what makes things accessible. To me, that just highlights how much the tourism industry are ignoring us as a demographic and a segment.
Peta [00:11:27] I'm guesstimating that that might be a lot to do with fear that they don't know how to best serve us as customers. But also, I would guess it's because they think that the economic stimulation that our segment would give the industry would not be financially viable to the amount of money that would require them to fix issues.
Peta [00:11:57] But let's not forget. Inaccessibility isn't all because of the tourism industry. Destinations are also places people live. So local government, local council are also to blame for inaccessibility. When you think about Melbourne. Melbourne is one of the most visited cities here in Australia and yet our public transport system isn't projected to be fully accessible until 2050.
Peta [00:12:37] So how accessible a place is not only determines the life of its citizens, but also determines how appealing a destination is for disabled tourists. I am more likely to visit a destination that is held up as extremely accessible.
Peta [00:13:02] There are quite a few people on social media trying to illustrate and share information with other disabled people. But I'm really surprised by destinations throughout the world not utilising disabled voices and showing the accessibility of their destination. As I said at the start of this episode, part of the customer journey for all tourists, regardless of whether they have a disability or not is to look at advocacy. To look at reviews and to look at experiences. Surely this is a massive opportunity that the tourism industry needs to tap into, or at least better utilised than they are today. I really don't understand why there hasn't been an accessible tourism show of some description and if there has, please let me know. But. I think it would make for a great opportunity, a great branding exercise for a destination to spotlight the accessibility in their city. Particularly with the opportunities now that streaming services bring. With that global audience, there would be a massive opportunity there to illustrate to the millions of people with disabilities. Of the destinations that are, in fact accessible. Coming from a legitimate and trusted information source because that is part of the biggest challenge of travelling with a disability.
[00:14:47] Much of the information you pick up is from dribs and drabs of different information sources from different levels of credibility. So as a disabled person I am generally taking a leap and trusting in often a stranger that their information is correct. You would only need a handful of people with disabilities around the world. That show accessibility and the barriers that they face to really show not only potential tourists why they should go visit their destination, but also show to that destination itself, the sort of barriers that we face as a customer group.
Peta [00:15:37] It would bring so much positive PR, so much economic stimulation to a destination. But also alleviate so much anxiety and give back so much time to disabled people wanting to travel to a destination. It seems like a marketing no brainer.
Peta [00:16:01] I might be naive. But I believe if people were just better educated and actually shown the sort of elements that stop disabled people travelling. The more likely those issues would be fixed. To me, this is a method to allow for destinations to truly start to understand what accessibility is, what it looks like on the ground from a practical perspective, and to see actual people try to interact with the inaccessibility of destinations. It will allow for academics to stop talking in circles. Highlighting the same barriers that have been highlighting. For the last 20 years. It also will allow people like me and people like you to just go on holiday.
Peta [00:17:07] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed it if you did. Can I encourage you to leave writing and review? If you listen on Apple Podcasts. It helps more people find the podcast or simply hit, follow or subscribe. Thanks again. And until next week. Bye.