The United Nations World Tourism Office (UNWTO) recently celebrated World Tourism Day 2016. As the CEO of brettapproved.com, a travel and entertainment website for anyone with a physical disability or mobility challenge, this year’s theme: “Tourism for All — Promoting Universal Accessibility,” was of particular interest to me.
I spend a lot of time thinking about and promoting accessible travel. Truthfully, the toughest challenge for me after leaving my successful journalism and public affairs career — where I never discussed my disability — is that now I feel like I’m constantly talking about it.
I’m emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted because nothing worth doing is easy, but few experiences beat working with an amazing team and transitioning the chasm from idea to reality, together.
The only thing that revs my engine more than the creative process is when I meet people who find value in the services brettapproved provides. Forging genuine relationships is a privilege that I’ll never take lightly.
When I’m speaking at a travel conference or to a group of hotel executives, I always remind the able-bodied audience members that people in chairs are just like them; we just sit down more.
We have the same aspirations and responsibilities. Like them, I say, we’re business and leisure travelers, too.
Fortunately, most people don’t experience the clammy-hands panic that envelops me when I see my wheelchair sitting alone on the tarmac. If something happens to it, I’m sunk.
The average traveler doesn’t understand that for me, and millions of travelers around the globe, accessible hotel accommodations are a necessity, not a luxury.
Slowly but surely the tide is turning. Statistics from the UNWTO point out that in Europe the accessible tourism market is estimated at approximately 27% of the total population.
Currently, however, travelers with disabilities only comprise 12% of the tourism market. Additionally, by 2050 the World Heath Organization says that nearly a quarter of the people on this planet will be 60 years of age or older.
Looking a bit closer to home, Open Doors Organization says that adults with disabilities in the U.S. spend more than $17.3 billion on travel annually. And since people with disabilities often travel with friends, family or colleagues, the economic impact of travelers with disabilities doubles to $34.6 billion.
This data paints a clear picture: in addition to being the right thing to do, catering to travelers with disabilities and mobility challenges is just good business.
The next time I’m in Manhattan, I’m going to swing by United Nations headquarters and thank them for shining a global spotlight on what I, along with countless others, work tirelessly to achieve — truly accessible travel.
Can I count on you? Are you in? Will you stand united with the 1 billion people in the word who experience a different level of physical ability than you do?
I hope so, because awareness is nothing without action.
Source: Daily News