Britain has had a bumper year in the spotlight so far, thanks to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics, and now VisitEngland has announced it is keen to establish England a prime destination for disabled holidaymakers.
The tourist organisation says the industry is worth over £2 billion a year in England in terms of visitor spend, a significant number compared to the estimated yearly spend of £300 million by half a million overseas visitors to England.
VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford announced the new plans on the day of the Paralympics 2012 Opening Ceremony, saying: "The value to our industry is £2 billion. Our vision is to harness this high-growth market and become internationally recognised as a destination for people with access needs. We have to tell people about what we have and how accessible we are."
VisitEngland will be working with charitable organisation Tourism For All to help tourism-related businesses facilitate accessible services and has just launched an online guide called Winning More Visitors to help regional tourist boards attract more visitors who have disabilities.
More than a quarter of the total British population has a long-standing health problem or disability, which translates to about 11 million people and this figure will no doubt rise as the population ages.
The online tool Winning More Visitors includes information on how to plan travel to specific UK destinations, useful details on each area, local geography, terrain and the degree of accessibility of key tourist areas and accommodation. It also gives details of local hospitals, pharmacies, and accessible toilets.
The special guide should prove popular because a survey of 70 people with a disability or special access requirements (and their carers) by VisitEngland revealed that 83% of visitors looking for access information use destination websites but in actual fact only one in three finds it easy to locate the information they require.
In conjunction with the initiative, VisitEngland recently launched a training scheme to help tourism businesses welcome disabled customers and it’s the only organisation that runs a scheme that rates the accessibility of hotels, B&Bs and other holiday accommodation in England.