EU funding set to boost accessible tourism in England


newslatestA national disability charity has welcomed new European Union (EU) funding which will boost plans to promote England as a “leading destination for accessible tourism”.

VisitEngland, the national travel board, will develop and promote access in partnership with tourism bosses in Kent, Birmingham, Lincoln, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Brighton and the Peak District and Derbyshire.

The project will involve 56 businesses trying to improve their own accessibility to disabled tourists, while there will also be new visitor guides for each destination.

And a national marketing campaign next year will encourage disabled visitors to take a short accessible break in England.

The project will run until March 2016 and is the next stage in a campaign, Access for All, which aims to position England as a leading destination for disabled tourists, with the latest stage funded by a €125,000 grant from the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.

Through a pilot project, Access for All has already supported four English destinations to create accessible experiences, with new guides highlighting accessible attractions and accommodation in Bath, Brighton, Leicestershire and Newcastle-Gateshead.

Carrie-Ann Lightley, information service manager for Tourism for All UK, the accessible tourism charity, welcomed the EU funding.

She said the national campaign would show businesses that “you need to make yourselves accessible, make adaptations fabulous, but you do need to shout about it”.

As a wheelchair-user who travels, she will not go anywhere unless she has checked it is accessible, because it is “simply not worth the risk”.

She said: “I think things seem to be steadily improving and surely that has got to be better than stagnating.”

But Lightley said there were still “issues around information provision”, while there was not enough emphasis on staff training.

She said: “Staff attitudes and how staff welcome disabled customers, and even ask the right questions when someone is booking an accessible hotel room, are of huge importance.”

VisitEngland says new research shows that the overnight accessible tourism market is worth £3 billion a year to the English economy, with day visits bringing nearly £10 billion more.

Over the past four years, overnight trips by disabled travellers and their companions have increased by a fifth, with spending rising by one-third.

5 November 2014