VisitEngland, the national tourist board, launches a new Access for All campaign, aimed to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses in England, informing disabled people of accommodation and visitor attractions when planning a day trip or holiday. Following a successful pilot project in 2013/14 with four destinations; VisitEngland accessed funding from the European Commission to expand the Access for All initiative, with a grant of €125,000.
For the past year VisitEngland has been working with seven local destination partners across the country to create a series of access guides covering coastal, countryside and city destinations. These are:
- Visit Kent
- Marketing Birmingham
- Visit Lincoln
- Northumberland Tourism
- Visit Peak District and Derbyshire
- Experience Nottinghamshire
- Visit Brighton
56 businesses are involved in the project including a mix of accommodation and attractions such as Lincoln Cathedral, Brighton & Hove Buses, Chatsworth House, Turner Contemporary, Hotel La Tour, Vindolanda Roman Fort and Nottingham Belfry amongst many others. The businesses involved have worked hard to make changes – focusing on positive action – to improve perceptions of Accessible England.
VisitEngland research highlights that the overnight accessible tourism market is now worth £3billion to the English economy, with day visits bringing the figure up to £12.1 billion. Over the past few years overnight trips by disabled travellers and their companions have increased by 19 per cent with spend up by 33 per cent.
The Purple Pound presents tourism businesses and destinations with a huge opportunity for economic growth. New figures from VisitEngland confirm an approximate value of overnight accessible tourism to the destinations involved:
- Kent: £60m
- Birmingham: £50m
- Lincoln: £9m
- Northumberland: £65m
- Derbyshire: £45m
- Nottinghamshire: £30m
- Brighton and Hove: £14m
Some of the great initiatives include those introduced by Brighton & Hove Buses (part of the Go-Ahead group) which provides wheelchair access to 100 per cent of their fleet. They are trialling the use of hearing loop systems on a bus; have a Helping Hand yellow card scheme; offer a wheelchair taxi guarantee if someone cannot get onto the bus and have many innovations to help disabled visitors use their buses.
VisitEngland Chief Executive, James Berresford, said: "The accessible tourism market is worth a sizable £12.1 billion to the English economy and many tourism businesses are realising that catering for disabled customers is not only a necessity but a wise investment that brings a host of business benefits. Many of the changes businesses make may be small, but combined contribute significantly to the visitor experience."
The Access for All project has consisted of two phases: product development, where businesses receive direct support to improve their accessibility with the help of access advisors, and a national consumer marketing campaign launching today. The tourism businesses are being directly supported as part of the project to improve their accessibility. Accommodation and attractions have been audited by a professional access advisor and many have received a mystery visit from guests with accessibility requirements. A training course was held in each destination for accessibility champions and customer-facing staff have completed online disability awareness training. Businesses also received personal feedback on their Access Statement, improving information detailing their accessibility.