It's time to make accessible travel a priority

By 2050, one fifth of the world’s travelers will have some kind of accessibility need. Meaning that accessible travel is not only a ‘must’ from a sustainability perspective, but is also a great business opportunity for the travel industry. However, as a new Amadeus report shows, we still have a long way to go to give these travelers the experience they crave.

Did you know that 15% of the world’s population – roughly one billion people – live with some form of disability? That 20% of the global population will be over 65 by 2050? That these travelers in the US and Europe alone represent a USD 70-billion market? That’s according to a new report from Amadeus “Voyage of discovery: Working towards inclusive and accessible travel for all” which puts the spotlight on the two billion people around the world who have accessibility issues due to disability and age. 

“We don’t want anything special, just to travel like anyone elseWe don’t want anything special, just to travel like anyone else” was the general message from the interviewees. But, what they do want for a premium travel experience are communication support services, personalized guided visits, health services and personalized insurance.The report also shows that travelers with accessibility needs expect their needs to be met as part of the main-stream service with no extra cost.

Our study revealed that, overall, their needs are not being met by the travel industry nor the public sector. Our respondents ranked their overall travel experience – an evaluation of the accessibility conditions - as just 6.2 out of 10.

Breaking down the barriers

According to the Amadeus report, one of the biggest barriers to accessible travel is the lack of accurate and detailed information available and a gap in customer service skills. How can we improve this rating? Well, they want four things: more effective communication with clearly presented, easy-to-navigate, reliable and up-to-date accessibility information; more integrated and standardized sources of information; well-trained and empathic customer service agents; and travel segments to be tailored to their specific needs. 

“Improving accessibility in travel means enhancing usability for all customers. Lifting barriers to travel, personalizing the travel offer, using technology to further facilitate travelers’ experiences and creating more accessible infrastructure where people can navigate autonomously will benefit everybody,” says Alex Luzárraga, Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Amadeus.

Technology and collaboration key to success

Technology – mobile devices, personalized services, improved web navigation and better access to relevant content - is a key enabler to provide user friendly, dynamic and effective tools to better manage travel experiences. Developments such as voice recognition are already starting to become the norm and standardized content and services would improve consistency across the industry. Improving accessible travel also requires collaboration between travel providers, the public and private sectors, policy makers, organizations that represent those with accessibility needs, and travelers.

“While technology has a key role to play as an enabler in broadening people’s access to travel, it is also necessary to work together with consumers and the private and public sectors to consolidate industry standards that ensure accessible travel for all becomes a reality,” says Tomas López Fernebrand, Senior Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary, Amadeus.  

Accessible tourism: a basic human right

So, what does a seamless accessible trip look like? It won’t be about getting a long list of accessible destinations and accessibility-friendly airlines. No, it will be one where the traveler does not need to ‘declare’ his or her disability because the travel experience will be as easily navigable for him or her as for anyone else. 

And, as Taleb Rifai, UN World Tourism Organization (WTO) Secretary General, says: “Accessibility is a central element of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy. We must come to appreciate that accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities or special needs; it benefits us all.”



About the report
Accessibility is an important part of Amadeus’ Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. This study was conducted by Amadeus together with ILUNION, which is part of ONCE (the Spanish national organization for the blind). It included 800 interviews with travelers with accessibility needs – visual, hearing, cognitive and physical disabilities and senior travelers over 65 in Europe, the US and India. Industry experts, private-public sector representatives and international institutions were also interviewed.

The purpose of the study was to better understand the needs of travelers with accessibility needs, and to identify a framework for action for the travel industry.

Click here to get the full report.