Imagine a future when people with accessibility needs or any kind of disability could travel just like anybody else. Think of a travel experience without barriers. Think of accessible travel and tourism for all.
According to the World Health Organisation, 15% of the population have some type of disability. Add to the equation that by 2050, 21.5% of the world population will be over 60. Now you realise that seniors and people with disabilities are a growing segment that the travel industry could consider to be an opportunity, and not only a cost.
Research indicates that half of persons with accessibility needs don’t travel at all. And among the ones that do, you might be surprised to know that 9 out of 10 would travel more if the travel process were seamless and less cumbersome for them. Additionally, governments globally are increasingly focusing on the rights of persons with disabilities, and have put in place regulations to ensure that e.g. websites are designed with accessibility in mind. In the EU, moreover, Passenger Rights regulations very specifically protect the accessibility rights of Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRMs) in transport and tourism.
So accessibility is likely to become increasingly important, whether driven by regulations, market potential, or a moral obligation of our industry to work towards better inclusion. We at Amadeus firmly believe that travel technology has a crucial role to play in improving accessibility. In particular, the lack of accessible technology during the planning, search, book and purchase stages is the first key pain point we have identified amongst travellers with accessibility needs. Another major pain point highlighted is the lack of effective connectivity amongst the different travel modes. This has a direct impact on their travel experience and on their ability and desire to travel.
In Amadeus we think we all can go even further than this. We aspire to generate greater awareness within the global travel industry ecosystem about the potential that accessible travel has to drive inclusive growth. Enabling what we call “accessibility by design” can help improve the overall user experience. In this sense, we have made accessible one of our major booking engines for airlines, eRetail, which 38 airlines are already using today. In line with this, we are currently working on a global research project to identify the needs of this growing market segment, and how our customers can meet their specific needs.
We consider that the capacity to anticipate trends and social requirements is key to remaining a global leader in travel technology.
To facilitate this change within the travel sector, collaboration among industry stakeholders is critical, including new industry standards across transport modes.
Accessibility is not limited to technology or infrastructure. It is essentially all about inclusion. Inclusion of persons with accessibility needs or disabilities into society at large. In this area, admittedly, we still have a long way to go, especially with regard to integration of persons with disabilities in the workplace. As employers and as citizens we all share this obligation to improve inclusion and therefore our understanding of the specific accessibility needs that exclude so many from the world of travel and tourism.