Elizabeth Aston, senior advisor in industry affairs at Amadeus tells Travel Daily Media about the need for better accessible travel services.
Why is Amadeus encouraging the industry to provide a better service for accessible travel?
At some point during our lives, we are all likely to have some accessibility requirements, temporary or permanent, whether from disability, injury, illness or age.
Across the world by 2050, over a fifth of the population will have accessibility needs of some kind. These people are a hugely significant and growing demographic that must be inherently acknowledged and incorporated into travel processes from their creation.
Today, bolting options onto the end of travel packages or systems incites a poor, inconsistent and incoherent level of service that travellers cannot rely on.
Inaccessible transport can significantly obstruct people’s daily lives, not simply limiting holiday options, but hindering education, employment, healthcare and social life.
The travel industry must adapt into being accessible, to open global experiences to millions of people, as well as providing on-the-ground services that are able to serve those with accessibility needs like any other traveller.
Accessible travel is not a luxury in today’s world, it is a right enshrined by the United Nations, and our industry must take responsibility to provide it.
Why did the company carry out the study Voyage of discovery: Working towards inclusive and accessible travel for all?
Voyage of Discovery is based on interviews with over 800 accessible travel specialists from a variety of perspectives. Amadeus commissioned this study to increase awareness of accessibility in our industry in the hope of inciting collaborative, strategic planning from key players.
We want to work alongside our partners to innovative and develop new solutions to make the travel industry as inclusive as possible. It is a social and cultural imperative that must be addressed.
We have a golden, dual opportunity. Accessible travel, as well as being a public good, represents a largely untapped, and lucrative, marketplace. This market is worth $70 billion in the US and EU alone.
What are the findings and what steps can the travel industry take for better accessible travel?
The study found that, overall, accessible travel received an unsatisfactory rating of just over 6/10. In Voyage of Discovery, we wanted to tackle this figure through outlining four key building blocks for the ideal accessible travel experience.
These are standardised content, responsive service and a personalized offer, all underpinned by strong and clear communications and enabling technologies.
Currently, a damaging lack of content, inaccurate and inconsistent information as well as poorly trained staff represent major barriers to fully accessible travel.
Data must be harnessed more intelligently to strategically provide tailored offers to accessible travellers. This will eliminate fears of nasty surprises and journey obstructions.
Internationally, we must work together to universalize accessibility standards, as well as create trusted, central sources for information. This will reinstate trust, fulfilment and confidence among accessibility travellers, encouraging them to travel more widely.
Technology can be utilised in making these developments a reality. Creating tools which are dynamic, clear and effective will dramatically improve how accessible travel is managed. Web navigation as well as mobile capabilities are just the tip of what we can achieve together.
We must place ourselves in the shoes of those with accessibility needs to really drive effective developments.
What advice do you have for travel agents selling accessible holidays and/or holidays for people with accessibility needs?
At Amadeus, we believe that accessible travel must be viewed, and tackled, comprehensively and collaboratively.
The industry needs to move away from the misconception that accessibility is all about facilities, and think about each step of a process that can be made more inclusive before moving along the chain.
If one part, say personalization, is greatly improved whilst information stays inadequate and elusive, the experience will change very little for the traveller.
Comprehensive and interlinked development of information, personalization, standardisation and the customer service level will together transform the capabilities of people with accessibility needs.
Not only will this generate greater revenue for travel agents, but the quality of life for millions will increase.