Cruise Planners December LB 2017

The 8 Most Common Mistakes with Accessible Travel (and How to Avoid Them)


John Sage
Accessible Travel Solutions

By 2020, it is expected that one-quarter of all travel dollars will be spent on accessible travel! Do you want to be a part of it? Are you prepared for it?

The good news is that with the right tools and a solid accessible travel partner, you will be well equipped to handle requests from clients with accessibility needs, and grow your business in the profitable, accessible travel market! Venturing into a new area of the global travel market can be an exciting yet demanding thing to do…this goes for accessible travel as well.

First of all, accessibility features vary depending on the desired vacation destination. While there are set official accessibility standards in some parts of the world, that is far from the case everywhere. This makes planning accessible travel challenging.

Secondly, while some people will mention their disability to you upfront, many, especially seniors, either don’t feel comfortable sharing that information or don’t know how to precisely communicate their accessibility needs in each destination.

Planning accessible travel can be intimidating at first, but it can also be very rewarding…and profitable! This list of the 8 Most Common Mistakes with Accessible Travel and the corresponding tips on how to avoid them, will help get you off to a good start. It won’t only give you a better understanding of the needs of your disabled and senior clients, it will also help build a strong relationship with your clients and encourage them to return to you again for future travel assistance!

#1. Over-Promising What You Can Deliver

The first mistake made with accessible travel is over-promising what you can deliver. You likely haven’t thought of some of the accessibility barriers your disabled or senior clients will encounter during their trip. Small errors or a seemingly minor detail can have major impact on the outcome of your clients’ vacation. If they are promised accessible hotel accommodation in Rome, an accessible room won’t suffice if the entire neighborhood is filled with severe cobblestones and curbs, leaving your client unable to navigate the surrounding area on their own. Or maybe you have booked your client on a cruise, secured one of the disabled rooms and made sure they have mobility equipment available, only to find out that the cruise itinerary includes tenders and your client can’t get ashore. The best way to avoid overpromising is thorough research and planning. Investigate accessibility details before telling your client you can plan the trip, and give them as much information as possible beforehand to set a realistic expectation level.

#2 Under-Promising What a Disabled Person Can Experience

On the other end of the spectrum is the mistake of telling a disabled or senior person they can’t visit a certain destination because of their disability. If they have plenty of assistance by other members of their group or are willing to hire locals to assist them, it’s often possible to meet their accessibility needs. If your client wants to explore Mayan ruins in a wheelchair, your initial response might be that it isn’t possible based on your memories of the stairs and rocky terrain from your visit to Tulum. However, with extra assistance, a guide familiar with the needs of disabled travelers, and accessible tour routes especially designed for disabled clients, they won’t have to miss out! Also, just because the cruise line doesn’t offer an accessible shore excursion option that appeals to your client, it doesn’t mean that your clients will have to stay on the ship. Accessible snorkeling excursions, accessible jungle drives and accessible visits to Ephesus can all be done through private outfitters. Look beyond what the cruise lines offer – your clients will love you for it!

#3 Being Afraid To Offer Alternatives

If you think you know if a perfect fit for your clients’ accessibility needs, tell them about it! Just because someone says “I want to see Pompeii” doesn’t mean you can’t suggest the more accessible Herculaneum instead. Or if they have a special request to snorkel in Bonaire, you could suggest a more accessible option in Aruba. Maybe someone asks you to visit Cortona (setting for Under the Tuscan Sun) and you share with them that Siena is just as beautiful and far more accessible. Your job will be to find out why they are taking the vacation and, if necessary, recommend a different destination that offers them accessible versions of those experiences. This is not a compromise. This is a tool to avoid compromising… After all, the goal is to create beautiful, unforgettable vacation memories and your clients depend on you to help them with that.

#4 Trusting Hotel Search Engine Websites

Relying solely on a hotel search engine is not a good idea when it comes to booking accessible accommodation for your clients. Over 40% of the hotels incorrectly self-report their accessibility to the search engine websites! It’s not that they’re trying to deceive you…it’s more so that the person at the front desk doing the reporting doesn’t truly understand accessible design. Instead be sure to speak with a disabled person who has stayed at the hotel or someone who has specifically inspected accessibility at the hotel.

#5 Trusting Internet Accessibility Information

So much of the information you will find on internet forums like Trip Advisor is outdated, or questions are answered by people wanting to help but who gives information such as “Venice can’t be visited in a wheelchair” or “Barcelona is accessible and you won’t run into any problems”. Both incorrect! Instead, speak with someone with a disability who has visited the destination or consult an accessible travel expert.

#6 Trying to Rush the Planning of an Accessible Vacation

Even if you understand all the components of an accessible vacation, it still takes a lot of time to get responses from all the hotels, drivers, guides, train station employees, airlines, equipment rental companies, etc… If a client comes to you last minute, don’t be afraid to suggest a later travel date so all the details can be ironed out and the perfect vacation can be arranged. Most disabled and senior clients won’t see it as a shortcoming. Instead, it shows them what great detail and care you’re putting into THEIR accessible vacation.

#7 Forgetting to Emphasize the Importance of Purchasing Travel Insurance

With disabled travelers, you often need to purchase the travel insurance within 1 or 2 weeks of paying the deposit, or else pre-existing medical conditions won’t be covered. Be sure to offer travel insurance early.

#8 Using a Travel Supplier Who Doesn’t Specialize in Accessible Travel

Regular travel suppliers might tell you that they can customize their services to fit your clients’ accessibility needs, but often the outcome is far from hassle-free. Indeed, their tour guide might say their tour is accessible but not remember that there are curbs and no accessible bathrooms along the route. We know better and so do you! The best way to book worry-free, truly accessible travel services is through a thorough, reliable accessible travel partner who specializes in the market and has the contacts necessary to give your client the accessible vacation of a lifetime.

With Accessible Travel Solutions there is no guessing… Accessible travel is all we do! We offer proven accessible travel services including Tours, Transfers, Packages and Group Travel, and we even include 24 hour emergency accessible travel assistance to your clients during their trip!