Trade can tap in to accessible tourism

Conference will highlight importance of meeting all visitors’ needs

Doors open: VisitScotland’s Mike Cantlay said hospitality operators have “gone to great lengths” to make venues accessible.

SCOTLAND’S hospitality and tourism businesses are leading the way when it comes to accessibility – and it’s time they shouted about it.

That was message last week from VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay, who said the majority of operators have “gone to great lengths” to make their pub, restaurant, hotel or visitor attraction easy to use for everyone.
But he said more needs to be done to show just how accessible Scotland is to day-trippers and holidaymakers.
Speaking to SLTN last week, Cantlay said operators who promote accessibility can tap into a lucrative market.
Domestic trips to Scotland by visitors with access needs are said to have brought £121 million to the Scottish economy in the six months from January to June 2009.
There are said to be 11m disabled people in the UK (16% of the population) – a figure that’s set to rise as the population ages; 2m people have a sight impairment and there are 9m people registered deaf or hard of hearing.
VisitScotland was quick to stress that accessibility issues do not just apply to people with a physical disability – the elderly, mums with prams and pushchairs and people with temporary injuries are among others with particular needs.
The tourism marketing body also noted that making a bar, restaurant or hotel accessible is about more than physical alterations to the premises, saying that staff training is also key.
To help operators improve accessibility, VisitScotland will host the Accessible Tourism Conference at Edinburgh International Conference Centre on March 12 as part of Scottish Tourism Week.
Speakers include VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead, tourism minister Fergus Ewing, David Grevemberg, chief executive of Glasgow Commonwealth 2014, Philip Biggs of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Elspeth Moloney of Capability Scotland.
Cantlay said the event is designed to help those who want to become more accessible – and those who are keen to market their facilities.
“Scotland has a real specialism in this field and it’s time we exploited it to the full,” he told SLTN.
“We believe Scotland has a story to tell in terms of how the industry has worked to make Scotland more accessible.
“Much of the trade has gone to great lengths to be more accessible. Scotland is a leader in this field, but we need to market it.
“It’s a massive marketing opportunity.
“As an individual business it is a unique selling point and we need to sell it.
“In many countries, visitor numbers are down. We’re in good shape but, in the short-term, it’s tough.
“We’ve got to play to our strengths and this is one of them.”

Images – Doors open: VisitScotland’s Mike Cantlay said hospitality operators have “gone to great lengths” to make venues accessible.