21 May 2012. With 100 days to go to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, VisitEngland has called on businesses across the country to ensure they provide the warmest of welcomes for visitors with access needs. Over one quarter of the UK population have a long-standing health problem or disability, and as England’s tourism industry prepares to welcome the world to the exciting events of this memorable year, it is more important than ever that we integrate the needs of visitors with physical and sensory access requirements into our everyday service provision.
VisitEngland works with a number of partners providing tools and resources to help tourism operators ensure they offer the best possible experience to disabled visitors. For more information, visit www.visitengland.org/access:
Access Statement Tools – Providing Visitor Information
In partnership with industry bodies such as the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), VisitEngland provides a free online Access Statement Tool for a wide range of businesses. Pubs, Restaurants, Nature Reserves and Football Stadiums are just a few of the types of businesses that can use this tool to create a description of their premises and to inform people with access needs.
VisitEngland will also shortly launch a guide to providing access information on destination tourism websites. The guidance will help destination managers to offer ideas, information and signposting for disabled travellers on their consumer websites.
Customer Service Training – Understanding the needs of Disabled Visitors
VisitEngland recently launched a new online training course to help tourism businesses deliver excellent service to disabled customers. Designed in partnership with award-winning disability organisation DisabledGo, the course is specifically tailored to help those working within the tourism industry. One thousand free spaces have been made available to tourism businesses in England, and businesses can register up to 5 places each by visiting: http://www.disabledgo.com/tourismtraining.
Access Award – Recognising Excellence in Accessible Tourism
A key category in the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, The Access For All Tourism Award recognises businesses that provide exceptional access for all visitors. Finalists in the category for the 2012 award range from Campus accommodation at the University of Leeds, where the Canadian Paralympic Rugby Team are staying, to Sandcastle Waterpark, which has a Gold Standard wet changing room with sensory equipment and hoist tracking system.
James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, commented:
“Over £2 billion is spent in England by disabled visitors and their companions each year. As we start the exciting countdown to the London 2012 Paralympic Games, it is more important than ever that tourism businesses in England are able to give disabled visitors the best and most memorable visitor experience possible. Whether that involves making some small adjustments to your facilities, providing information on your accessibility or understanding the needs of disabled people through customer service training, VisitEngland can offer support and guidance.”