VisitEngland announces new marketing campaign to develop and promote accessible tourism

VisitEngland have unveiled plans for a national marketing campaign to promote accessible tourism in England. The national tourist board will work with five destinations to develop exciting itineraries with top class accommodation and attractions that provide a warm welcome for all visitors including those with access needs.  The campaign, a first of its kind, will be promoted through marketing activity starting in late Summer 2013, and is designed to highlight the fantastic tourism experiences on offer to all across the country.

VisitEngland will work with Leicester Shire Promotions, Visit Brighton, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Bath Tourism Plus and Chester & Cheshire to identify tourism businesses in their area that provide particularly excellent levels of service to visitors with access needs – such as those with hearing and visual impairments, wheelchair users, older and less mobile people and people with pushchairs.

The national tourist board will then work with the destinations and businesses to ensure that they all meet the same high standard of accessibility, focusing on key issues such as customer service and visitor information. This will incorporate a number of VisitEngland’s tools and resources, such as Access Statements and online disability awareness training.

The campaign is funded by £100,000 from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) plus contributions from partners. It will provide a cost-effective opportunity for English destinations to showcase their accessible tourism businesses and attract more visits from disabled travellers and their companions; a sector worth almost £2billion a year to the domestic tourism industry*.

Paralympic Medallist and TV Presenter, Ade Adepitan, commented:

“VisitEngland’s accessible tourism campaign is a fantastic example of Paralympic legacy.  Promoting destinations in England which are easily accessible and cater to the needs of disabled visitors should inspire all of us to take a break here at home, with the peace of mind that our specific needs will be met so that we can enjoy our holidays to the full.”

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, commented:

“The RGF money is a huge boost for accessible tourism in England; these new itineraries will showcase the best this country has to offer to all visitors, regardless of disability. We know that accessible tourism in England is worth almost £2billion, and we want to harness this growing, high-value market to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs.”

This marketing activity is phase two of a three-year investment project called ‘Growing Tourism Locally’.  Funded by £19.8million from the RGF, the project aims to generate £365million in additional tourism spend over the three year period and inspire more Britons to take more holidays at home.  The project should help to stimulate employment to grow jobs in the tourism sector by 9,100 over the three years.

The total investment of the three-year campaign will be approximately £41m including £19.8m from the Regional Growth Fund, £9m from VisitEngland, £12m leveraged from the national and local tourism sector.

Winners of the VisitEngland Access For All Award 2012 announced!

The Great North Museum: Hancock and The Leicester Theatre Trust scoop Gold.

The Great North Museum: Hancock and The Leicester Theatre Trust have both won Gold in the Access for All category of the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2012.  The coveted accolade was one of 19 presented at a glittering ceremony hosted by the national tourist board at the art-deco Athena in Leicester, on 22 May. These prestigious awards, currently in their 23rd year, promote excellence in England’s tourism industry and celebrate the very best the country has to offer.

Leicester Theatre Trust

A key category in the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, The Access For All Tourism Award, recognises businesses that provide exceptional access for all visitors and was sponsored by DisabledGo. Presenting the awards was DisabledGo’s Head of Business Development, Anna Borthwick.

Gold winner, The Leicester Theatre Trust demonstrates a strong and on-going commitment to accessibility.  The spring/summer diary sees 7 assisted performances at The Curve theatre, where touch tours, care for assistance dogs and audio guides are just some of the services provided. The Great North Museum: Hancock equally impressed the judges with a ‘never finished’ attitude towards providing exceptional accessibility through regular input from disabled groups. The museum’s redevelopment has allowed for excellent physical access and a strong commitment to the needs of hearing and visually impaired visitors was evident.

The University of Leeds, which provides accommodation to guests during the summer vacation, was awarded Bronze.  Storm Jameson Court has recently been awarded ‘Access Exceptional’ under the National Accessible Scheme, and is also hosting the Canadian Paralympic Rugby Team. It has 23 new fully accessible rooms, and provides an ideal base to explore the buzzing city of Leeds or the surrounding countryside.

Three businesses were Highly Commended on the night. The UK’s largest indoor waterpark, Sandcastle Waterpark, created a splash with excellent testimonials and facilities including a new wet changing room with sensory equipment & hoist tracking system and pool accessible wheelchairs. The Beacon Museum impressed judges with comprehensive disability awareness training, strong information provision with various alternative formats and a good website.  The homely Abbey Guest House in Oxfordshire provides an impressive range of accessibility equipment and an excellent website including a detailed Accessibility section.

Great North Museum: Hancock

Other awards announced at the ceremony in Leicester included the best bed and breakfast in England, best small hotel, best tourism experience, Taste of England, sustainable tourism award and caravan holiday park of the year.  The 34 Gold and Silver winners were selected from a shortlist of 69 finalists, judged by a panel of tourism industry experts including VisitEngland Board Member David Orr and travel broadcaster Alison Rice.

VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, James Berresford, commented:
“The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence represent the highest accolade in English tourism. They champion the very best quality, and continue to help to raise standards across the industry, establishing England’s place as a world-class destination and a thoroughly fantastic place to visit. This year’s awards were the biggest ever, with a record number of almost 400 entrants from across the country. All our finalists are to be warmly congratulated for their success – particularly our Gold Award winners, whose passion and commitment to excellence is outstanding.”

VisitEngland Champions Accessibility ahead of London 2012 Paralympic Games

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.”

VisitEngland and DisabledGo Launch Online Disability Awareness Course

VisitEngland, the national tourist board, today 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

The course consists of six modules, which can be completed online at the user’s convenience; the whole course takes around one to two hours to complete.  The training starts with an introduction to disability, and then looks at different types of impairment, before offering practical advice on providing an accessible service and acceptable language to use when communicating with disabled customers. The final section talks through the legal obligations of tourism businesses under the Equality Act (2010). Progress can be saved throughout the course, allowing the user to log off and complete it over several hours or days, if necessary. 

Following successful completion of the course a certificate is made available for download, and each user’s account remains active, allowing them to log in at a later date to refer to the course material; sections can also be printed out for every-day reference.  This value-for-money course costs a maximum of £15 per person, with the cost decreasing the more people a business would like trained.

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, commented:

“It is vital that those working within the tourism industry have the knowledge and confidence to offer excellent customer service to disabled visitors, particularly as we prepare for the many exciting events taking place across England in 2012. Over £2 billion is spent in England by disabled visitors and their companions each year, and this new online Disability Awareness Course will enable staff to be more aware of their specific needs, providing a high quality and memorable visitor experience.”

Dr Gregory Burke, Founder and Chief Executive of DisabledGo, commented:

“At DisabledGo, we provide access information, access audits, equality and disability awareness training programmes for a wide range of business sectors. As the national tourist board, VisitEngland was a natural partner for us in developing a cost-effective, high-quality online course for the tourism industry and we are delighted to be working with them to launch this programme.”

Visit www.disabledgo.com/tourismtraining to register for free places on the online Disability Awareness course (only 1,000 free places available, limited to five per business).

DisabledGo to sponsor the Access for All category at this year’s VisitEngland Awards for Excellence

With entry to the 2012 competition now closed organisers report a bumper number of applications.  Ron Glasgow, from Glasgows who are organising the competition on behalf of VisitEngland explains “We have had 385 applications.  This is three times the number of applications for the former Enjoy England Awards and twice what was anticipated. This is a fantastic result and demonstrates strong support from the industry for the VisitEngland flagship competition and their commitment to improving excellence.  Applications are evenly spread through all 15 award categories.  A preliminary review by the judges also indicates applications are of a very high standard”. 

There have been nineteen quality applications for the Access for All category which DisabledGo is sponsoring.

Welcoming DisabledGo’s sponsorship VisitEngland’s Chief Executive James Berresford said “We are delighted that DisabledGo with it’s outstanding reputation in providing up to date information on access to all types of facilities including tourism businesses have agreed to sponsor the Access for All Award.  It is an honour to have them on board”.

In a video message from the industry Minister for Tourism and Heritage Jon Penrose MP underlined the importance of the Awards to tourism in general and tourism businesses in particular.

“You, in the industry, are already well aware of the high contribution tourism makes to the economy as a wealth and job creator.  I want, therefore, to concentrate on why participation in this awards scheme is important for your business in particular, and the industry in general.

Tourism consumers whether from home or overseas are mainly interested in three things:

Value for money, the quality of facilities, and excellent customers services.  Of course sustainability and access for all are also important considerations.

These awards for excellence are about driving up standards in all these areas for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike”.