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Inclusive Travel: Meeting the Needs of Accessible Travellers

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People with disabilities account for 15% of the population worldwide, according to the United Nations, while Diversity and Inclusion features as one of Euromonitor International’s 10 megatrends. Euromonitor is partnering with accessible travel specialist Sage Inclusion to showcase key findings of a survey of its customers’ needs and preferences, along with challenges faced. With a high travel budget and high multiplier effect, this is an important consumer segment presenting opportunities to diversify the customer base.

More work to be done to make travel accessible

According to the Sage Inclusion survey for 2021 (in which the majority of survey respondents resided in North America), despite very high levels of excitement about travel, 96% of respondents agreed that in general, they feel it is harder for someone who has a disability to travel, whilst 74% say that the travel industry does not do enough to make travel accessible.

For travel to be truly inclusive, travel products, services and experiences should be accessible by design, and understanding the preferences and needs of accessible travellers is critical, and one size does not fit all.

John Sage CEO Quote .png

Strong engagement demonstrates loyal and potential repeat visitors

According to Euromonitor’s Passport Travel, booking online in North America is deeply ingrained, accounting for 78% of travel sales in 2023. Accessible travellers are even more digitally engaged, with 82% of respondents stating that they were extremely or very likely to book their travel online, based on the Sage Inclusion survey. This is a highly digitally savvy group of consumers, leveraging technology across the customer journey, such as 63% conducting research independently prior to travel, according to Sage.

Accessible travellers show a preference to book via travel intermediaries, making up 61% of survey respondents, compared with 53% for North America overall, according to Euromonitor research in 2023. A high customer service element and the provision of customised information with tailored services are key factors that ensure their loyalty to this channel.

The majority (76%) of accessible travellers in the survey choose to fly, whilst a significant number enjoy taking a cruise (56%), compared with 5% of leisure travel sales being accounted for by cruise in North America in 2023, according to Euromonitor.

In IATA’s 2023 Diversity and Inclusion Awards, Virgin Atlantic Airways was awarded for being a pioneer in diversity, inclusion and accessibility, thanks to its refreshed “Be Yourself” strategy, and actions taken to make the workplace accessible for all, along with changes to recruitment, and introducing digital training.Accessible Travellers Chart 2.svg

Appealing to high spenders with a high multiplier effect

Accessible travellers are high spenders, with. This puts accessible travellers on a par with luxury travellers in terms of per trip spending.

The other attribute that makes this traveller segment so appealing is that accessible travellers tend to travel with 2-3 people (accounting for 73% of respondents based on the Sage survey), which drives up the multiplier effect in-destination. 24% of people in the survey do not have a disability, but travel with a family member who does. There is also strong intent to travel, with 45% stating their intention to travel within a year, and 18% in the next six months.

Challenges and pain points to overcome

Despite the high level of interest in travel, there are many challenges to overcome, which presents clear opportunities for travel brands. Firstly, diversifying their customer base to this segment is a way to capture a new market. Secondly, hotels and resorts, along with cruise providers, need to address the broader issue of accessibility in general. Two thirds of respondents (67%) in the Sage survey stated that a lack of information is frustrating, which in turn becomes a barrier to undertaking a trip. Without the necessary information, there is too much at risk of taking a leap of faith that products and services during the trip will meet the needs of accessible travellers.

Other areas of frustration noted are transportation (46%) and airlines and flights (42%), so there is clear room for improvement in the customer experience that accessible travellers face when it comes to transport.Accessible Travellers Chart 3.svg

John Sage from Sage Inclusion states that “there is still much more to be done, and that it’s easy to overlook basic things to make travel accessible. Simple steps can be taken, such as providing more grab bars, ensuring curtains, blinds and towels are within reach, and that hotel rooms are not cluttered. Thinking holistically about accessible travellers’ needs is a great starting point.”

About the survey: the survey was carried out by Sage Inclusion, fielded in May 2021 (no = 257): with 81% of respondents residing in North America.

To keep up to date with our Megatrends research click here.  

For more details about how to embrace the diversity and inclusion megatrend, read our report, Megatrends: Diversity and Inclusion


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