Across the world up to 1.2 billion people live with some sort of disability, it is estimated. That’s equivalent to the population of China. In the UK, it is thought that some seven million people of working age have a disability, which all adds up to an awful lot of spending power. Latest figures from the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions estimate that this spending power, the so-called “purple pound”, is worth £249bn to the economy. So what should businesses be doing to try to get a share of this money? That’s what we’ll be asking during Disability Works week from the BBC’s business and economics unit. We’ll be looking at how businesses work with people with disabilities and how disabled people have made business work for them. Challenging stereotypes I gradually began to lose my eyesight when I was in my teens so I understand the difficulties for disabled people getting into work. I’ve been a producer in the BBC’s business and economics unit for nearly nine years. I’m keen to
VisitEngland, the national tourist board, is today launching a new Access for All campaign, aimed to raise awareness of accessible destinations and businesses in England; informing disabled people of accommodation and visitor attractions when planning a day trip or holiday.
Following a successful pilot project in 2013/14, with four destinations; VisitEngland accessed funding from the European Commission to expand the Access for All initiative, with a grant of €125,000. For the past year VisitEngland has been working with seven local destination partners across the country, to create a series of access guides covering coastal, countryside and city destinations. These include:
- Visit Kent
- Marketing Birmingham
- Visit Lincoln
- Northumberland Tourism
- Visit Peak District and Derbyshire
- Experience Nottinghamshire
- Visit Brighton
56 businesses are involved in the project; including a mix of accommodation and attractions such as Lincoln Cathedral, Brighton & Hove Buses, Chatsworth House, Turner Contemporary, Hotel La Tour, Vindolanda Roman Fort and Nottingham Belfry amongst many others. The businesses involved have worked hard to make changes – focusing on positive action – to improve perceptions of Accessible England.
VisitEngland research highlights that the overnight accessible tourism market is now worth £3billion to the English economy, with day visits bringing the figure up to £12.1 billion. Over the past few years overnight trips by disabled travellers and their companions have increased by 19% with spend up by 33%.
The Purple Pound presents tourism businesses and destinations with a huge opportunity for economic growth. New figures from VisitEngland confirm an approximate value of overnight accessible tourism to the destinations involved:
- Kent: £60m
- Birmingham: £50m
- Lincoln: £9m
- Northumberland: £65m
- Derbyshire: £45m
- Nottinghamshire: £30m
- Brighton and Hove: £14m
Some of the great initiatives include those introduced by Brighton & Hove Buses (part of the Go-Ahead group) which provides wheelchair access to 100% of their fleet. They are trialling the use of hearing loop systems on a bus; have a Helping Hand yellow card scheme; offer a wheelchair taxi guarantee if someone cannot get onto the bus and have many innovations to help disabled visitors use their buses.
VisitEngland, Chief Executive James Berresford, said: “The accessible tourism market is worth a sizable £12.1 billion to the English economy and many tourism businesses are realising that catering for disabled customers is not only a necessity but a wise investment that brings a host of business benefits. Many of the changes businesses make may be small, but combined contribute significantly to the visitor experience.”
The Access for All project has consisted of two phases: product development, where businesses receive direct support to improve their accessibility with the help of access advisors, and a national consumer marketing campaign launching today. The tourism businesses are being directly supported as part of the project to improve their accessibility. Accommodation and attractions have been audited by a professional access advisor and many have received a mystery visit from guests with accessibility requirements. A training course was held in each destination for accessibility champions and customer-facing staff have completed online disability awareness training. Businesses also received personal feedback on their Access Statement, improving information detailing their accessibility.