Home Lifestyle Dementia specialist contributes to accessibility drive in Scottish tourism

Dementia specialist contributes to accessibility drive in Scottish tourism

by TKOAdmin

One in five people across the UK live with a disability or impairment, but what do we actually know about them? This the question asked by Dr Carol Sargent, a specialist in dementia-friendly tourism.

In an initiative to explore the accessible market within Scottish tourism, dementia specialist Dr Carol Sargent has joined forces with leading market research firm 56 Degree Insight to shed light on this particular market and highlight what the tourism industry can do to welcome them.

Jim Ecclestone of 56 Degree Insight said: “We poll the Scottish adult population on a quarterly basis to understand their holiday taking views and behaviours. We were keen to work with Carol to better understand the scale and nature of the barriers to holiday taking amongst those in the population who are living with disabilities, health conditions and impairments.”

The survey findings suggest there is potential growth in Scottish tourism which is simply being missed. One million households, 38 per cent of the population, have someone with a health condition or impairment. Yet, three-quarters have no holiday plans, a big opportunity for the tourism industry to reach and serve this group.

“Interestingly this customer group would prefer to holiday in Scotland, but what surprised me most was that although these customers have the potential to spend £4.6 billion a year on tourism, they don’t have the confidence to spend their money because they don’t believe the tourism industry can cater to their needs,” said Dr. Sargent, who now runs Sargent Consulting Group supporting the dementia community to identify solutions to find the freedom and joy we all know you get from travel.

Her expertise in inclusion and accessibility and dementia tourism lent invaluable insight into designing questions aimed at identifying barriers and preferences among individuals with impairments or health conditions including dementia. Her questions included a range of options to effectively identify ways the tourism industry could regain the confidence of these customers.

“It is also clear to me the industry needs to look more broadly than simply making physical alterations to their establishments to accommodate wheelchairs. It is vital that tourism businesses provide better information and more reassurance at the planning and booking stages, thus instilling confidence that specific needs can be catered for,” said Jim Eccleston.

Contrary to common misconceptions, the survey highlights the universal nature of accessibility concerns across all age groups.

Respondents highlighted key concerns in holiday planning including suitable accommodation, information access, and transportation.

From the findings of the report, Dr Carol Sargent urges the tourism industry to consider how people with more complex requirements can access the information they need to be confident they are spending their money wisely.

She said: “It’s not enough to just provide details online, it’s important to provide reassurance that everything somebody needs has been taken care of, with a human voice rather than depending on the impersonal and cheaper computerised voices or online responses. Sadly, that human voice will become increasingly difficult to find when the remaining Tourist Offices in Scotland start to be closed in September this year.”

She said it is vital that tourism businesses provide better information and more reassurance at the planning and booking stages. The ‘size of the prize’ and potential boost to domestic tourism if confidence and trust can be created is very clear, as are the health and well-being benefits to this frequently neglected customer group.

* Image shows Dr Carol Sargent of Sargent Group Consulting

Find out more about the survey and its findings here.

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