How to make the travel industry accessible to everyone? Three experts weigh in

How to make the travel industry accessible to everyone? Three experts weigh in

Accessibility is a word that is increasingly coming up in conversations around travel. This week three experts took a deep dive into the topic at TTF’s Outlook Tourism Conference in Sydney. Here’s what they had to say!

“It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also makes great business sense for operators, businesses, states, economies, etc,” – Zack Alcott, co-CEO of Get Skilled Access. 

Zack Alcott is the brother of Australian former wheelchair tennis player Dylan Alcott AO. After working to execute marketing and sales strategies for some of the world’s largest FMCG brands, Alcott turned his talents to accessibility. As co-CEO of Get Skilled Access, he manages Australia’s first inclusive music festival, Ability Festival.

Alcott said a lot of the businesses he works with don’t know where to work when it comes to improving accessibility.

“The most common issue I see among my clients is a fear to start. We have a saying at GSA that we meet people where they’re at, there are going to be some organisations that are more mature and have more understanding of accessibility and inclusion, and then there are going to be some that have not started their journey or are just starting and when you meet with them.”

As well as being good on a human level, accessible tourism is great for the bottom line, Alcott said.

“In the June quarter of last year disability dollar for accessibility tourism was $6.8 billion, which is 21 per cent the total tourism industry for the quarter. It makes sense. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also makes great business sense for operators, businesses, states, economies, etc.”

Zack Alcott

“It’s a journey without a destination” – Geoff Donaghy, exiting CEO of the ICC Sydney. 

The ICC Sydney has often been hailed as a leader in disability and inclusion. Under Donaghy’s leadership the ICC Sydney became the first Australian convention centre to develop an Accessible and Inclusive Events Guide for event organisers.

“It’s a constant continual learning process. And going back to the start of that 10 years, we set out as an economic venture – obviously, that’s why these venues are invested in everywhere around Australia and around the world. And just as an illustration of that, in the first 10 years, we’ve regenerated just under $4 billion of direct expenditure to the New South Wales economy. When the project was announced the government announced that the target over 25 years for the project was going to be 5 billion. So well advance in that regard.

“But we also set out on not just being an economic generating revenue, but more than that, and we wanted to ensure that everyone that came through our doors, everyone that we had contact with, we were up to make a difference to them make a difference in their lives”.

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy

“I think that normalisation of non-standard journeys is the most important thing that we can do,” – Justin Portelli – executive general manager – planning, strategy and community Melbourne Airport

Portelli joined Melbourne Airport in 2019. He heads a team who identify future opportunities and respond to emerging disrupters. His background is in strategy development including creation of market response and growth strategies as well as investment analysis and execution.

For Portelli, it is important that airports, and services that deal directly with people who are travelling, remain human in their approach.

“What really drives me crazy is when someone might go to security, and they’ve got a diabetes monitoring tool. And security says ‘no, the standard says, ‘You’ve got to do X, Y, Z’, without thinking what is the human need of this individual? I just think that normalisation of non-standard journeys is the most important thing that we can actually do.”

The number of people completing non-standard journeys is actually higher than most people might think, he continued.

“About 18 per cent of Australians actually identify as having a disability, whether that’s physical or another component. On top of that you have an ageing population and also people who travel but don’t speak English, or English is not the first language. The number of travellers that have a non-standard journey through airports is quite significant and is likely to increase and for us.  We estimate that 8-10 per cent of travellers that come through the airport will have a non-standard journey. That’s about 10,000 people per day.”

Justin Portelli, from Melbourne Airport

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