Two of Europe’s top accessible tour operators got first-hand experience of Scotland’s tourism offering as we look to utilise a market valued at £1.3 billion.
Fenna DeSmet, of WeTravel2 in Belgium, and Christel Stejlborg, of HandiTours in Denmark, took part in our first inclusive familiarisation trip.
The trip was organised after our Travel Trade Survey revealed that more than half of travel agents reported an increase in request for accessible travel products.
Having enjoyed a busy two days at VisitScotland Expo, held at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) in Glasgow on 10-11 April, the European delegates spent the next three days visiting attractions such as the newly opened Clydeside Distillery, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Loch Katrine Experience, Stirling Castle, Royal Yacht Britannia and Beach Wheelchairs North Berwick. All of the attractions visited provide detailed information around their accessibility and make a conscious effort to ensure visitors with access requirements are able to have a good experience.
The trip included stays at the Novotel Glasgow Centre, Stirling Highland Hotel and DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre, as well as dining experiences at Mharsanta restaurant in Glasgow and the Amber Restaurant within the Scotch Whisky Experience. All of these venues were carefully chosen due to their accessibility.
Fenna and Christel were joined by Paul Ralph of Euan’s Guide, a disabled access review website, at the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden on the final day of the trip to discuss their experience and share ideas. The charity is currently working with us on three accessible intineraries across Scotland which will be launched later this year.
I am impressed by the fact that Scotland doesn’t seem that accessible from the first sight, but you do a lot to make buildings, castle and historic sights accessible, not only for wheelchair users but also for people with hearing or visual disability or autism. We are very keen to package Scotland for individual travellers, so we can tailor the tour for their interests and requirements.
I’m from Handi Tours in Denmark this is my first time in Scotland and I’m very impressed we will be including Scotland in our tour programme now that we seen a small part of Scotland and hope I can see more. Scotland is a totally new destination for us. I was given the impression that Scotland wasn’t accessible but that’s totally wrong, I’ve seen some of the products and I’m happy and I look forward to working with VisitScotland on developing our programme.
Research shows that one in five people in the UK are disabled. This includes not only wheelchair users, but also people with hearing loss, visual impairments. In 2015, £1.3 billion was spent in Scotland, on trips where a member of the party had an impairment. This includes day trips, domestic overnight trips and inbound trips.
A survey by Euan’s Guide found that 54 per cent of people with access requirements avoid going to new places if they can’t find information about accessibility. It is therefore vital that businesses cater for this market by providing up front, essential information about their venue’s accessibility.
The full list of venues visited were as follows:
The Clydeside Distillery
Novotel Glasgow Centre
Allied Mobility Accessible Vehicle Hire
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Gartmore House, Stirling
Stirling Court Hotel
Stirling Highland Hotel
Motel One Edinburgh
Royal Yacht Britannia
Beach Wheelchairs North Berwick
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh City
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Scotch Whisky Experience