Ministers urge attractions to tap into ‘purple pound’

Two government ministers have called on leisure attractions to cater for the needs of disabled customers – and help boost the sector.

Tourism minister Michael Ellis and the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, were commenting on VisitEngland’s Inclusive Tourism Award scheme, and said the sector must ensure facilities are accessible to all, if it wants to flourish.

With one in five people in the UK living with a disability or health condition, there is a clear business case for ensuring that disabled people’s needs are catered to, say the ministers.

On a visit to Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in Halifax, Ellis (pictured) said: “Our tourism industry is booming and we are a world-leading holiday destination for visitors from both at home and abroad.

“However if we are to maintain this reputation and its economic and social benefits, I urge all tourism venues to follow in the footsteps of these award winners and review whether they are doing enough to cater for disabled people, to ensure they are accessible to everyone.”

On a visit to Sandcastle Water Park in Blackpool, Newton said: “Enjoying all the experiences the UK has to offer with family and friends should be fun and enjoyable, but for many disabled people this can be a cause for disappointment and frustration.

“Many leisure businesses are already doing the right things in making sure their facilities are enjoyed by disabled people, including Sandcastle Water Park in Blackpool.

“Things like designated opening times, a quiet room, open-ended day tickets and ramps can make all the difference. I’m calling on others in the tourism industry to follow their lead and put visitors’ needs at the heart of their services.”

As well as Eureka! and Sandcastle Waterpark, venues highlighted by VisitEngland’s Inclusive Tourism Award earlier this year include the Roman Baths and Pump Room in Bath and Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School in Cornwall.

Adaptations made by the attractions include making them wheelchair accessible and providing accommodation for guide dogs.

Ross Calladine, head of business support at VisitEngland, said: “Our Inclusive Tourism Award winners demonstrate that providing easy access for all makes sound business sense.

“By taking steps to ensure staff are disability confident, making reasonable adjustments to facilities and providing information on venue accessibility, other businesses can benefit from this valuable market.”

The government has a dedicated sector champion for tourism, who works with the industry to promote the benefits of being inclusive to its disabled visitors.

Chris Veitch, chief executive of Tourism for All and the government’s sector champion for tourism, said: “Making tourism more accessible not only improves travel opportunities for disabled people and many others with accessibility requirements, it can improve the quality of the visitor experience for everybody and help make the UK tourism offer more competitive.

“There are more than 11 million disabled people in the UK with a combined spending power of their households, ‘the purple pound’, standing at around £250 billion.”