USC study finds gaps in inclusive tourism - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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USC study finds gaps in inclusive tourism

20 Jun 2017

USC research into accessible tourism has found that businesses could be missing out by not catering for the emerging market of travellers with disabilities.

USC Associate Professor of Regional and Urban Planning Dr Claudia Baldwin said inclusive tourism in Queensland was an under-researched area, despite approximately 15 percent of the world’s population and one in five Queenslanders having a disability.

“People with disabilities want to travel and have interesting experiences,” Dr Baldwin said.

“This study identified strategies to assist tourism areas to become more universally accessible destinations for both tourists and locals alike.”

Her research, which focused on the Sunshine Coast, builds on a 2012 study of 32 operators from five other Queensland tourism regions; Hervey Bay, Cairns, Port Douglas, the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

“While there is a good business reason for cater for tourists with disability, the spill-over effect will open other markets such as seniors and parents with prams, and improve liveability and inclusiveness for all ages and abilities.”

Dr Baldwin said the research was the first to identify gaps in disability access in the Sunshine Coast tourism industry.

“Of the 52 Sunshine Coast businesses surveyed, only four percent of accommodation providers had completely accessible rooms, one in three had access rails to their pools and only a few planned to upgrade to improve services for disabled visitors,” Dr Baldwin said.

More than 90 percent of restaurants and cafés had level surfaces and clear paths of entry, however only 40 percent had accessible toilets and designated parking, and few had modified assistance such as large print menus.

Forty percent of accommodation providers and 20 percent of food establishments were aware of the need for disability access, while four percent provided disability training for staff.

Dr Baldwin briefed Sunshine Coast operators on the findings at a recent Inclusive Tourism and Community Planning Forum at USC’s Innovation Centre auditorium attended by Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks.

“At the forum, we identified quick wins that don’t cost a lot. Sometimes the smallest changes in how we design, build and offer our facilities can make monumental differences in the way of life for a person with disability.”

Strategies included improving accessibility information on websites, better signage, and assistance from governments and the tourism industry to encourage businesses to upgrade venues and staff training programs.

 Clare McKay 

of Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks with USC Associate Professor Claudia Baldwin and Inclusive Tourism and Community Planning Forum organiser Nina Schachter of Sunshine Coast Council

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