London. Attendees at World Travel Market’s first-ever session devoted to the disabled market heard from a leading specialist tour operator and web design agency. Amar Latif, founder and director of specialist tour operator Traveleyes, said that his business targeted destinations on their appeal rather than their ccessibility, noticed eTN today. “We choose interesting destination and tailor the trip to make them more sensory,” he said.
Latif is well known for his appearance on the BBC2’s documentary series Beyond Boundaries, which followed a group of disabled people crossing jungles in central America.
Traveleyes tours have an equal number of blind and partially sighted people, with the sighted people getting a discount on the cost of the holiday in return for acting as a guide. He was quick to point out that the sighted persons are not intended to act as “carers” for their companions. “All they do is help them experience the destination.”
Disabled spend in the UK is £80bn a year, with blind and partially-sighted accounting for around one-fifth of this. Latif said that Traveleyes is the first commercially-driven business to operate in this sector, rather than a charity.
Lee Rotbart, director of marketing for web design agency Reading Room, said that businesses which didn’t make their websites accessible were “shutting the door on up to 10 million UK customers”. Disabled people are also more likely to shop online that the general population, she said
She argued that all web sites should be accessible because web sites should be simple and straightforward. “Take your mouse out and see if you can navigate around with tabs. If you can’t, then neither can a lot of your customers,” she said.
Similarly, images need to be tagged in order for screen-reader software to work, so co-ordination between the various departments involved in designing a site is essential.
But the overwhelming reason for making a site accessible, she said, “is that they get ranked higher in Google, and that is how 90%+ of customers will find your web site.”
World Travel Market, the premier global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend four-day business-to-business exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry.
Almost 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international press, embark on ExCeL – London every November to network, negotiate and discover the latest industry opinion and trends at WTM.
WTM, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2009, is the event where the travel industry conducts and concludes its deals.