With a little thought, more accommodation could be accessible to all
Sunday 04 July 2010
More than a quarter of the UK's population has a serious health problem or disability – that's more than 15 million people – and a recent UK Tourism Survey from Visit England shows that, last year, they made 11 million trips, worth about £2bn to the tourist industry.
The most forward-thinking of the UK's tourism businesses are wising up to the fact that attending to accessibility has benefits for both the visitor and the proprietor.
Take Sonja and Simon Gregory, who were shocked at how few accessible properties they found while researching ahead of starting a holiday accommodation business in Northumberland. They decided to ensure that the whole of their award-winning timber Norwegian hytte (thehytte .com), even the gardens and the hot tub, could be enjoyed by all.
Sonja has also nurtured a sensory garden, with scented and tactile plants, to appeal to visitors who have impaired vision.
And they soon reaped the benefit. "Compared with an average self-catering occupancy here of 55 per cent," says Sonja, "we achieved 87 per cent in our first year and then 97 per cent. We target our marketing, but it's word of mouth that's been our friend and we have a high number of repeat bookings."
At the Abbey Guest House in Oxfordshire (abbeyguest.com), Terry Boswell created rooms with contrasting colour schemes to identify different areas, as well as labelled switches to help those with other disabilities.
Brian Seaman, head of consultancy at Tourism for All, is proud of what's been achieved, often in historic and sensitive environments. "Take Mortons House Hotel at Corfe Castle (mortonshouse.co.uk)," he says. "It's a listed manor house in a conservation area but they got around the restrictions by building first two, then two more, accessible units in the garden. Now they can accommodate the wedding party with an aunt in a wheelchair."
To find out about more accessible properties around the UK, check out The Rough Guide to Accessible Britain. It's free to Blue Badge and Disabled Persons Railcard holders, by calling 0800 953 7070, or by visiting accessibleguide.co.uk.
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