Opening Tourism Up To All
“I’ve always travelled and gone places, continuing to do this makes me feel included. Why stay in one place, when we have such a beautiful country to explore!”
– Gill, a person living with dementia.
In the UK alone there are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia, with forecasts predicting an increase to over 1 million in the next 5 years.
Though dementia can affect almost all aspects of an individual’s day-to-day life, one barrier often overlooked is that of travel, and the difficulty of holidaying when living with dementia.
Whether it’s travelling across the country, visiting attractions or finding suitable accommodation, what many consider trivial holiday matters can pose huge challenges not just for the less able, but also for their families and carers.
To raise awareness and combat these challenges, VisitEngland and VisitScotland have partnered with Alzheimer’s Society to create the UK’s first Dementia-Friendly Tourism Guide. Providing tips, case studies and resources to help businesses accommodate visitors, the guide increases awareness for dementia-friendly environments, and supports those in the tourism industry that seek to make their business accessible to all.
There are numerous challenges that people affected by dementia must overcome when it comes to holidaying – whether it’s a lack of confidence to journey to new places and stay away from the support systems and routines of home, or just the difficulty of communicating in busy tourist spots. Ease of navigation is also another barrier, with the simplest of things such as locating toilets becoming increasingly difficult. As many businesses and attractions still lack access for the less able, difficulty with mobility also pervades the tourism industry.
Perhaps the least recognised challenge that those with dementia face is the perceived costs of a holiday; coupled with additional costs of living with dementia, this means that holidays can often be seen as unaffordable by some.
As if helping the less able weren’t enough, there is also a powerful financial case for tourism businesses to become dementia-friendly. Having an understanding of dementia and how to support those affected will help to future-proof business, increase customer satisfaction and generate revenue.
Those living with health conditions spend approximately £12 billion on holidays in England alone each year. By becoming dementia-friendly, tourism businesses will not only win new customers suffering from impairments, but also increase revenue due to a higher number of retained and returning customers. This is because less able individuals often remain loyal to environments that are actively accessible to all. And, with the number of domestic holidays in the UK taken by the 55+ age group increasing by almost 50% since 2006, tourism businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on older, less able customers. One particularly important aspect of this is reducing seasonality: those with dementia often choose to book out of season to avoid crowds, meaning that businesses in tourism can reduce the impact of seasonality by making themselves available to all.
Increased knowledge of how to assist those with dementia will also improve customer service, ensuring staff are confident helping all customers. This provides a clear advantage for businesses when compared to those less aware: research has shown that 3 out of 4 disabled customers, plus their friends and families, have actively moved their spending elsewhere in response to a business lacking this awareness or accessibility.
Dementia support is also essential when complying with the law. The 2010 Equality Act states that businesses across all industries have a legal obligation to adequately protect consumers and provide services that are as inclusive as possible. These ‘reasonable adjustments’ apply to all, including both disabled customers and disabled staff.
“Using the practical tips outlined in the guide businesses will make significant improvements to the lives of people living with dementia, their carers and loved ones, and drive the economic benefits of tourism further.”
– Ross Calladine, VisitEngland Head of Business Support
The UK tourism industry has further demonstrated its commitment to accessibility in the Tourism Sector Deal, pledging to make the UK the most accessible tourism destination in Europe by 2025. And, as the value of this sector rises rapidly – estimated at £23 billion this year – VisitEngland and VisitScotland’s great initiative offers the opportunity for tourism businesses to welcome those with dementia and create an environment open to all.