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Lack of accessible tourism costing economy billions

New study discovers that the tourism industry across Europe is missing out on up to €142 billion annually.

Researchers at the University of Surrey have found that the European tourism sector is losing out on as much as €142 billion every year due to poor infrastructure, services and attitudes towards travellers with special access needs.

The research project, which was funded by the European Commission, found that travellers within the EU who required special access (whether through disability or age) undertook 783 million trips within the region in 2012, contributing €394 billion and 8.7 million jobs to the European economy.

However, if European destinations were fully accessible, this demand could increase by up to 44% a year – producing an additional €142 billion GDP and creating 3.4 million jobs.

“This is a golden opportunity for the European travel sector.”

Professor Graham Miller, University of Surrey

The research, which was carried out by Dr Victoria Eichhorn, Dr Gang Li, Professor Graham Miller and Dr Jason Chen from the University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, is the first of its kind to study the economic impact of accessible tourism within Europe.

“The worry of many small and medium-sized businesses has been recouping the cost of adapting for special access needs”, explained Professor Miller. This research shows that this cost will not only be recovered, but will result in market growth.

“In the long-term, commitment is required from both the public and private sectors. However, even small changes in the meantime will reap massive rewards.”

Following the research, the European Commission has identified several key recommendations for improving accessibility in its report, Economic impact and travel patterns of accessible tourism in Europe.

Antonella Correra, Policy Officer at the European Commission, commented: “This is the most comprehensive research on accessible tourism carried out so far in Europe.

“Far from being a niche sector, accessible tourism is a huge market opportunity. The research provides clear evidence that accessible tourism services are also better services, that increase the visibility and reputation of tourism destinations, and give a competitive edge to operators.”

You can explore the full report on the European Commission’s website or discover more about hospitality and tourism research at the University of Surrey. Professor Miller also spoke about the research on BBC Radio 4, in an interview that you can listen to on the You & Yours website.

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