|Photo 1: Types of Disability of those Travelling in Australia (Source: Dwyer & Darcy, 2008)|
The main early study was Woodside and Etzel (1980) who undertook the first empirical study on disability and tourism that sought to discover the role of physical and mental conditions on tourism vacation behaviour. The survey found that 10 percent of the 590 respondents to a household survey in the US State of South Carolina who had gone on a trip had a member of their party with a ‘physical or mental condition’. They concluded that while the demographic characteristics of those travelling did not vary significantly from other households, that those with a person with a disability had lower level of travel than the general population.
For a summary of the literature see pages 5-6 and Chapter 4 pp21-32 in the following is publication (Darcy, et al., 2008). This was written and researched with the preeminent tourism economist Professor Larry Dwyer.
Darcy, S., Cameron, B., Dwyer, L., Taylor, T., Wong, E., & Thomson, A. (2008), Technical Report 90040: Visitor accessibility in urban centre. Gold Coast: Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre. http://www.crctourism.com.au/BookShop/BookDetail.aspx?d=626
This work presented a detailed methodology for assessing the economic contribution of tourists with disabilities based on nationally collected data on their travel patterns. Only the Australia government's Bureau of Tourism Research (2003 now Tourism Research Australia) have collected data at a national level that allows comparison between the rates of travel for people with disabilities and the general population. The above study was based on these figures. It also shows the complexity when understanding that of this study estimated that about 11% of Australians travelling with in Australia (domestic holidaymakers) have a disability. Figure 1 presents a breakdown of the types of disability that travellers identified that they had. This proportion dropped significantly for those travelling internationally. That is where the complexity lies when trying to estimate the proportion of travellers with disabilities as part of inbound markets. The other excellent data set is from the US Open Doors Organisation (HarrisInteractive Market Research, 2003, 2005) both our study and these studies suggests that about 7% international travellers have some form of disability. However, these travellers have lower levels of support needs than domestic travellers.
There are also studies that seek to make the economic impact of travellers with disabilities of which the above study did as well. However, most of these other studies use gross demand estimates rather than undertaking direct empirical work about the consumer behaviour of people with disabilities tourism participation and patterns. For example Neuman and Reuber’s
(2004) estimated German tourists make a €2.5 billion contribution to the economy where the European Union countries’ OSSATE research estimated that tourists with disabilities contribute €80 billion to the economy using gross demand estimates (Buhalis, Michopoulou, Eichhorn, & Miller, 2005). More recently VisitEngland has collected data that suggests
For a detailed examination of the research literature see pages 89-96 of
Darcy, Simon 2004, Disabling Journeys: The social relations of tourism for people with impairments in Australia – an explanation of people with impairments’ experiences through the discourses of government tourism authorities and the tourism industry, Unpublished Ph.D Thesis, Faculty of Business, University of Technology, Sydney. http://utsescholarship.lib.uts.edu.au/iresearch/scholarly-works/handle/2100/260
For an introduction to understanding the accessible tourism market see