All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak

All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak
All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak - © Jennifer Johnson 2008

Monday, January 11, 2010

National Travel Patterns of People with Disabilities

For an emerging area of study there is relatively little known about the consumer demand side of the travel patterns of people with disabilities globally. As discussed previously in the blog entry on economic estimates, most estimates were based on a gross demand approach using disability secondary data sources with no specific empirical research investigating the travel patterns of people with disabilities. However, over the last decade this has started to change with empirical research being carried out in Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, the UK and the US (see references at end of entry). This work is starting to provide a more sophisticated understanding of the market dynamics. 

As Figure 1 shows, Australian research provides clear evidence that there is a difference in travel pattern between people with disability and the nondisabled that is different across day trips, overnight domestic trips and outbound trips. People with disability travel at the same rate as the nondisabled for day trips but travel at significantly less for overnight domestic trips (21% less) and outbound trips (52% less) (See Dwyer & Darcy 2008; 2011). The research suggests that as travel planning becomes more complex, expensive and requires air travel that many people with disability opt out as they cannot guarantee that their access needs will be met.

Figure 1: Comparative Travel Patterns between People with Disability & the Non-Disabled (Source: Darcy 2010)

Most work has focused on mobility disability with only two studies providing comparative analysis of the travel patterns of different disability groups e.g. mobility, vision, hearing etc (Darcy 2003; OpenDoors 2005). However, a much more sophisticated understanding of the role of the level of support needs or level of independence has been developed by a larger number of the studies (Burnett & Bender Baker 2001; Darcy 2002, 2003; OpenDoors 2005; Bi, Card & Cole 2007). Only three studies employed a comparative sample of the general population and that of people with disabilities – with these studies conclusively showing that people with disabilities have lower levels of travel than the general population (Woodside & Etzel 1980; Darcy 2003; Dwyer & Darcy 2008). Only one study has been part of national tourism data collection, which provided an opportunity to compare detailed tourist behavior across all areas including spending patterns (Dwyer and Darcy 2008). VisitEngland’s most recent UK Tourism Survey (ENAT 2009) offers a similar approach to the Australian study and we look forward to the publishing of the UK comparative travel patterns between people with disabilities and the general population.

Question to Readers of the Blog
Are there other studies that readers know about? Please send copies & I will incorporate these into this blog.

Darcy, S. (1998). Anxiety to access: tourism patterns and experiences of New South Wales people with a physical disability. Sydney: Tourism New South Wales.
Darcy, S. (2002). Marginalised participation: Physical disability, high support needs and tourism. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 9(1), 61-72.
Darcy, S. (2003, 5-8 February). Disabling journeys: The tourism patterns of people with impairments in Australia. Paper presented at the Riding the Wave of Tourism and Hospitality Research, CAUTHE - Southern Cross University, Lismore.

Darcy, S. (2010). Inherent complexity: Disability, accessible tourism and accommodation information preferences. Tourism Management, 31(6), 816-826. 
Dwyer, L., & Darcy, S. (2008). Chapter 4 - Economic contribution of disability to tourism in Australia. In S. Darcy, B. Cameron, L. Dwyer, T. Taylor, E. Wong & A. Thomson (Eds.), Technical Report 90040: Visitor accessibility in urban centres (pp. 15-21). Gold Coast: Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre.

Dwyer, L., & Darcy, S. (2011). Chapter 14 - Economic Contribution of Tourists with Disabilities: An Australian Approach and Methodology. In D. Buhalis & S. Darcy (Eds.), Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues (pp. 213-239). Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.

Keroul (2001). A Growth Market: Behaviours of Tourists with Restricted Physical Abilities in Canada. Quebec: Keroul.

Bi, Y., Card, J. A., & Cole, S. T. (2007). Accessibility and Attitudinal Barriers Encountered by Chinese Travellers with Physical Disabilities. Int. J. Tourism Res, 9, 205-216.

New Zealand
Rhodda, S. (2007). Tourism for Visitors to New Zealand with Mobility Problems: a West Coast Perspective. Greymouth: Tai Poutini Polytechnic.

United Kingdom
English Tourism Council (2000). People with Disabilities and Holiday Taking. London: English Tourist Council.
Shaw, G., & Coles, T. (2004). Disability, holiday making and the tourism industry in the UK: a preliminary survey. Tourism Management, 25(3), 397-403.
ENAT (2009). UK Tourism Firms Encouraged to Improve Accessibility Retrieved 26 December, 2009, from

United States
Woodside, A. G., & Etzel, M. J. (1980). Impact of physical and mental handicaps on vacation travel behaviour. Journal of Travel Research, 18(3), 9-11.
 OpenDoors(2005, January). Research among adults with disabilities - travel and hospitality, with HarrisInteractive Market Research from
Burnett, J. J., & Bender-Baker, H. (2001). Assessing the travel–related behaviors of the mobility–disabled consumer. Journal of Travel Research, 40(1), 4-11.
Van Horn, L. (2007). Disability Travel In The United States: Recent Research And Findings. Paper presented at the 11th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED) - "Benchmarking, Evaluation and Vision for the Future". , June 18-22, 2007, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.


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