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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Research is only good if it brings about improved access and accessible experiences - Lessons from Dunedin, New Zealand

This blog is dedicated to showcasing research evidence for accessible tourism. However, the overall aim is for the research to inform industry and government to improve accessible tourism experiences for people with disabilities. To this end we must all seek to influence the tourism policy agenda through presenting research based evidence and advocating for changes to practice where there has been a noted deficiency from the perspective of people with disabilities, suppliers or government regulators/coordinators.

I am currently at a research conference in Dunedin in New Zealand where any travel experience for a power wheelchair using quadriplegic with high support needs has its travel trip chain logistics that need to be organised before the rigours of an academic conference can be considered. Information planning, accommodation, air transport, ground transport, equipment hire, attendant services and medical supplies are just some of the considerations with organising an accessible trip. Luckily I had an insider's perspective at the destination to assist me with my travel planning through the University of Otago's Donna-Rose McKay who is the Manager of Disability Information & Support who was able to suggest a good quality accessible accommodation at the University of Otago - Executive Business Apartments. Further, Donna-Rose suggested I contact John Marrable, InformationConsultant at the Dunedin DisabilityInformation Service who provided contacts for hiring a patient lifter. The trip was finally confirmed once a direct flight from Sydney was negotiated with the only carrier providing direct service, my wife Fiona and my attendant Matt were ready to go.

Dunedin is located on the Otago Peninsula which is known for its ecotourism, historic architectural, cultural heritage and local cafe/bar experiences. Dunedin has much to offer the tourist looking for accessible experiences but finding travel planning information was not easy. Yet, local authorities are keen to improve on current practice and I met with the local disability information service, interested Dunedin Council representatives and local media. The following story - Benefits Seen in Accessible Tourism - appeared in the Otago Daily Times on 7 December 2011

What became evident was that while the urban town centre offered a good range of accessible opportunities for residents and tourists alike, the same could not be said for day trip operators in the region. Quite simply, outside of the excellent Taieri Gorge Railway we could not locate a single day to operator who could provide wheelchair access to any of the standard tours offered to other tourists. This is an extraordinary situation in a country that prides itself on its clean green image but obviously not one that is socially inclusive or sustainable. Accessible coaches and minibuses are not costly accessible tourism infrastructure and the Dunedin city bus fleet boasts an excellent fleet of low floor accessible buses. So what is the problem with the local tour operators? 

Photo 1: Simon Darcy boarding with the historic Taieri Gorge Railway carriage © Fiona Darcy 2011.

This situation has a significant cost disincentive for tourists with disabilities and seniors with access needs. For example, the magnificent Royal Albatross Colony at Taiaroa Head is a must see experience that has just made the Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Sights, a standard tour to the colony with cost $95 per person. However, without access provision, the only option was to hire a Dunedin Taxi wheelchair accessible vehicle that cost $240 for the three-hour hire plus the $40 for the Royal Albatross Centre's Albatross Classic tour.

Do the figures - that is a $185 cost imposition on tourists with disabilities to have the same quality of experience as other tourists!

The other thing that tourists with disabilities miss out on by taking the "segregated" tourist experience is they don't get to mix socially with all the other tourists. This is something that all other tourists take for granted but is often lost where integrated day tour operations are not available. This in itself can significantly reduce the overall experience of the destination.

Sadly, this lack of accessibility to day trip operations is not isolated to New Zealand but is just as prevalent in Australia where "charter operations" have been excluded from the Disability Discrimination Act and the subsequent Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport. This situation is currently being tested in the Federal Court of Australia where Julia Haraksin - a person with a disability - has challenged this exclusionary practice and hopefully this situation in Australia will be remedied in the near future. However, New Zealand does not have similar disability discrimination legislation and relies on the New Zealand Disability Strategy, which lacks opportunities for New Zealanders with disabilities to challenge discriminatory practices. 

While all this may seem daunting and overly critical, those of us who want to see improvements in accessible tourism experiences know the benefits of tourism are as important for people with disabilities as to the rest of the population. 

Photo 2: Simon Darcy enjoying time out from every day life, a spectacular view and a soaring Northern Royal Albatross some of the intangible social psychological benefits of tourism for all people © Fiona Darcy 2011.
Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula have much to offer people with disabilities and seniors with access needs, which could be made far more accessible through some basic improvements in information provision. However, a much broader commitment to the principles of accessible tourism and the desire of local tourism operators to provide accessible experiences for people with mobility, hearing, vision, intellectual, mental health and other disabilities is required. Given the increasing numbers of people with disabilities and seniors with access needs destinations need to make provisions in order to provide a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive international tourism market (see Buhalis & Darcy 2011 and Buhalis, Darcy and Ambrose 2012).


  1. Buhalis, D., & Darcy, S. (Eds.). (2011). Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues. Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.
  2. Buhalis, D., Darcy, S., & Ambrose, I. (Eds.). (2012). Best Practice in Accessible Tourism: Inclusion, Disability, Ageing Population and Tourism. Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.
  3. Gibb, J. (2011, 7 December). Benefits seen in accessible tourism, Otago Daily Times. Retrieved from

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Inclusion, Disability, Ageing Population and Tourism

Edited by Dimitrios Buhalis (Bournemouth University), Simon Darcy (University of Technology, Sydney) and Ivor Ambrose (European Network for Accessible Tourism - ENAT)

This book brings together global expertise in planning, design and management to inform and stimulate providers of travel, transport, accommodation, leisure and tourism services to serve guests with disabilities, seniors and the wider markets that require good accessibility. Selected country reports, detailed case studies and technical guidance from leading experts provide an essential resource for academics and practitioners.

“In 25 chapters, Best Practice in Accessible Tourism provides a ‘state-of-the-art” assessment of both theory and practice. This book establishes a new field of study and provides the benchmark against which other contributions will be judged. It integrates the work of all the key players and should be read by academics, managers and government policy makers.”
Noel Scott, University of Queensland, Australia

Photo 1: an example of a quality accessible tourism experience where infrastructure, ecotourism and a tourism operator with an innovative understanding of people with disabilities' needs create a memorable experience for all (photo used with permission © Sabine Smith 2010

1.     Ivor Ambrose, Simon Darcy and Dimitrios Buhalis: Introduction
2.     Ivor Ambrose: European Policies for Accessible Tourism
3.     Pieter Ghijsels: Accessible Tourism in Flanders: Policy Support and Incentives
4.     Peter Neumann: Accessible Tourism for All in Germany – A Case Study
5.     Nikos Voulgaropoulos, Eleni Strati and Georgia Fyka: Accessible Tourism in Greece: Beaches and Bathing for All
6.     Laurel Van Horn: The United States: Travelers with Disabilities
7.     Simon Darcy, Bruce Cameron and Stephen Schweinsberg: Accessible Tourism in Australia
8.     Sandra Rhodda: Accessible Tourism in New Zealand
9.     Mike Prescott: Universal Tourism Networks
10. Huong Le, Yuka Fujimoto, Ruth Rentschler and David Edwards: Tourism Victoria, Australia – An Integrative Model of Inclusive Tourism for People with Disabilities
11. Lilian Muller: Accessible Tourism in Sweden – Experiences – Stakeholder Marketing
12. Philippa Hunter-Jones and Anthony Thornton: The Third Sector Responses to Accessible/Disability Tourism
13. Caroline Walsh, Janet Haddock-Fraser and Mark P. Hampton: Accessible Dive Tourism
14. Andrew Wright: Tour Operating for the Less Mobile Traveller
15. Simon Darcy and Ravi Ravinder: Air Travel for People with Disabilities
16. Roland Krpata: Accessible Public Transport: Vienna City Tourism
17. Katerina Papamichail: Accessible Hotels: Design Essentials
18. Bruce Cameron and Simon Darcy: Wheelchair Travel Guides
19. Shane Pegg and Norma Stumbo: Accessing Desired Heritage Tourism Services
20. Bodil Sandøy: Norway VisitOslo: Supporting Accessible Tourism Content within Destination Tourism Marketing
21. Jesús Hernández Galán: Accessible Tourism in Spain: Arona and Madrid
22. Andrew Daines and Chris Veitch: VisitBritain: Leading the world to Britain
23. Tracey J. Dickson and Simon Darcy: Australia: The Alpine Accessible Tourism Project and Disabled Wintersport
24. Susana Navarro García-Caro, Arno de Waal and Dimitrios Buhalis: Special needs customer care training for tourism
25. Ivor Ambrose, Dimitrios Buhalis, Simon Darcy: Conclusions: Best Accessible Tourism Practice

Author information
Professor Dimitrios Buhalis is a Strategic Management and Marketing expert with specialisation in Technology and Tourism
at Bournemouth University.

Associate Professor Simon Darcy is an expert in Inclusive Organisational Practice and Diversity Management specialising in tourism, transport and the cultural industries at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Ivor Ambrose is the Managing Director and co-founder of ENAT, the European Network for Accessible Tourism. 

Aspects of Tourism 234 x 156 (R8vo) 15/01/2012 408pp
Hbk ISBN 9781845412531
Pbk ISBN 9781845412524
C. £109.95 / US$179.95 / CAN$179.95 / €129.95
C. £34.95 / US$59.95 / CAN$59.95 / €39.95
Subject (BIC): KNSG Tourism Industry, KJS Sales and marketing, JFFG Disability: social aspects Territory: World
Level: Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate Cat: 75

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Published Research from US on Motivations of people with acquired mobility disability to travel

Surprisingly few studies have examined the motivations of people with disability to travel. The Shi, Cole and Chancellor (2012) newly published article applies Crompton’s (1979) push pull model of travel motivations to examine people with acquired mobility disability’s motivation to travel. The qualitative study undertook two focus groups at the 13th Congress of The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality in 2009. Transcripts of the focus groups were analysed based on Crompton's model. The results identified nine push factors with five being consistent with Crompton (1979):  escape from a perceived mundane environment; exploration and evaluation of self; relaxation; enhancement of relationship with family and friends; and facilitation of social interaction. However, four other factors are unique to people with acquired mobility disabilities: independence; the desire of being in a natural environment; adventure/risk; and do it today. With respect to Crompton (1979) pull factors, novelty and education were consistent with previous work but not surprisingly the accessibility of the destination was a dominant factor. This study suggests that a broader study examining motivations of people across the spectrum of disabilities and support needs would add a level of sophistication to what is currently known about motivations to travel for this group.

Photo 1 shows two gnarly South African surfers who just happen to have disabilities. They espouse a series of motivations identified in this study - independence, desire of being a natural environment, adventure/risk and do it today. However, they haven’t waited for perfect access to a beach for wheelchair users and have instead used "Quad bikes" to assist their quest for the perfect wave. Go for it boys!

Photo 1: Dries Millard and Glenn Ward Paraplegic body boarders trekked from Saldanha to Cape Town and had many adventures along the way - photo with permission

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.

Understanding leisure travel motivations of travelers with acquired mobility impairments

Lei Shi, Shu Cole, & H. Charles Chancellor
Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies, Indiana University, HPER 133, 1025 E 7th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

The purpose of the study was to understand what motivated people with mobility impairments to travel frequently. Two focus groups were conducted and results were analyzed in light of Crompton’s (1979) push/pull conceptual framework exploring pleasure travel motivation...(shortened due to copyright restrictions).

Keywords: Mobility impairments; Motivation; Leisure travel

Crompton, J. L. (1979). Motivations for pleasure vacation. Annals of Tourism Research, 6(4), 408-424.
Shi, L., Cole, S., & Chancellor, H. C. (2012). Understanding leisure travel motivations of travelers with acquired mobility impairments. Tourism Management, 33(1), 228-231. doi: 10.1016/j.tourman.2011.02.007

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The embodied tourist experiences of people with vision impairment: Management implications beyond the visual gaze

Adding to Richards, Prichard and Morgan's (2010) (re)envisioning of the tourist experience, Poria, Reichel & Brandt (2011) examination of 15 in-depth interviews of blind people’s experiences of air travel, hotels and restaurants, art museums and staff behaviour, comes a new study by Small, Darcy and Packer (2011). Building on Small & Darcy’s (2011) examination of embodiement, the study uses a combination of focus groups and in-depth interviews of 40 people with vision impairment to examine their embodied tourism experiences and what constitutes quality accessible tourism for the group. One of the interesting issues for people with vision impairments or who are Blind, are the extra structural constraints for those who travel with a guide dog. Photo 1 shows Wendy David enjoying the pleasures of Hawaii with her guide dog, which has quarantine implications depending upon the country travelling to, specific air travel requirements and a series of customer service attitudes that have included the exclusion of guide dogs from premises even though it contravenes disability discrimination legislation.  Central to Small, Darcy and Packer (2011) study is the examination of Urry’s concept of the "visual” gaze and how the visual has dominated our understanding of tourism. The abstract is provided.

Photo 1: Wendy David and guide dog enjoying the pleasures of Hawaii -  used with permission © Wendy David

This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study that investigated the embodied tourist experiences of 40 people who are vision impaired. The study, informed by the concept of “embodied ontology”, explored the corporeal and socially constructed experience of tourism. The findings highlighted the benefit of holidays for the participants and de-centred the “visual gaze” in the tourist experience. The quality of the tourist experience related to participants’ feelings of inclusion or exclusion in terms of their access to information, experience of wayfinding, travelling with a guide dog, and the knowledge and attitudes of others. It was evident that participants needed to manage their tourist experiences closely and constantly. The paper concludes that the tourism industry and community must understand the multi-sensory nature of the tourist experience if quality accessible experiences are to be available for tourists with vision impairment. Provision of multi-sensory experiences also enhances the experiences of sighted tourists.

►People with vision impairment have been omitted in the tourism research literature. ► The “visual gaze” constrains our understanding of the embodied nature of tourism. ► Structural constraints disable tourism environments, services and attitudes. ► The embodied nature of vision impairment requires spatial and sensory understanding. ► Experiences can be enhanced through tactility, aroma, movement and sound.

Keywords: Vision impairment; Blind; Sensory; Embodiment; Disability; Tourist experience; Management; Accessible tourism

Poria, Y., Reichel, A., & Brandt, Y. (2011). Blind People’s Tourism Experiences: An Exploratory Study. In D. Olis & S. Darcy (Eds.), Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues (pp. 149-159). Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.
Richards, V., Pritchard, A., & Morgan, N. (2010). (Re)Envisioning tourism and visual impairment. Annals of Tourism Research, 37(4), 1097-1116. doi: DOI: 10.1016/j.annals.2010.04.011
Small, J., & Darcy, S. (2011). Understanding Tourist Experience Through Embodiment: The Contribution of Critical Tourism and Disability Studies. In D. Buhalis & S. Darcy (Eds.), Accessible Tourism: Concepts and Issues (pp. 72-96). Bristol, UK: Channel View Publications.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Research Article based on Korean PwD: Influences of travel constraints on the people with disabilities' intention to travel: An application of Seligman's helplessness theory

Full Reference
Lee, B. K., Agarwal, S., & Kim, H. J. Influences of travel constraints on the people with disabilities' intention to travel: An application of Seligman's helplessness theory. Tourism Management, In Press, Corrected Proof. doi: 10.1016/j.tourman.2011.06.011

Lee, Agarwal & Kim's (2011) new research article based on Korean people with disability draws on leisure constraint theory and Seligman's helplessness theory to test a model for a person with disabilities' intention to travel. The article adds to the body of literature on leisure constraint theory discussed in an earlier blog entry. The research design used a structured self-administered questionnaire that included 30 constraint items, helplessness items, intention to travel and a demographic profile. The data was analysed using corrected item-total correlations for each construct and then subjected to series of principal component analyses prior to verifying the overall research fit of the model and hypothesis tests using Amos 7.0.  

The results suggest that there were no significant influence on travel intention by the three subdimensions of constraints. However, intrinsic and environmental constraints were statistically significant in their association with learned helplessness. Not surprisingly learned helplessness was found to have a negative influence on intention to travel. 

Yet, the question must be asked is whether the framing of the research on the theory of learned helplessness provides a contemporary focus for disability related research given the theory's focus on the  lack of "abilities" of people with disability rather than questioning the hostile nature of tourism environments and service attitudes. The recent research highlighted on the blog with respect to embodiment (Fullager, 2011; Poria, Reichel, & Brandt, 2011; Richards, Pritchard, & Morgan, 2010; Small & Darcy, 2010, 2011) attitudes towards disability (Bizjak, Knezevic, & Cvetreznik, 2011; Daruwalla & Darcy, 2005) previous constraints research (Daniels, Drogin Rodgers, & Wiggins, 2005; Darcy, 1998; Turco, Stumbo, & Garncarz, 1998) and the recent World Report on Disability (World Health Organization & World Bank, 2011) challenges framing research from medical or deficit based psychological perspectives. Research framed from these perspectives places the emphasis on people with disability as "deficient" and neglects the importance of the social construction of the political, social, economic, built environment and attitudes towards disability. What do others think?

Photo 1 depicts the real environmental constraints faced by people with mobility disability in negotiating ecotourism experiences.

Photo 1: Sharon Myers - intrepid wheelchair traveller negotiating environmental constraints in the jungles of  Peru with the interactive assistance of local guides (Courtesy Sharon Myers


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

National Tourism Dialogue and Communiqué on Accessible Tourism

The National Information Communication Awareness Network for the arts, sport, recreation and tourism (a.k.a. NICAN) recently held a National Tourism Dialogue that brought together stakeholders with an interest in the area disability, access and inclusive or accessible tourism

The Dialogue was opened by Sen Jan McLucas the current Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers where she issued a media release and the text of her opening speech

The day adopted a participatory action research approach (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003; Goodley & Lawthom, 2005; Kitchin, 2000; Taylor, 1999) and a background paper on Setting a Research Agenda for Accessible Tourism (Darcy, 2006) was circulated as a starting point for the participants. Research can be a foundation for policy development and change particularly where industry groups demand a business case. Historically disability, access and accessible tourism have been challenged by industry groups as they do not believe that people with disability are a market segment or believe that they are a low yield group or that provision for accessible accommodation does not provide a reasonable return on investment (Australian Hotels Association & Tourism and Transport Forum, 2010). To counter these arguments, two presentations were incorporated within the agenda to provide a research base  from nationally collected government statistics,  and to challenge market myths and stereotypes (Dwyer & Darcy, 2011; Forrester, 2011). The afternoon was then devoted to a stakeholder brainstorming session aimed at coming to a group consensus for a call to action to action to improve the tourism opportunities for the group through leveraging industry engagement. Photo 1 is the group present at Parliament house with a number of other speakers joining by teleconference - Sheila King, Access for All Alliance Inc.,  Associate Prof Simon Darcy, UTS Business School.

Photo 1 - National Tourism Dialogue Group Photo plus others who joined by teleconference.

The agenda for the day was:
National Dialogue
Stakeholders in Disability Tourism 
Monday 20 June 2011
9:30am – 3:00pm
Parliament House, Canberra 


9:30     Welcome and introductions (Patron Annette Ellis)
a.     Apologies
b.     Brief introductions (all)
c.      Scene setting and purpose of forum (CEO NICAN Suzanne Bain-Doniohue/Marketing Manager NICAN Craig Wallace)

10:00  Formal opening and keynote
     Current directions in disability & the importance of access tourism
                Senator the Hon. Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers

Morning tea [Group photograph]

The Case for Accessible Tourism
a.     The value of disability tourism - what the research tells us?
(Ass. Professor Simon Darcy, UTS Business School - University of Technology, Sydney)
 (Bill Forrester, Travability)
b.     Other sources and gaps in our knowledge (all)

12:30 Lunch

1:30    Taking action (brainstorm of all stakeholders)
a.     What do we want to happen?
b.     Who do we need onside to make it happen?
c.      What could we do to make it happen?
d.     What are the barriers to getting there? 

2:30     Next steps
a.     Possible joint communiqué (draft with papers)
b.     Recap key outcomes & agreements (Annette Ellis)

3:30     Close

For inquiries please contact Craig Wallace at Nican on (02) 6241 1220 / 0451 199 750

The communiqué from the National Dialogue is now reproduced for your convenience and can be accessed from
National Dialogue
Stakeholders in accessible and inclusive tourism 
Wednesday 22 June 2011

Parliament House, Canberra 

Inclusive and Accessible Tourism – an opportunity for Australia

A National Dialogue of key stakeholders in inclusive and accessible tourism was opened on Monday 20 June by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers at Parliament House, Canberra.  The Dialogue, hosted by Nican and chaired by Annette Ellis, National Patron and former Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers, has agreed on a call to action for the tourism industry, government and the Australian community:

Tourism by people who have a disability or who are ageing is an opportunity for Australian Tourism to seize the competitive advantage in a tight market. It is also a great way to demonstrate corporate social responsibility.  The time is right for action as Australia’s baby boomers retire.

Key stakeholders including researchers, tourism operators and referral providers have joined forces, with the support of the Australian Government, to build awareness about the opportunities and to address barriers to tourism by these groups. 

Together, we believe that there is a growing understanding of the potential of the tourism market for people with disability, including seniors, which goes hand-in-hand with boosting visitor numbers and strengthening our place as a top draw tourism destination for people around the world. 

We recognise that access to leisure and recreation, including taking a holiday, is an important part of living an ordinary life and helps realise the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with a Disability and the National Disability Strategy. 

Ultimately, this will help to build a more welcoming and inclusive society, where individuals and families with a disability have choices and no longer feel shut out.

There are significant advantages to developing better tourism products, services and experiences to people with disability as well as information about opportunities, venues and services. 

This is good business sense and is also consistent with rights, access and corporate social responsibility. 

With the right planning this can be a real win for both people with disability and the tourism industry. 

Now is the time to promote the business case for disability tourism where:   

·        Some 88 per cent of people with disability take a holiday each year which accounts for some 8.2 million overnight trips.
·        The average travel group size for people with disability is 2.8 people for a domestic overnight trip and 3.4 for a day trip.
·        There is a myth that the inclusive tourism market does not spend because of economic circumstance.
·        People with disability travel on a level comparable with the general population for domestic overnight and day trips.
·        The total tourism expenditure attributable to people with disability is $8bn per year or 11 per cent of overall tourism expenditure (Dwyer & Darcy, 2011).

The business case is clear and draws on landmark research from Associate Professor Simon Darcy, with the University of Technology’s Business School, who presented at the session. 

We welcome the Government's commitment in the area of travel and tourism through the National Disability Strategy as well as work on Access to Premises and Transport Standards, access to airlines and cinema access. 

More could be done including an inclusive/accessible tourism category within a mainstream tourism award; a marketing strategy; a practical information guide; a National Forum with Tourism operators and further work to refresh and promote the business case for inclusive and accessible tourism, especially with industry.

We commend these ideas to government and each of us is committed to moving from commitment to action.

We are excited by the opportunity to deepen the understanding of the importance and potential of inclusive and accessible tourism for all Australians.  We will continue to work together and promote the benefits across the tourism industry, agencies of governments at all levels, tourism promoters, and the Australian community.

Issued by:
Australia For All Alliance Inc
Disabled Motorists Association
Disability Information and Resource Centre
Leadership plus (formerly Inclusive Leisure Vic) 

Media contact: Craig Wallace, Marketing Manager, Nican – 0451 199 750



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