Catering to the needs of special needs passengers should be a priority for aviation–and the travel industry as a whole–as a moral imperative, but, sadly, the world doesn’t work that way.
I’ve written before about the importance of accommodating special needs passengers and passengers of limited mobility as well as the ageing traveller, but new information from the Daily Travel Stats provided by Skift Stats shine a light on the inherent value of this traveller profile to the European market.
Accessible tourism: If Europe were to cater to needs of special needs travelers, it would be huge economic bump: pic.twitter.com/aKUm3D1w3s— Skift Research (@skiftresearch) July 7, 2014
According to the data furnished by Skift Stats, the direct economic contribution to the EU economy of this traveller profile is estimated as 16 billion Euros gross turnover, 7 billion Euros gross value added, and 8 billion Euros of GDP. The total economic contribution from this travel sector is an estimated at 34 billion Euros of economic output, 15 billion Euros of gross value added, and 17 billion Euros of GDP. It could generate 538 thousand new jobs.
These are not numbers Europe can afford to ignore.
My recent article for Aircraft Interiors International on passenger demographics also reveals that many industry experts expect that the needs of ageing passengers will become increasingly important to the aviation and travel industries in coming years.
Current cabin design trends seem headed in a direction which is counter to the needs of these travellers–with very few exceptions such as seating design proposals by Priestmangoode.
Terminals are becoming cities, with attractive recreational and shopping opportunities. Advanced technical features for passenger tracking are introduced, but way-finding and signage remain problematic and the long-distances to walk will necessitate an improved reliable method of transporting these passengers to their gates.
The Open Doors Organisation, which I previously featured in an article on this topic for Skift, is dedicated to helping travel providers, air carriers, airports and other transport organisations plan and develop friendlier travel experiences for these passengers who are eager to see the world and have the resources to do so.
While I write often about the various economic reasons why airlines choose denser cabins and airports focus on retail and other revenue-generating sectors, I feel obliged to say that ignoring this growing market is the travel industry being penny wise and pound foolish.
Other market sectors, like the Millennial traveller, garner attention and drive great investments in technology to accommodate their needs. The growth of this sector will also be great. It is therefore imperative for the travel and transport industries to accommodate the needs of both. Don’t take my word for it. Read the linked articles and let the experts assure you of this.
When we consider the time and costs required to implement new programs, it becomes clear that accommodating the needs of limited-mobility travellers is a project which must start today.
Failing to do so will be a great financial loss for the transport and travel industries–and should be a source of shame. We are all headed for older years, even the Millennials. What provisions are we making to ensure this younger generation continues to travel frequently when they finally have more money in their accounts but more years on their bones?
The numbers Skift Stats presents in this data-bite are particular to Europe, but there are special needs travellers in every travel market around the world.
Featured Image: Air Access Seat by Priestmangoode