Black Meetings and Tourism

July/Aug 2011

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 30 of 64

BY MICHAEL BENNETT DON’T OVER LOOK A MAJOR SOURCE OF REVENUE: DISABLED TRAVELERS with DisabilityAct (ADA), theAir CarriersAccessAct (regulates air- lines handling the disabled) and two key resolutions in the InternationalAirTransportAssociation (impacts international carriers). Nayar says,“attitude,awareness and training are the keys” to over- coming the discrimination against the disabled. Even in organizations with stellar records in terms of service to the disabled “all it takes is one person to blow away all the good things” a service provider has worked so hard to accomplish. This lack of understanding, indifference or both costs corporations the vacation of a lifetime. The kids spent days swimming in A the hotel pool, having fun at the local amusement park and eating more junk food than their parents would ever allow had they been at home. Like most family vacations the kids wanted the good times to last forever,but school is right around the corner and its time to head home. So the family packs their bags and heads to the airport. Everything is running smoothly until its time to board when the flight attendants decide they cannot accommodate the family and refuse them board- ing. Why? Because both parents are blind and this particular group of flight attendants felt the parents would be unable to take care of their children who are both fortunate to have their sight. What makes this story so sad is this was the same carrier that delivered themto their vacation destination in the first place. This car- rier them allowed this family to check in for their flight home only to be denied boarding at the gate. According to Jani Nayar, executive coordinator of the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH), this lack of awareness are repeated hundreds of times a day not just at airports,but different ven- ues all across the country. The SATHwas founded in 1976 as a non-profit organizationwhose mission is to raise awareness of the needs of all travelers with disabil- ities. SATH played a key role in crafting the language for theAmericans 30 family of four has enjoyed millions in potential revenues. For many businesses, especially in our industry with such flimsy profit margins, that’s a recipe for disaster. Too often our disabled brothers and sisters are given short shrift because people are afraid of the unknown. In other casesNayar says many refuse to act appropriately for fear of a lawsuit. ButNayarwants tomake sure suppliers understand“if you provide the servicewe (the disabled) will travel.We are not looking for charity. The travel indus- try needs to know that providing theses services is good business.” Froman economic perspective the clout of the disabled is undeni- able. DisabledAmericans earn in excess of $1 trillion annually. To put that into perspective, if disabled Americans were an actual country their gross domestic product (GDP) would rank them 15th in the world just behind South Korea and ahead of places like the Netherlands andArgentina. There are an estimated 55 to 60million disabledAmericans,which equates to one out of every five people in this country. And globally there are over 650 million disabled. Since 2007, disabled Americans have spent over $40 billion at America’s restaurants and have annual disposal income in excess of $220 billion. And as this country’s population ages those numbers are all expected to rise. What’s all thatmean for the travel,tourismand hospitality industry here at home? Of the 60million or soAmericans with a disability,85 percent of themhave the economic and physical ability to travel.Taken one step further,most disabled travel with at least one other person increasing potential revenues for a supplier. A poll taken byHarris a fewyears back estimated that peoplewith disabilities spent $13.6 billion on 31 million person trips a year. Before continuing,it’s important to understandwhat being disabled reallymeans. Disability comes inmany forms and like the rest of soci- Black Meetings & Tourism July/August 2011:

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Black Meetings and Tourism - July/Aug 2011