The survey of 215 disabled travellers, conducted by the Co-operative Group’s travel-arm with charity Tourism for All, found 84 per cent of respondents did not believe high street travel agents understood their needs and 78 per cent did not think they were catered for.
Tourism for All’s Head of Consultancy Brian Seaman welcomed The Co-operative Travel’s initiative: “We have conducted independent research in the past by sending disabled travellers on to the high street to find a disabled-friendly holiday to Majorca. Not one travel agent was able to offer a product that might have resulted in a booking.
“Typically, agents had great difficulty in finding suitable accommodation and the process — which sometimes took more than an hour — would have been frustrating for the client. Furthermore, when it came to visiting and checking the accommodation, it turned out not to be as accessible for disabled people as suggested.
“Few agents have knowledge of the issues facing disabled travellers and this means they have been unable to offer meaningful advice, which is why this new initiative is like a breath of fresh air.”
Jane Witherington, Commercial and Market Development Manager with Co-operative Travel Trading Group, said: “Despite there being many tour operators catering for people with disabilities, it has become clear to us that we can and should do more.
“We have launched a service for disabled travellers, and have trained staff from 40 branches on all aspects of holidays for people who require specialist travel.
“In addition, the branches will carry a specialist guide that contains information about airport facilities and details of key travel partners in the UK and abroad, alongside other essential information.”
The business has also ensured the specialist network of branches is beyond Disability Discrimination Act compliant, with clear access, power-assisted doors, portable hearing loops and visual alarms in-store. Ultimately, the intention is to provide training and facilities across the entire network of 410 branches.
• For more information on the service contact The Co-operative Travel on 0845 266 9228 or visit online: www.co-operativetravel.co.uk/specialist-travel.