“Follow the lead” of inclusive tourist attractions, urge ministers

Disability ramp sign
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A leading Blackpool attraction is among those tipped by government as a template for how operators approach provision for disabled visitors.

Two government ministers have urged leisure operators to follow the example of Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool by ensuring that the needs of disabled visitors are fully catered for.

Minister for disabled people Sarah Newton and Tourism Minister Michael Ellis have called on all leisure attractions to “follow the lead” of the industry’s most inclusive destinations, by making adaptations such as wheelchair access routes, disabled toilets and the capacity to handle guide dogs.

“Many leisure businesses are already doing the right things in making sure their facilities are enjoyed by disabled people, including Sand- castle Water Park,” Newton said on a visit to the waterpark a fortnight ago. “Things like designated opening times, a quiet room, open-ended day tickets and ramps can make all the difference. I’m calling on others in the tourism industry to follow their lead and put visitors’ needs at the heart of their services.”

Ellis, meanwhile pressed the message that the UK’s reputation as a travel destination was at stake, and drew focus on recent Visit England Tourism Award finalists – which included Sandcastle – as examples of the way forward.

“If we are to maintain [our] reputation and its economic and social benefits, I urge all tourism venues to follow in the footsteps of these award winners and review whether they are doing enough to cater for dis- abled people, to ensure they are accessible to everyone,” he said.

Over 11m people in Britain – roughly a fifth of the population – live with some kind of disability or permanent health condition. With a combined spending power over £250bn, it is a vast market – one that can contribute significant gain to operators with the right staff-training initiatives and accessibility measures in place.

“Our Inclusive Tourism Award winners demonstrate that providing easy access for all makes sound business sense,” said head of business support at Visit England Ross Calladine. “By taking steps to ensure staff are disability confident, making reasonable adjustments to facilities and providing information on venue accessibility, other businesses can benefit from this valuable market.”

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