It is fair to say that if your tourism business is not accessible friendly then you are going to miss out on significant business in the future. Also known as inclusive tourism this market services the needs of people travelling with mobility, vision and hearing issues.

There are myths in the marketplace that suggest that people with a disability travel far less than the general population, however, the 2008 Australian National Visitor Survey estimated the following:

– Some 88% of people with disability take a holiday each year that accounted for some 8.2 million overnight trips.

– The average travel group size for people with a 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. That is false as it is a significant proportion of each travel market segment.

– They travel on a level comparable with the general population for domestic overnight and day trips.

– The total tourism expenditure attributable to the group is $8bn per year or 11% of overall tourism expenditure.

Recently the Caravan Industry Association of Australia interviewed Anthony Wake. He is a man passionate about providing people with disabilities the same opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors as anyone else. So much so, he launched the first Australian business that designs caravans for people in wheelchairs, by people in wheelchairs.

Accessible Tourism is about creating environments that can cater for the needs of everyone, whether that be due to a disability, getting older and even for families with small children.

Anthony Wake is one such example. He always loved camping as an able-bodied person, but found it challenging after suffering a spinal cord injury that left him paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair. He kept at it though, trialling out different set ups with varying success in an effort to continue travelling the way he loved most. Eventually he decided that to truly live the Aussie dream he needed a modified caravan -and it was!

Anthony’s caravan became a point of interest for fellow caravanners and after many suggestions to do so, he finally decided to start designing and building fully accessible wheelchair caravans so others could enjoy the same freedoms. He says, “We design all Accessavans ( so the user can be totally independent, whether that be a wheelchair lift or a push button jockey wheel. And an unintentional bonus of our caravans is that they actually help able-bodied partners as well”.

Anthony says that as a person with a disability, the biggest issue when travelling can be accommodation because it doesn’t come with all the comforts of home. Added to this, accessible accommodation is in high demand so you often need to book well ahead to guarantee a room or a cabin with disabled facilities.

There are an estimated 4.2 million Australians with a disability according to the ABS, which equates to about 18.5% of the population. New technologies in caravans have made them increasingly accessible and more and more people with disabilities are enjoying the freedom of travelling Australia’s vast landscapes.

Add on a 4WD power wheelchair and sandy tracks, a swim in the ocean or a riverside campsite all become possible. These products truly enable tourism for all and as Anthony reminds us, “We are part of an ageing population, so demand will only grow”.

At some point in life, we can all benefit from universal accessibility in tourism. We all know people in our rainbow community who would love to travel more now you can do it in a caravan.

Lynne Hocking
Camp Mother
@Australia’s Gay Nomads

Image: Accessavans (supplied by Author)