Personal Travel Manager Seeking to Mainstream Accessible Travel Sector

Personal Travel Manager Seeking to Mainstream Accessible Travel Sector

Featured photo: PTM Michelle Aitken believes events such as AITCAP are key to fostering more widespread support for Accessible and Inclusive Travel


TravelManagers’ Michelle Aitken was among 190 delegates to attend the recent Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Conference in the Asia Pacific (AITCAP): an annual event which aims to promote growth and connection within the accessible and inclusive travel market.

Aitken quotes a recent report authored by the event’s MC, Giovanna Lever, that outlined the scale, opportunities and challenges associated with travel for people with disabilities.

“The report found that people with disabilities contributed almost $11 billion to the Australian tourism market (domestic and international) in 2018, while newer data indicates that this figure reached around $13.5 billion in 2021. Yet despite this vast spending power, there are still widespread issues with accessible accommodation, air travel and transportation.”

Aitken believes the accessible and inclusive travel sector is currently under-represented and overlooked by many in the travel industry, but she says her attendance at AITCAP provided introductions to a number of operators who are already doing great things in the accessible and inclusive tourism space.

TravelManagers’ Michelle Aitken has drawn on her own experiences to understand how best she can understand and fulfill the individual needs of her clients.

Aitken’s own interest in accessible and inclusive travel stems from her own personal and professional experiences. As well as managing her own requirements and those of family members, through her business based in Benalla, VIC, she has organised numerous large overseas groups on behalf of Melbourne-based Disability Support Organisation, Interchange Outer East.

“Regardless of the nature of the disabilities people are living with, I feel passionate about making it easier for families to holiday together,” she explains. “Knowing how to ask the right questions is paramount to understanding their needs and providing them with the best possible experience.”

For personal travel managers like Aitken, that means developing the necessary skills to recognise and accommodate various clients’ needs – especially for those with ‘hidden disabilities’, who currently account for around 95 percent of all disabilities in Australia.

“Planning a holiday is something everyone should be able to enjoy,” she points out. “As Australia’s ageing population increases, the demand for travel professionals that truly understand how to manage their clients’ needs is only going to become more important. I’d like our industry to move beyond thinking of this as a niche market so that we all become better at meeting the needs of every traveller.”

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