In the December issue of CT Magazine, we explore the value of specialisations (in accessible travel). More and more travel advisors are focusing their energy on specific niche markets, and it's paying off in spades. Here, we speak with Tarita Davenock, CEO of Travel for All, Inc., about specializing in accessible travel.
1. What is your niche and why did you choose it?
My company Travel for All specializes in accessible travel for travellers with varied disabilities. This is a completely under-serviced demographic in travel. With the retirement of the Baby Boomers there is an even greater need. My having MS impacts how I travel; which created the question as to how other people with disabilities travel confidently.
2. How has choosing a niche has impacted your business and your success?
People with disabilities (PWD) are a large global market. With an estimated population of 1.3 billion, PWD are an emerging market the size of China. Their friends and family add another 2.2 billion potential consumers that act on their emotional connection to PWD. Together, they control over $8 trillion in annual disposable income globally. My company has contacts globally, with whom we work and arrange fully accessible vacations to places that many people with disabilities never imagined they would or could ever visit. For example, an African Safari, Machu Pichu in Peru, Tuscany wine tasting -- all while remaining in your wheelchair. Our company is growing by leaps and bounds, as anyone can ‘join’ this demographic by life throwing its curveballs.
3. In terms of marketing yourself and your business, what do you do to ensure consumers are aware of your niche and refer to you as a specialist?
We have formed relationships with organizations globally; I.E. MS Canada, Spinal Cord Injury, Easter Seals etc. They share who we are and what we do for people who require certain assistance when planning vacations.Our most exciting partnership for accessible
Our most exciting partnership for accessible travel is with the U.S. company brettapproved Inc. who is building TripAdvisor for travellers with mobility challenges. brettapproved has developed the world's first algorithm to provide non-subjective ratings on the accessibility of any place or venue on the planet. They have built a community of more than 20,000 people who actively review and share their experiences with airlines, cruise lines, hotels, restaurants etc.
4. Describe the top qualities necessary in an individual who might be considering this niche for their own business.
If someone is already working in the travel industry and is interested in learning about how to service this demographic, the industry is unfortunately slow at recognising the potential. There is a great deal of understanding and perhaps a little empathy required to do well in this field.
5. What are the biggest challenges of your niche?
Our mantra is that ‘Travel Should Be Inclusive- Not Exclusive’. We are working hard at sharing the huge need for inclusion within the travel industry. It is time to share realistic imagery of what today's traveller actually looks like. The ‘Ken and Barbie’ running through the sand leaves out the person who is in a wheelchair, is visually impaired and travels with their seeing eye dog companion, uses a cane etc.
6. What are the biggest rewards of your niche?
By far the greatest joy is when you open up the world to a client with a disability who dreamed of visiting a place but did not think that it was possible. We are here to tell them that "the world is everyone’s oyster."
7. Generally speaking, why would you recommend travel advisors choose this niche?
This demographic is rapidly growing; the inclusive tourism market has been estimated as being worth US$134 billion annually. Already a major tourism sector, it is a market driven by the retirement of the baby boomers, who command almost 60 percent of net U.S. wealth and 40 percent of spending. In travel, boomers represent over 50 percent of consumption. The impact on the inclusive tourism sector is significant as over 40 per cent of them will be retiring with some form of disability, raising the total value of this sector to over 25 per cent of the tourism market by 2020.