Table of Contents

Module 1: The Importance of Accessibility in Business Travel

Learning Objectives
  • Readers will learn why accessibility is a material issue for business travel, in the context duty of care, ROI of travel, DEI objectives, and the future of the business travel workforce.
  • Readers will learn how GBTA defines accessibility in the context of business travel. 
  • Readers will learn about the key challenges and opportunities that will be addressed in this toolkit. 

We cannot ensure seamless business travel for all without addressing accessibility
Addressing accessibility challenges has been identified as a key priority for the business travel industry. The issue is not widely understood or addressed: in a 2022 survey, 39% of business travelers identified as having an accessibility requirement that affected their performance (Accessio). Yet 70% of travel managers didn’t know or wouldn’t estimate how many of their travelers have accessibility requirements. These are travelers whose challenges include not just physical disabilities, but also other types of accessibility requirements, including mental health issues and neurodiversity, temporary conditions like pregnancy or injuries, age-related needs, food allergies, and chronic pain. 

For the purposes of this toolkit, we take a broad definition of accessibility requirements, acknowledging any traveler with permanent, temporary, situational, visible, and invisible needs that may impact their travel, such as physical disabilities, neurodivergence, pregnancy, injuries, age-related needs, food allergies, chronic pain, etc. 

Accessibility is not only a moral and human imperative but also a strategic business consideration. Embracing accessibility aligns with legal requirements, enhances market reach, and contributes to a positive corporate image and employee satisfaction. It's an integral aspect of a socially responsible and sustainable global business strategy – one also supported by recent government initiatives such as the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), ensuring that people with disabilities are not restricted in obtaining goods and services, including transportation, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including transportation, and similar legislation in India, England, Italy, and many other countries. Proposed regulations for the future, such as those on European passenger rights, aim to impose even stronger requirements on accessibility-related travel accommodations. It is in every company’s best interest to prepare for these upcoming regulations by evaluating the accessibility of their programs and services.

Finally, not only are employers/travel managers compelled to act by duty of care, but travelers with accessibility requirements are themselves a needed portion of a resilient and diverse business travel workforce. 

Duty of Care: Travel managers have a responsibility to support their travelers and manage risks.

Data shows that on average, travelers with accessibility needs are not as satisfied with their travel programs as other travelers. According to the Accessio report, traveler satisfaction with their business travel experience is 17 points lower among those with accessibility requirements (2022). Travel managers share this sentiment – only 9% say they are “very satisfied” with their travel program’s accommodations. 

If travelers’ wellbeing is at risk as a result of their business travel, the risk is not only to their overall experience, but to the liability of the company. According to the Accessio report, 70% of travel managers don’t know how many of their travelers have accessibility requirements. While there is no legal obligation for employees to disclose their requirements (and many choose not to), travel managers cannot mitigate or manage risk if they don’t know the full profile of their travelers.  

ROI of Travel: Travelers cannot deliver on their company’s investment when accessibility requirements are not met.

A certain level of trip planning can be expected for all business travel. However, travelers with accessibility requirements often have to go above and beyond to plan their trip. Extra time spent on booking, finding information, navigating websites, and going through extra approvals is time that could be spent otherwise (see Module 6). 

Travel suppliers should also understand that travelers with accessibility requirements’ average spend per trip is higher. They more often book premium air travel and higher star rated hotels (Accessio 2022). In fact, travelers with disabilities represent a $70 billion market. These travelers are not a niche. 

DEI Objectives: Companies and DEI programs must deliver upon objectives to provide equitable working conditions for all.

In recent years, more companies are creating holistic DEI programs, developing objectives and strategies throughout their internal operations to make a more inclusive and equitable workplace. More than 8 in 10 companies in the US had some sort of DEI initiative in 2021 (Los Angeles Times), and 28% of S&P 500 companies included DEI in their 2021 executive incentive plans (Semler Brossy, 2022). A key objective of these programs is to incorporate inclusive or universal design into the development of any programs or products, or without proactive design, to provide accommodations for employees with accessibility requirements. At the basic level, companies with non-discrimination policies are also compelled to act, to ensure that they are not discriminating against employees who need travel accommodations. 

Future of the Workforce: Employees with accessibility requirements are a needed and valuable portion of an already lagging travel workforce.

Staffing shortages continue to plague the travel industry in the wake of COVID-19 (AFAR 2022), and while this is mostly on the supply side, the business travel industry must do everything it can to diversify the incoming traveling workforce. Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) sees “full and productive employment and decent work for all” as one of the key levers to a sustainable future, and with 16% of the world’s population living with some form of disability, they are a vital and needed component of today’s workforce. 

Call to Action
  • Consider how the four reasons to care about accessibility in business travel apply to your company and program, and share this information with your internal stakeholders.

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