Lonely Planet Writer

Travel for All: Lonely Planet forges partnership with accessible tourism network

As Lonely Planet’s Accessible Travel Manager, I am proud to announce that the company has signed an agreement with the world’s leading network for the study, promotion and practice of accessible travel.

Lonely Planet and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) will combine forces to help bring the needs of travellers with a disability into the mainstream.

Group of travellers with disabilities visiting Alcatraz Lonely Planet's Accessible Travel Manager Martin Heng, left, on a visit to Alcatraz, San Francisco. Image courtesy of Aicha Nystrom, Tapooz Travel.

The agreement means Lonely Planet, with its social media family of over seven million followers, and ENAT, which has close links to tourism suppliers as well as national and regional tourist boards across the world, will work together to:

  • focus the attention of tourism suppliers and travel destinations on the requirements of travellers with disabilities and to get them to see this as a great market opportunity.
  • encourage people with access needs to explore their world with greater confidence so that they can enjoy the many benefits of travel in the same way as able-bodied people.

The difficulties faced by the estimated one billion people with a disability who have the same desire to travel as everyone else are not only physical: they also lack access to relevant and accurate information. Since I launched the Travel for All project in December 2013, Lonely Planet has passed several significant landmarks in a bid to address this.

In 2014, we published our pilot guide, Accessible Melbourne, to help people with special needs get the most out of the city. In just seven months this free e-book has enjoyed more than 11,000 downloads, signalling the appetite for information. If you’d like a taster of what you’ll find in the book, take a look at the article that launched it.

The Google+ Travel for All community I set up as a forum for people to share information and experiences has grown to 3000 members – and we’re now looking at how to make it an even more useful resource by reorganising it along geographic lines, not just according to type of disability.

Furthermore, we’re about to publish the world’s largest collection of online resources for accessible travel – information is key to travellers with access issues, and provision of information is also the cornerstone of Lonely Planet.

During this journey, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the support of two mentors: Scott Rains, who is the undisputed godfather of inclusive travel, and Ivor Ambrose, managing director of ENAT, who invited me to be a keynote speaker at the first UNWTO-sponsored global summit on accessible travel in Montréal last October.

If you have an interest in accessible travel, come and join our Google+ community or follow me on Twitter (@Martin_Heng).