ANTOR conference 2019

Why all-inclusive really means meeting the diverse needs of your customers

The travel sector needs to think beyond “one size fits all” if they are to cash in on the huge untapped market of customers who want to travel but have particular requirements, the fourth ANTOR conference heard.

Bringing together speakers, media representatives, and delegates representing tourist boards the globe over, the Association of National Tourist Offices and Representatives’ annual conference was held last week in London. One of the biggest takeaways from the event is that “diversity first” should be included in any campaign to attract disabled, older, LGBT or Muslim travellers.

Broadcaster and access consultant for disabled people, Mik Scarlet, said: “Holidays, tourism, fun, an exciting weekend away: this is something we all want to do. So start thinking outside the box and do it to make a profit because we are loaded and if you do it right we will come back again and again. We are a very loyal customer base.” Scarlet recalled how baggage handlers had broken his wheelchair and hotel staff had talked to his partner like his carer. He called for the industry not to see the disabled as a “stereotype on benefits” and added that the disabled community represents 22% of the UK population who have £80bn a year of disposal income, some of which they want to spend on travel.

Nabeel Shariff, founder of Serendipity Tailormade and Halal Travel, said Muslim travellers value hotels that offer halal food, alcohol-free environments, prayer facilities, female-friendly areas, as well as those that welcome families.

When it comes to senior age brackets, Lynn Scrivener, partnership manager of Silver Travel Advisor, said that in ten years time half of UK adults will be over the age 50. However they won’t necessarily want to be marketed to as “older travellers”. She advised: “We may look like we’re 60, 70 or 80 but we also want to look ten years younger so we don’t particularly want to see a picture online or in a magazine of some gnarled old woman looking like she’s 80 and who has led the life of a working kitchen maid. We do want to look attractive but at the same time, yes, you want to appeal to your viewer or reader.”

Jared Collum, sales and operations manager of LGBT specialists, appealed to the sector to be “sincere and not seasonal”. He commented that: “The rainbow has become a bit of a commercial tool. It’s become the rubber stamp outside your hotel but that doesn’t make your services applicable to the LGBT audience.” He also called for promotional material to include images of same sex couples.

The conference included expert updates on how technology was reshaping the way travellers research and book their trips. Richard Thomas, insight director of TI Media, revealed how the company’s latest research had identified a potential new ‘Heart of Britain’ market – women, who hold the family purse strings and save for travel.

Thomas advised: “We feel they are often misunderstood and underrepresented in terms of the way they are communicated to by brands. The average spend for the Heart of Britain group stacks up pretty closely to what A & B [high income tier consumers] spend on average on holidays and they outspend millennials. They have massive economic power and this group decide were this money gets spent. They are a huge group who can’t be ignored.”

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