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The noble Lord said: My Lords, tourism is a growing industry worldwide and this country needs to ensure that it gets its fair share of that market. In general tourists come from the developed world. People in the developed world are living longer because of advances in medicine. Because of that, more potential visitors are likely to be disabled in one way or another. We must cater properly for such disabled people in order to secure our share of this lucrative market. Furthermore, what will be of benefit to tourists will also benefit others.
What are the Government doing to help our tourist industry in this respect? When we have guests, we welcome them into our homes; we do not leave them standing on the doorstep. But what about tourists, who are guests of this country? It is not unusual for wheelchair users to be left waiting on an aircraft long after all the other passengers have disembarked. I suspect that that may also apply to those arriving by rail or sea. What is being done to prevent such inhospitable welcomes?
The Disability Discrimination Act is now in place, but what is being done to ensure that there is proper access for all that tourists need? That means not only physical access to hotels, restaurants and places of interest or amusement, but access to the information that they require. What is being done to provide information in a format suitable for those who are visually impaired and guests with hearing problems and to provide information in a suitable manner for those with mobility problems?
What training is being given to those employed in the tourist industry, in places such as theatres, cinemas, places of historic interest and even the Millennium Dome, in the specific needs of people who will have a wide variety of disabilities? What is being
I wish for a moment to concentrate on those visually impaired people who use a guide dog. Tourism, like business travel, is a two-way road. I understand that under the current proposals to replace quarantine a blind person is inhibited from taking his dog abroad on a business trip or for a weekend as he needs to obtain a veterinary certificate from outside the United Kingdom some 48 hours before returning to this country. Surely it should be possible in such circumstances to obtain the necessary certificate from a vet in this country. Many would place greater trust in such a certificate than one from Europe. I have not given the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, notice of that question. It may be a little wide of this debate. If she wishes to write to me with a response, I shall be very happy.
The other side of the coin is the employment of people with disabilities in all aspects of the tourist industry and the proper training of both disabled and able-bodied workers. What is the position with the Welcome for All training programme produced by the English Tourism Council? When will that be granted the status of a qualification by the Qualifications Curriculum Authority? Do Her Majesty's Government foresee any funds being used to encourage and assist the industry with opening up real and sustainable employment opportunities for people with disabilities? Do the Government envisage taking any steps to ensure distribution and dissemination to the industry of the best practice guide on "accessibility and welcoming" or the funding of it via appropriate routes?
I understand that the take-up by the industry of accessibility standards in abysmally low. What steps are the Government taking to assess why that is the case so that few facilities are inspected or are achieving any kind of acceptable accessibility category? What steps do they intend taking to ensure improvement in the quantity of accessible facilities? Are any steps being taken to ensure that on-going development of these standards is in line with the justifiable expectations of both tourists and those who work in the industry?
In the Armed Forces there is a set procedure for giving orders so that nothing is missed out and so that each speciality knows where to look for instructions. Will the Government consider, in conjunction with the tourist industry and organisations of disabled people, producing a guide on all kinds of accessibility for the industry for both tourists and employees so that it may be used as a checklist to cover most eventualities?
I look forward to the speeches of all who are taking part in this short debate and, in particular, to the response of the noble Baroness the Minister. I should like to thank everyone for participating at such a late hour.
I recently had the opportunity of visiting and experiencing at first hand the work of the Jane Hodge Hotel at Cowbridge, in South Wales. It is one of a small chain of hotels belonging to the John Grooms organisation. John Grooms has been providing wheelchair accessible holidays in the United Kingdom since 1976, when it opened the first fully accessible hotel in England, at Minehead, on the Somerset coast. At that time there was a total absence of wheelchair accessible hotel accommodation. Inspired by the immediate success of the venture at Minehead, John Grooms opened another hotel at Llandudno, and went on to build the Jane Hodge Resort Hotel, which won the first European award for accessibility to be made to a British hotel. It was also the first hotel in the United Kingdom to gain category 1 status in the national accessibility standards.
The philosophy underlying the creation of the hotel is that disabled people are able, with their family and friends, to experience the facilities offered by a good resort hotel in an environment as good as, and in many cases better than, many major hotel chains. The overall design of the Jane Hodge Resort Hotel, and its ambience, set out to minimise the impact of the comprehensive range of specialist equipment available--from closomats to en suites with wheel-in showers, or overhead hoists, demonstrating how the special needs of a disabled guest can be accommodated without institutionalising either individual rooms or the hotel environment at large.
In addition, the 30 en suite bedrooms include access, if required, to a 24-hour care service also provided by the hotel. That enables guests to access appropriate levels of support, to enjoy their holiday in a stress free environment and to be as independent, or not, as they wish. There is an excellent restaurant, which is open to the general public--and where the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and I enjoyed a very good lunch.
On site, also, is a leisure club, which is open to the local community and is most popular with the local special schools and adult training centres. Its facilities include a mullet-gym; a rolling-road; a swimming-pool; a spa bath; a sports hall; and all-weather tennis and basket ball courts. I have to say that my noble friend and I did not try those out. I found that hotel a remarkable example of what can be done given the initiative, drive and determination. I strongly recommend that noble Lords visit it, if they can.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I have spoken in the House on tourism many times during the past five decades. Perhaps I may be forgiven for not declaring my interest. This may well be my swan-song, or my dying swan song; I do not know which.
I listened with great interest to the first two speakers. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, on the steps that must be taken to improve matters. In particular, the debate on the needs of the disabled is timely and ongoing. On a personal note, at Beaulieu for many years we have had special car parks for the disabled, free wheelchairs and toilets with disabled access; we have employed disabled people, and so on. It can be done, certainly on a local scale.
I am sure that all noble Lords support the sentiment that holiday opportunities should be made available to all those who may feel themselves excluded. I particularly include disabled people because of the difficulties they experience as regards accessibility and the other special needs that they have. However, there are millions of people who are not disabled but are socially and economically excluded from the life-enhancing benefits of tourism. Put in simple terms, they just cannot afford to go on holiday.
I am concerned, as I look to the future, that tourism may soon become an opportunity reserved for the fortunate and wealthy rather than for the benefit of all. Mass national tourism started with the railways. It is interesting to note that 80,000 people visited Chatsworth in the 1880s. Then came the cars and so it has continued since then.
Mass international tourism began with the first jumbo jets which took to the air at the end of the 1960s and, 30 years later, many international air routes and aerodromes are at capacity. The world's most popular destinations are often so crowded, even unacceptably crowded, for much of the year and people spoil what they come to see. The natural, built and social environments of host communities are in many cases at breaking point.
The most important point that I want to make tonight is that, at the dawn of the new millennium, international tourism, even from developed countries like the United States, is still in its infancy and is currently only an activity of very few. A very low percentage of Americans have a passport. The proportion of the global population who can travel to the world's most precious and extraordinary places is no more than a tiny minority, the tip of the iceberg on world-wide tourism.
How will this inevitable explosion of demand over the coming years be managed, not only for disabled people but also for ordinary people? It is very unlikely that voluntary systems will emerge which will give equal opportunity to all those who wish to travel on business, with the family or as part of leisure tourism. If economic criteria alone are to determine accessibility, then the world's most precious places will not only become even more overcrowded to the point of irretrievable degradation, but they will become only available to the wealthiest citizens on this planet.
Let us consider Venice as an example, where you have to book a car parking space before you go there; or Yellowstone Park in America where you have to book before you go. We all know that the easiest way to control tourism is by price and that would be an absolute disaster.
The question I ask is how the Government are going to cope with this subject. Certainly we should promote the primacy of Tourism for All as the most essential and basic principle for guiding the management and development of tourism movements, with policies especially designed to bring tourists to their destinations and looking after them when they are there. I would like to see the Government perhaps subsidising off-peak travel, off-season travel, not only with the carriers but also to hotels. There are lots of all-season places which would be delighted to have people who otherwise could not afford to go there, and also especially to welcome the disabled.
The opportunity to travel needs to be available to everyone, for social, business and pleasure purposes, although this opportunity can never be absolutely equal to all, but the life-enhancing benefits of visiting the world's beautiful, interesting and inspiring places must be available for all people for all time. The challenge is contained in Tourism For All. I think it is time that our best futurologists and those interested in tourism should make a deep study of the subject.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, not only on introducing this subject but also on the amount of work he has done in this area, certainly ever since I have been a Member of the House and I believe for much longer. I hope that this will not be the last time we hear him. Indeed I hope that this is not the last time I am here to hear him.
We on these Benches, even when they are full, agree with the importance of Tourism for All. I am glad to see that the Government also agree with that, as is clear from Tomorrow's Tourism. Indeed, the bodies cheering for this are massive. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be quite enough coming from the Government in terms of money and action.
The tourism industry and the number of groups and people supporting it--they are legion--all agree that more should be done. They all agree that tourism is a growing industry. I believe that one of the research papers that I read said that it was our fifth biggest industry. Some will place it higher and others lower, but it is certainly a very big industry. It is also an industry which has an almost infinite capacity to expand and contract. We do not know where it is going. We do not know about future fashions and trends. However, we do know that tourism or, rather, the leisure industry--I think that that is a better description--is an industry in which people like to have a good time without too much trouble.
Tourism for All is right in saying that attention should be paid to the disabled and those with difficult family circumstances. Those groups need properly trained staff always to be available. Unless there are more initiatives on training, we shall have problems. Such training should be provided by government, or at least backed by government support. When the Government find good outside schemes, perhaps they
I turn to the physical environment. Like others, I have referred previously to the eternal bugbear of transport. The RNIB's recent report stated that for many visually impaired people, travel on public transport in this country is virtually a non-starter. Certainly, undertaking an entire, uninterrupted trip under their own steam is a non-starter. As people can usually understand more easily the concept of wheelchair accessibility, it is often pushed to the front of the queue. It is, indeed, very important, but support in the form of clear signing, the use of advanced technology, and the greater provision of sound announcements, are also important. Without such support, some people will not be able to travel and the very concept of tourism fails there. If you cannot get somewhere, it does not matter how wonderful it is.
One of the vital stages in the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act was passed last month. There must be accessibility for people who are disabled. That is a stick that the Government could use; but there is also a huge carrot, which part of the leisure or tourism industry has recognised. I refer to the fact that disabled people have money to spend, as do their friends. They will spend that money somewhere pleasant; somewhere where they can get in and out and where they are made to feel welcome.
I have with me an extract from the Licensee and Morning Advertiser--I apologise for taking time to find it, but my habit of not using notes means that I often have to fumble around. On 28th October, that paper carried a lovely article about a pub in East Bierley in West Yorkshire, which has increased its trade by making the pub a pleasant place. People now go there; they enjoy themselves and they spend money. The Government have been quite good--they could, of course, be a little better--at telling people of the economic advantages of such an approach. If that requires a little pump priming we welcome it.
The Government are making the right noises in supporting private initiatives, but they probably should do more in terms of back up and training. However, they do not have to break new ground. I hope that tonight we shall hear the practical steps that they are taking, for the very simple reason that if this door is not ajar it is certainly not locked.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I also thank my noble friend Lord Swinfen for making it possible to debate the Tourism For All initiative tonight. It has become clear from my noble friend's speech and the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that the success of Tourism For All depends not only on the good will of all of us but on action by the Government, the tourism industry and those who are potential travellers and guests. It is also a matter of principle. It is right to ensure that tourism facilities are accessible to all customers and staff irrespective of disability or age, for everybody loses out when disabled people do not have the chance to participate fully in society. As my noble friend Lord Montagu pointed out, Tourism For All embraces the needs of those who are socially excluded as well as those who are physically or mentally challenged. As my noble friend Lord Swinfen observed, it is also a matter of good commonsense.
Businesses must meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act to avoid being taken to court. The second phase of that Act came into operation in the past month. Above all, it is good for business to make tourism accessible to all. If a venue does not make reasonable provision for a disabled customer, it is likely to lose the custom of that person's family and friends.
More than 8 million people in Britain today are recognised as having some form of disability. It is estimated that the market is worth about £3 billion. Figures produced recently by the Joint Disability Charities Research Group show that in 1998 34 per cent of disabled people took no holiday or short break at all. At a time when for most people short breaks are occasions on which they can be with their families, friends and away from an environment in which for the rest of the year they spend far too long, that is a horrifying statistic.
The tourism industry has already taken some innovative measures to make all customers welcome, whatever their individual needs. I congratulate the National Trust's Powered Vehicle Scheme. Last night it won the England for Excellence Award in the Tourism For All category. I also hope that the Minister will join me in paying tribute to initiatives such as the individual programme of the Hoteliers Forum. That forum comprises representatives of many of the largest international hotel groups. It aims to make the hospitality sector a leader in disability equality in the fields of service provision and employment and to understand the customer's special needs from the point of reservation or check-in.
That is very much a mission statement. For people like me in the political world it sounds like good intentions. One always asks: what does it mean in practice? Last summer I had the opportunity to learn what it can mean to the individual. I attended the annual symposium of the Hoteliers Forum and heard the manager of the Renaissance Heathrow Hotel give a memorable example. He explained that athletes attending the World Disabled Water-ski Championships had brought £60,000 of business to his
The Tourism For All Consortium features in the strategy paper Tomorrow's Tourism, which I welcome. However, it is unclear how some of the suggestions and recommendations will be taken forward by the Government. I have some questions based on the recommendations in that strategy paper. First, do the Government intend that the Tourism For All Consortium will be the lead adviser to the Government on issues of disability and tourism? Secondly, how should access to employment in tourism be improved.
New Deal funding for employment of disabled people has finished. But none went to the tourism industry, despite a specific industry-led proposal by the Hoteliers' Forum and the Hospitality Training Foundation. Do the Government foresee any funds going into encouraging and assisting the industry with opening up real sustainable employment opportunities for disabled people?
Thirdly, what future do the Government see for the spreading of the National Accessibility Standards scheme? It is of course vital that customers with special needs know in advance of travelling whether the venue will have the facilities to suit them. My noble friend Lord Luke explained how we visited the Jane Hodge Resort Hotel earlier this year and were impressed by the facilities. We enjoyed the lunch, but did not take advantage of the sporting facilities. But we were most impressed by its brochure and the way in which it clearly and carefully described what was on offer to suit the needs of the individual and of his family and friends.
It is important that grading systems are clear and widely understood. As my noble friend Lord Swinfen pointed out, the take-up of the national standards scheme is abysmally low. Fewer than 2,000 establishments in the whole of the UK have been covered and the categories achieved are low. I echo his concern on that issue.
In addition, will the Government use their influence to encourage local government and local tourism authorities to adopt these standards rather than developing their own?--a practice that can cause confusion to customers. After all, such a move would fit in well with the Government's support for the ETC's unified grading scheme for hotels and guest-houses launched this summer.
No doubt the Minister is aware of the "Welcome to Britain" initiative. Would she join me in expressing the hope that this concept, which is currently being developed in conjunction with the BTA, will be up and running next year? "Welcome to Britain" plans to provide accurate information for disabled and third age tourists on all aspects of the UK tourism product in a way that is readily accessible to the potential world-wide market.
Finally, I understand that the Tourism Forum will meet next month for the first time in its fully reconstituted form. Can the Minister assure the House that when the Secretary of State takes the chair at that meeting he will put Tourism For All on the agenda and ensure that the issues raised tonight by noble Lords will be addressed?
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, for tabling the Question and giving us the opportunity to discuss these important issues. I join other noble Lords in thanking him for doing so.
Since 1989 and the publication of Mary Baker's report, Tourism For All, the term has become synonymous with improving access to tourism for those with special needs not only in the UK but, as noble Lords mentioned tonight, across Europe. The commitment of the Tourism For All consortium in making mainstream tourism accessible to people with disabilities is inspiring. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who raised this point with me, that as one of the main organisations in this area, the consortium is one of the key government advisers on the issues of disability and tourism.
In Britain we are very fortunate to have such a wealth of attractions to offer people: stunning landscapes, historic houses and castles, churches and ancient monuments, gardens, theme parks, shops and restaurants. No one should be denied the opportunity to enjoy all that is on offer if they want to do so, whether because of disability, deprivation or any other reason, as the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, made clear. That is why widening access to tourism--in other words, promoting tourism for all--is a theme running all the way through the Government's tourism strategy for England, Tomorrow's Tourism, launched last February.
I shall deal with each of these aims in turn, explaining what we hoped to achieve and progress to date, because many noble Lords have mentioned Tomorrow's Tourism, and in doing so, I hope to give some of the answers requested by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and other noble Lords.
First, I should like to deal with the specific point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. I should say that the wording in Tomorrow's Tourism is perhaps open to misinterpretation with relation to training. It commits the ETC to promoting, not funding, existing initiatives which seek to train those within the tourism industry and to promote good practice. Tomorrow's Tourism refers to the Tourism For All consortium's interest in training. While we want to encourage its interest in training issues, we appreciate that the consortium is not a major training organisation and there is no expectation on our part that the consortium should take on additional duties for which it does not in fact have funding.
I turn now to highlighting growing market opportunities. Holidays for people with disabilities and other special needs are an important, but undeveloped, part of the tourism market. Providing a service that is accessible, which often requires only minor adjustments, will enable holiday providers to tap into a huge potential market, which other noble Lords have mentioned. It is in providers' own interests to explore that potential.
Our tourism strategy points out that in 10 years there will be over a million more people in Britain over the age of 60 than there are today. When people reach retirement age they now tend to have money to spend as well as the time available to spend it. Often, however, by the time people have reached retirement age they are not quite as fit as they would like to be. They would not necessarily consider themselves disabled and would not expect special treatment, but they will have certain requirements to be met. That has been ably pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen.
Some areas of the industry, mainly the operators of large hotel chains and larger attractions, have recognised the business opportunities offered by making their facilities accessible. We still need to reach the smaller businesses which make up the bulk of the industry, particularly within the accommodation sector. The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, raised some important points in that regard, and I agree with him that Tourism For All should mean exactly that. We should recognise that lack of resources is a problem, and the industry must provide low-cost packages to meet that important market. But sustainability is
Thanks to the work of the Hotel and Holiday Consortium, now part of the Tourism for All Consortium, the Holiday Care Service and the national tourist boards, we have a national accessible accommodation scheme. As the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, pointed out, the take-up of the accessibility scheme is extremely low, but it is growing. The English Tourism Council reported a 6 per cent increase in the number of establishments being inspected. The ETC is currently reviewing how it may encourage greater participation in that scheme. We need to educate the industry as regards the potential business opportunities which being accessible can bring to it.
Secondly, our aim is to make English tourism the most accessible and welcoming in Europe. There are real opportunities for tourism operators to expand their businesses by taking a positive approach to the market which people with disabilities constitute. The key to adopting a positive approach is to combat often prejudiced attitudes to disabled people.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked me about what steps are being taken to develop a national campaign to change public attitudes to disability. In June, the Department for Education and Employment launched a national disability awareness campaign. Now the intention is to adapt that campaign and aim it specifically at the tourism industry. A major step in that campaign is a conference planned for December. The event marks the UK's National Information Day for People with Disabilities. It is intended to promote an exchange of information between people with disabilities and people who provide services to the public. The programme for the conference includes a number of workshops, one of which will focus on holiday-taking and disability.
We all agree that positive staff attitudes are critical if people with special needs are to be fully integrated into the mainstream tourism environment. Customer service is all about understanding the needs of the individual customer, whatever those needs may be. The English Tourist Board launched its Welcome All customer care course in 1996. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Addington, who raised the whole question of staff training, that it is proving to be extremely popular. Between April and September of this year, more than 700 people have attended the one-day course. The ETC will be introducing an updated version of the Welcome All programme in spring 2000.
The next stage of rights took effect on 1st October of this year. This was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Service providers are now required to take reasonable steps to change the way in which they provide their services so as to make them accessible for disabled people.
The final stage of rights will be implemented in 2004. From that date, service providers must tackle physical barriers which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use their service. We are aware and we share some of the concern expressed tonight that knowledge of what the Act means for businesses within the tourism and hospitality sector is still limited. The Department for Education and Employment is running a campaign to raise awareness of the DDA. The "See the Person" campaign promotes the further rights of the DDA. It also advertises the DDA helpline number, which can be contacted on all aspects of the DDA.
On 1st October the Department for Education and Employment published guidance aimed specifically at small and medium-sized businesses on the rights of access to goods and services for disabled people. We will ensure that that document is distributed, via the regional tourist boards, to as many businesses as possible within the sector. We want tourism businesses to be assessing what they need to do now to comply with the Act, and not wait until the last moment.
To coincide with the implementation of the second stage of the DDA, the English Tourism Council have published a document called Welcoming Disabled Travellers, which aims to help accommodation providers get on track with disabled customers. It advises on the implications and potential of making properties suitable for disabled customers, often at low cost. Welcoming Disabled Travellers also seeks to break down misconceptions that may have prevented businesses from catering for disabled customers in the past.
The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked whether we envisaged steps to ensure distribution and dissemination of best practice in this area. Specific industry guidance on best practice in providing access for the disabled could very usefully supplement the ETC's guidance. That seems to be an excellent idea, and we shall explore further what help we can provide to promote that. We note the parallel drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, for the kind of check list which the set list of orders used in the Armed Forces provides.
I was interested to hear of the excursion to Wales of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. We are aware of the good work that the Grooms hotels carry out as part of the Tourism for All consortium. Such hotels are models for those who want to identify new markets and to show how to provide for them. The hotel industry in general can
Finally, on improving access to employment in tourism, extending employment opportunities to disabled people as well as to older people, to women wanting to return to work, to those from lower income groups, and to those from different ethnic backgrounds, enables businesses to recruit from the widest possible range of employees. If businesses make themselves accessible as employers, they will, at the same time, make themselves accessible to a wider pool of customers.
The New Deal for Disabled People aims to provide active help to people with disabilities or long-term health conditions who want to work. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about New Deal funding and the noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Swinfen, about training, some schemes that received funding are providing jobs for disabled people in the tourism and hotel sectors. A London Training and Enterprise Council, SOLOTEC, for example, has joined forces with the New Millennium Experience Company to provide jobs in the Dome for disabled people. At the end of their contracts it is anticipated that many of them will move on to jobs in the tourism industry because of the skills that they will have gained working in the Dome.
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, although no further projects will receive funding via the New Deal, Ministers from the Department for Education and Employment and the Department for Social Security are considering what help can be provided nationally, taking account of emerging findings from the schemes and pilots.
I have tried to cover the points raised by noble Lords. I will study the record and supply answers in writing, if appropriate, if I have missed some specific points. I also gratefully accept the request of the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, to receive a letter on guide dogs and the veterinary certificates necessary to bring them into the country. It is, as he said, a little wide of this particular debate, but I will certainly pursue it with colleagues and write to him about that point.
In conclusion, the Holiday Care Service, the Tourism For All consortium, the Hoteliers' Forum and many others have worked hard to widen access to tourism. I offer them my warm congratulations for everything that they have achieved to date. We all want Tourism For All to become a reality and we are working towards achieving it. Like many of the action points listed in Tomorrow's Tourism, it cannot be achieved overnight and it will only be achieved by everyone in the industry pulling together. The
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