The Scottish tourism industry has been told there are “clear areas of improvement” to address if it is to enhance the experience for visitors with access requirements.

The message was delivered as new research carried out by the country’s national tourism organisation found that only 35% visitors to Scotland with access requirements found it “very easy” to get around on their trip. One in five reported some difficulties, according to the Scotland Visitor Survey, which found the most common challenges centred around stairs or lack of an elevator, parking difficulties, and uneven, narrow paths or cobbles.

The survey, commissioned by VisitScotland, gathered insights on attitudes and behaviours from visitors staying overnight for leisure, and explored all aspects of the visitor experience in Scotland. Around one in 10 respondents said they had specific access requirements during their holiday or short break, whether it be relating to wheelchair access, disabled facilities, or vision impairment.

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The survey suggests the industry has work to do to improve accessibility and make the most of inclusive tourism, which covers a wider range of people, from those with hearing loss, mental or visual impairments, and wheelchair users, to senior travellers and families with young children.

Around £1.69 billion is believed to be spent on all tourism trips in Scotland by those with an impairment.

Marina Di Luca, inclusive tourism manager at VisitScotland, said: “Inclusive tourism is a hugely valuable market and a key part of VisitScotland’s responsible tourism strategy. More than that, it is vitally important tourism and events are accessible and inclusive, so that we can be sure to extend the same warm welcome to all visitors and help them create special memories.

“The latest Scotland Visitor Survey shows that while many visitors with access requirements find it very easy to get around Scotland there are clear areas for improvement. A simple and effective way our industry can engage with disabled customers is providing clear, detailed, and easy to access product information, such as a detailed access guide.

“Tourism offers so many rewarding experiences which we want to be accessible to everyone and our resources aim to provide a starting point for businesses to understand and adapt to meet the needs of this valuable market.”

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AccessAble, the UK accessibility specialist, has been appointed national provider of accessibility guides for tourism businesses, as part of a series of new measures being rolled out by VisitScotland to improve Scotland as an inclusive visitor destination.

Dr Gregory Burke, founder and executive chair of AccessAble, said: “We are thrilled to continue our work with VisitScotland, supporting their journey to develop Scotland as an inclusive tourism destination. We know access begins online, so having detailed information that people can trust is an essential part of this work.

“We have invested in the your accessibility guide portal and guided assessment in direct response to feedback from disabled people and SMEs.

“We believe that we can deliver a step change in the provision of quality assured accessibility information across Scotland. By working collaboratively with tourism businesses, we want to enable more disabled people to discover all the wonders Scotland has to offer.”

AccessAble, now in its 25th year of operation, provides detailed access guides to 70,000 venues across the UK, including hotels, attractions, and restaurants. The guides are published on the organisation’s website, which was used by more than six million people last year.