By Euan MacDonald, co-founder of Euan's Guide, a disabled access review website

WHILE many of you might just be getting around to making last-minute plans for a summer trip, I’m glad that I booked mine a year in advance. That’s because I, like 450 other people living in Scotland, have Motor Neurone Disease (MND). I was diagnosed with MND in 2003 and that diagnosis brought with it a number of access requirements which means that my family and I struggle to find suitable accommodation when planning our holidays, and we’re not alone.

Hotels are virtually out of the question for me. While there are 1,502 hotels listed on VisitScotland’s website, 248 of which are listed as having level access rooms, there is only one hotel room in the whole of Scotland which I would feel confident visiting. That is because the Crowne Plaza on Congress Road in Glasgow is the only hotel room in the country which currently provides a ceiling hoist.

Ceiling hoists are used by approximately 250,000 people in the UK; the disparity between this “demand” against the hotel industry’s lack of “supply” is frightening. The lack of accessible rooms for people like me who use a hoist means that we are penalised with higher prices.

VisitScotland reports that the average spend per night for domestic visitors is £69 in Scotland, however when we looked at booking the accessible room in Glasgow on various dates it usually sets you back almost double that.

Now, of course, hotels are not the only accommodation option, and I have had great experiences at a number of self-catering facilities across Scotland. But these options are fiercely competitive; there are still only 11 self-catering options with ceiling hoists in Scotland listed on Ceiling Hoist users Club’s website, and they are often booked far in advance. The average occupancy rates for self-catering accommodation across Scotland is 55 per cent, but the occupancy rate can be much higher when looking at accessible self-catering options. The occupancy rate for the Homelands Trust in Fife was way up at 92 per cent in 2018. This lack of choice and limited availability causes a big barrier for disabled people.

I co-founded Euan’s Guide in 2013 with the aim of making it easier for disabled people to find great places to go. Over the past six years since Euan’s Guide was founded, we have witnessed a shift in business attitudes toward accessibility and inclusion. However, there is still so much to be done. Until we have more suitable accommodation offerings in Scotland to meet the market’s demand then a significant percentage of our population are still going to be annoyed and frustrated by the lack of availability and the high prices.

Scotland continues to perform well in terms of both its domestic and inbound tourism, and as a country we pride ourselves on being friendly and inclusive. But can this really be the case when such a large proportion of people still feel relatively excluded from our tourism sector?

Too many disabled people in Scotland are not getting to have the same experiences as non-disabled people due to the barriers in place. The 2018 Access Survey conducted by Euan’s Guide showed that only 4 per cent of those surveyed felt that hotels typically had excellent accessibility. People still tell us that they have had to return home early from a holiday when the facilities are not as they have been described. Many decide not to go on holiday at all, while others opt for shorter and closer breaks.

We hope that together we can make Scotland a more accessible destination for all visitors.