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holidaysHIGH street travel agents don’t understand disabled holidaymakers’ needs, says a new tourism report.

A survey of disabled travellers, conducted by The Co-operative Travel and UK disabled tourism charity Tourism for All, found that 84 per cent of respondents didn’t believe high street travel agents understood their needs, and that 78 per cent did not think they were catered for by the high street.

The survey also found that 93 per cent of disabled travellers found their choice of holidays restricted due to their disability.

Brian Seaman, head of consultancy at Tourism for All, the charity that provides holiday information service for disabled and older people, warmly welcomed The Co-operative Travel initiative to provide expert help and advice at branches across the country.

“We have conducted independent research in the past by sending disabled travellers on to the high street to find a disabled-friendly holiday to Majorca,” he said.

“In every case, not one travel agent was able to offer a product that might have resulted in a booking.

“Typically the cross-section of agents had great difficulty in finding suitable accommodation on the island and this lengthy process – which sometimes took over an hour – would have been frustrating for the client.

“Furthermore, when it came to visiting and checking the accommodation on the island it turned out not to be as accessible for disabled people as the agents had suggested.

“The problem is that very few agents have knowledge of the issues facing disabled travellers, and this – coupled with a further lack of knowledge concerning accessible holiday providers – means that they have been unable to offer meaningful advice, which is why this new initiative from The Co-operative Travel is like a breath of fresh air.”

Jane Witherington, commercial and market development manager with The Co-operative Travel Trading Group, said:

“Despite there being many tour operators catering for people with disabilities – we are working with Can Be Done, Redpoint Holidays and Traveleyes – it has become clear to us as a responsible travel agent that we can and should do more.

”As a consequence we have launched a new tailored service aimed specifically at disabled travellers, and trained staff from 40 branches UK-wide to ensure that they are up-to-speed with all aspects of holidays for people who require specialist travel.

“In addition, the branches will carry a specialist guide, which contains information such as airport facilities and details of key travel partners in the UK and abroad, alongside other essential information.”

The Co-operative Travel has also ensured that the specialist network of branches is Disability Discrimination Act compliant, with clear access, power assisted doors, portable hearing loops and visual alarms in-store.

The company is also aiming to provide training and compliancy across the entire network of 410 branches.

For more information on the new service, or to find your nearest branch, contact The Co-operative Travel on 0845 266 9228 or visit

www.co-operativetravel.co.uk/specialist-travel