​Benefits of a Connected & Accessible Travel Experience​

Travel loyalty programs typically have a set of complementary mandates: build brand affinity by rewarding high-value customers and providing them with a positive experience and help the parent brand grow revenue by attracting new members, retaining existing ones, and encouraging incremental spending. To achieve these goals, they must cast the widest net possible.  

There is an often-overlooked way that travel loyalty programs can expand their member bases, tap into valuable new markets, and improve the member experience: by prioritizing accessibility on their consumer-facing platforms. 

Accessibility can sometimes be perceived as a compliance issue or an add-on capability specifically for disabled populations, and yes, it can be both of those things. But accessibility can also be so much more – a foundation of digital design philosophy, a way to generate loyalty among a growing and high-spending customer segment, and a best practice that can improve the experience for all members.  

There needs to be a recalibration of how accessibility efforts are approached and implemented among travel loyalty programs, and it starts by recognizing the tremendous market opportunity that exists in delivering an accessible experience to travelers of all ability statuses.  

Looking at the vast market opportunity

About 20% of the US population – and between 20% and 30% of all people globally – have a disability. According to the American Institutes for Research, the total after-tax disposable income for working-age people with disabilities is about $490 billion, similar to other significant market segments. And this figure is likely to grow as Baby Boomers, who will deal with an increasing amount of disability issues as they age, currently hold more than half of all US wealth, or about $78.1 trillion, per a NASDAQ report on generational wealth. According to a 2022 report by MMGY Global, travelers with mobility disabilities already spend $58.2 billion annually on travel. 

What do these numbers mean for travel loyalty programs? First, people with disabilities likely already make up a significant portion of their memberships, so making their platforms accessible to this population is critical to meeting their needs effectively. Second, a tremendous opportunity exists to court these individuals with well-thought-out, comprehensive accessibility strategies. 

Unfortunately, the typical “check-the-box" approach to online accessibility with aftermarket plug-ins or patches isn’t sufficient to engage this financially attractive segment. This reflects outdated attitudes toward disabled or limited-ability populations and the nature of accessibility itself. Accessibility shouldn’t be considered a “fix” to a “problem” but a universal concept that can benefit all customers. 

Accessibility isn’t a niche 

The idea of global accessibility is particularly applicable to travel, both in terms of actual transportation and lodging and in the online booking and servicing experience. This, in turn, extends to travel loyalty programs, which often feature travel booking capabilities and offer travel products and services as rewards.  

The simplest example of global accessibility might be outfitting hotel rooms with standard assistive tools, like handrails and wider doorways. In the short term, it may be less costly to outfit only the number of rooms to meet baseline accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, that sacrifices the long-term flexibility and revenue potential that making an entire property accessible might provide (and without inconveniencing non-disabled guests). 

Airlines have different accessibility economics by nature, but there has been heartening progress made in this sector. Air Canada’s recent accessibility efforts, for example, represent a move toward more global accessibility for all passengers. And a recent IATA survey of global airline passengers found that 80% of travelers using special assistance services said their expectations were met. However, that survey revealed that 20% of travelers highlighted that improved website accessibility for booking and reservations should be a priority. 

This indicates that to advance global accessibility, especially in the online travel booking process, a different, more integrated approach is needed. 

Designing with accessibility in mind 

Importantly, that approach isn’t defined by new assistive technologies or add-on solutions that require resources and implementation time. Instead, it starts with the basics: design that considers accessibility from the outset and a development process that incorporates accessibility audits.  

One recent study found that 67% of accessibility issues originate in design and can, therefore, be avoided cost-effectively by embracing accessible design principles. These include appropriate color contrast, including alternative text for images and other non-text elements, and straightforward site navigation (among other best practices identified in a previous iSeatz blog on this topic), as well as designing to support voice-activated smart devices and assistants like Siri and Alexa. 

This ground-up approach to accessibility is not only more inclusive, enabling travel loyalty programs to better appeal to valuable disabled populations, but also more cost-effective than aftermarket widgets or retrofitting an entire platform to comply with regulatory guidelines.  

The benefits of achieving accessibility  

 Travel loyalty programs that embrace an accessibility-oriented design process save on long-term development costs and position themselves to build deeper, higher-engagement relationships with disabled and temporarily disabled members. They also create more streamlined processes and interactions for all members, resulting in a more usable online experience that encourages more frequent utilization. 

These benefits – tapping into the lucrative market of people with disabilities and creating a more universally accessible experience for all members that boosts platform usage – are solid justifications for implementing an accessibility-centric design and development process. These benefits also suggest that travel loyalty programs are seeking technology partners to identify those suppliers that prioritize accessibility and incorporate accessibility standards into their workflows. 

By adopting a more universal approach to accessibility and working with partners that share similar priorities, travel loyalty programs can unlock underserved markets, grow brand affinity, and improve their overall financial performance.  

To learn more about how iSeatz can advance your program, contact one of our experts today. You can also read more about how iSeatz approaches accessibility processes in this article. 

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