I do not think that the travel and hospitality industries are sensitive or conscious enough of the changing demographics of many of the travelers – the aging population. As all of the baby boomers are retiring, they are the ones with the time and most importantly, the money to travel.
When planning a trip for someone with a physical disability, the questions that need to be asked are very different. If I had to plan a trip for my parents a few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought of the right questions to ask. Now that I have traveled with my parents and have seen the types of issues that they have faced, I am much more sensitive to the changing demographic of travelers.
The location of a hotel is important if mobility is an issue. Depending on the destination, a centrally located hotel may allow for easier access to the surrounding attractions and activities. While a hotel that is located outside of the city center may allow for more relaxation.
In some destinations, old, historic hotels, or bed and breakfasts may be a charming option, however, if stairs are an issue these might not work while traveling with someone with a mobility problem. Always double check on the access to the hotel and hotel rooms.
Planes are generally incredibly accommodating with assisting even if traveling in economy. Wheelchair assistance on both ends of travel is easily arranged and generally free of charge. This of course varies on airport and airline. Many airports require a great deal of walking from the check-in counter, through immigration, waiting lounge, to the plane, baggage claim or in transit, and having the wheelchair allows for greater accessibility if a person has trouble walking long distances or walking quickly.
Forms of transportation while in a city also vary. Some places have convenient and easily accessible public transportation, and others have great taxis. Other destinations may require a private car service. Utilize the expertise of the concierge at the hotel where you are staying or advice from friends or family.
While visiting tourist attractions, it is important to do research beforehand to find out what the conditions are. For example, a place like Angkor Wat in Cambodia is not the easiest place to walk around and requires a lot of walking up and down stairs and on uneven ground. It also does not have wheelchair accessibility throughout the Wat.
The best way to experience the best of what a destination has to offer is to do the research ahead of time and plan. But don’t worry too much about a schedule. Even for young travelers, traveling in and of itself can be tiring, be flexible.
The best part of traveling, well at least for my family, is the food. We plan our entire day around what we will be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In certain destinations, there are concerns about getting sick, which is a valid concern. It is always better to be safe than sorry. When traveling in India or Thailand, for example, drinking tap water is not suggested. Depending on where you are coming from, tap water is filtered differently and there may be bacteria that can cause problems if one was to drink the water. The same goes for food. Eating on the street in Bangkok, Thailand is truly an experience, but it can also leave you with days of bad experiences to follow.
Hotel restaurants are expensive but provide a culinary adventure while being incredibly convenient. Some evenings a simple meal either in room or at the hotel restaurants are all a tired traveler is looking for.
Do you think that the travel and hospitality industry are sensitive enough to the aging traveler? What are some of the challenges that you face when traveling?