Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill, addressing the opening ceremony of the 11th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-11), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (A. Miller/BGIS)

There is an emerging market which regional tourism leaders should tap into.

It is the increasingly growing demographic of persons with disabilities, which, according to Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill, is spending billions of dollars annually and travelling with families and caregivers.

Senator Ifill, who herself is visually impaired, made this disclosure last Sunday, as she addressed the opening ceremony of the 11th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development (STC-11), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, in Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.

Noting that it was "an opportunity [in] waiting to help create our world class tourism product", she pointed out that the market included 2.7 million UK residents with disabilities who travelled annually and 71 percent of adults with disabilities (or more than 22 million people) in the US.?? Moreover, Senator Ifill also indicated that the number of Canadian seniors would double in the next 25 years and the first baby boomers will reach 65 in 2011.

And, Ms. Ifill who is also Deputy Leader of the Senate stressed: "By the way, those Canadians with disabilities account for $25 billion in consumer spending. Those persons over the age of 55 represent more than a quarter of all tourism-related trips and are most likely to have the spending power and benefit from increased accessibility.

"Collectively 75 percent of Canadians, Americans and Europeans with disabilities who are physically and financially able to travel, do so with their caregivers, family and friends. The current economic climate dictates that we target this emerging market." ??

Delegates were asked what the Caribbean was doing to attract this market when it spoke of "Keeping the Right Balance:??Creating Opportunities through a World Class Sustainable Tourism Product?" – the theme of the conference that runs from May 9-12.?? And, it was stated that while the region watched and waited to see what other tourism-driven economies were doing, countries such as Singapore, China, India, Australia and the US, Canada and Mexico were finding ways to adapt to new market conditions, so as to renew their competitive advantage and gain market share.

Ms. Ifill lamented the fact that our regular markets had become like extended families, where we seemingly took them for granted not bothering to embrace new trends that were emerging.

"As a result, the millions of travellers with disabilities, coming out of our ???targeted family’ are heading to destinations that cater to their needs; and we in the islands obviously believe we have enough visitors and it is okay for the rest of our ???family with disabilities’ to spend their billions of dollars annually in other destinations that include their needs," she said.

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