Accessibility and sustainability insights for tourism businesses

Professor Jan Bebbington stands at the front of a lecture theatre addressing an audience of businesses

Tourism businesses from across Lancashire gained advice for improving their sustainability and accessibility practices and policies from Lancaster University Management School experts.

The event was organised with Marketing Lancashire, the LVEP (Local Visitor Economy Partnership) for Lancashire. The businesses who attended are part of Marketing Lancashire’s Visit Lancashire Partnership.

They enjoyed an afternoon of sessions delivered by LUMS, Sustainability and Accessibility partners of the Lancashire Tourism Awards.

Two sessions addressed issues of increasing importance for all businesses across the tourism sector.

Professor Jan Bebbington, Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business, discussed the difficulties of tackling ‘wicked’ sustainability problems: those with no easy and obvious solution. The Pentland Centre have sponsored the Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award at the Lancashire Tourism Awards for the last two years.

“All businesses are facing sustainability challenges that are not simple to resolve,” said Professor Bebbington. “These issues tie into wider problems such as struggles with worker recruitment, rural challenges, and economic inequalities; all while companies work within financial constraints and try to make a profit.

“Even making sense of the problems we face is difficult, and it was insightful to hear from leisure and tourism businesses who are encountering these issues in their day-to-day operations, and who are looking to make strides in the sustainability sphere. They all recognise the need to take action – which is an essential first step.

“Hopefully some of the potential pathways to solutions that we presented will help them plot a way forward – by imagining what a future normal will look like, recognising what external assistance they need, and realising that solutions do not have to be perfect.”

Dr Leighanne Higgins, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, presented the work on the Marketplace & I project. Dr Higgins worked with people with a disability – both individuals and groups – and their families to create artworks that depict their experiences of commercial interactions. Those artworks are used as training tools to help guide businesses in their own accessibility efforts.

Attendees saw some of the artworks created for the project and heard the stories behind them, as well as learning about how other business have adapted their practices and benefited from the Marketplace & I.

“The artworks showcase the ability behind the disability and showcase the individuals and their experiences,” said Dr Higgins. “By considering the wide range of disabilities across the population, and access that embraces the emotional and sensorial as well as the physical, there are many changes that businesses can make.

“Changes don’t have to be physical or expensive. By embracing innovation, and by thinking about how they communicate with customers and train staff, companies can make a real difference to their accessibility.

“We have already worked with Marketing Lancashire’s partners, and they have all been very receptive to our training and suggestions for potential short, medium and long-term changes. It was wonderful to connect with more companies, and I’m looking forward to working with then in future.”

Maria Moriarty Eames, Head of Partnerships for Marketing Lancashire, said: “The partnership with Lancaster University Management School on sustainability and accessibility is invaluable in supporting the work Marketing Lancashire is doing as the county’s LVEP. The county-wide Tourism Growth Plan focuses on increasing the economic impact of Lancashire’s visitor economy and the delivery of an additional £1bn by 2027 with sustainable, accessible and inclusive tourism playing a pivotal role in its success.

“We all have a responsibility to play a collaborative and mutually beneficial part in making positive changes to achieve this. The expertise and resources available from Lancaster University Management School to help guide our partners on this journey are engaging and practical and I would encourage all of our partners to make use of them.”

Dr Leighanne Higgins addresses an audience of businesses in a small lecture theatre

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