Approximately 16% of travellers have an accessibility requirement and with an aging population of vibrant adventure seekers, that percentage is likely to rise. People don't necessarily stop travelling because of of an accessibility requirement.
For those in the tourism industry, understanding the variety of accessibility requirements from our guests is an essential pillar of good customer service and having a regional reputation for spectacular customer service is a key ingredient to becoming a premium destination of choice. Visitors want to travel where they are welcomed and being accessible opens our doors to an estimated 61 million North Americans alone. Being accessibility aware is also being phased in under new Ontario legisislation as a mandatory training requirement for businesses and public sector alike.
For us in Thunder Bay, we're pretty proud of the reputation we have as an accessible city. From a 100% accessible municipal transit fleet to new accessible website, other communities look to us as a benchmark.
Understanding how to properly welcome visitors with a wide variety of physical and developmental accessibility requirements has been made easy through tools provided by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. Their new portal, www.accesson.ca is a great resource.
For many public sector agencies in Ontario, all employees must be trained in accessibility awareness by January 1, 2010 and training for new employees must be completed as soon as possible once hired. For the private sector, that deadline is January 1, 2012. I'm pretty proud that the entire team at Tourism Thunder Bay has completed this training and we're better able to service all of our clients that much better. For those in the hospitality industry, there's no time like now to aquaint yourselves with the legislation and the training tools provided that make it very easy to improve awareness among everyone within your organization. For us, we've taken self guided interactive DVDs to provide flexible training in the office around busy and diverse work schedules.
I encourage all tourism partners who haven't taken advantage of the training tools to start now. Share with your staff and even family, talk about it and identify the goals you need and want to reach to make the visitor experience top notch for all guests.
Visit http://www.cfcs.gov.on.ca/en/accesson/ for more information.