In this article, we will be examining the importance of accessibility within the hospitality industry and everything business owners need to know.
While every industry has experienced big changes thanks to technology in recent years, each individual sector has also had to deal with its own specific, nuanced challenges.
If you’re a business in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries, this technology-driven transformation will have caused you to shift some of your core business processes online. Naturally, this has created a new dynamic between you and your customers.
Providing an outstanding offline customer experience was good enough 10 years ago, but the goal posts have moved a long way back since then. Today, before someone even comes close to becoming a customer, you have to provide an outstanding user experience online if you have any hope of grabbing their attention.
Certain trends have changed the way you do business forever, and if you can’t keep up you’ll eventually be left behind.
Most of your prospective customers now conduct their own research online, usually via a Google search. This means your business requires:
Visual Content Trends
People’s attention spans have drastically reduced thanks to the bite-size video content they consume on their smartphones every day. In order to stand out and capture customers’ attention, you must be able to quickly and effectively show your audience what you offer, as well as telling them.
Most consumers today want to book flights, hotels, and everything else themselves online, without interacting with another person. If you can’t provide this self-service capability in a convenient, efficient way, your website visitors will go elsewhere.
The days of consumers just using one device to book their holidays or experiences are long gone. You must make sure your website and digital processes are optimised for all the various channels and formats, suitable for all users.
These days, 60% of consumers say they abandon purchases due to poor user experience on websites. That means almost two thirds of people begin a purchase or booking process, then either get frustrated or find a better alternative and leave. If you can’t deliver on those consumer expectations for speed and ease-of-use, a more forward-thinking competitor will undoubtedly be taking a lot of your business away from you.
Of course, it’s not all negative. Along with these challenges, technology presents you with a wealth of opportunities to attract and convert new customers. For instance, you can reach vastly bigger audiences from all over the world when you take your services online. If you can provide those website visitors with a great user experience, you could see your business begin to grow.
As noted on Bloomberg, a recent report has forecasted that tourism and travel spending are set to grow in 2023. This demonstrates that companies in the hospitality industry should invest in creating a high quality online presence to capitalise on that consumer spending.
However, in order to do that, you must ensure you’re not limiting or neglecting any group of prospective customers. All the points listed above have one common denominator – they require you to make your website and digital services as easily accessible as possible for every single potential user. That’s where a more conscious effort towards improving web accessibility can help you.
The importance of having an effective website in the hospitality industry is undeniable. But if we’re being honest, you, like most of your peers, have probably crossed that bridge by now.
Whether you’ve got a basic website set up, or you’ve completed a bespoke web development project to create a custom booking system, it’s likely you’ve already begun your digital journey one way or another. However, an area in which a large percentage of businesses are still far behind the curve is with web accessibility.
Web accessibility refers to a set of standards, principles, and practices designed to help as many people as possible use digital tools and services, irrespective of their physical ability, condition, location, or circumstances.This includes people with impaired vision or hearing, motor difficulties, learning difficulties, cognitive disabilities, speech disabilities, or physical disabilities.
In more formal terms, the Word Wide Web Consortium (W3C) defines it as follows:
“Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. More specifically, people can perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the web and contribute to the web.”
By improving the accessibility of your website, you’ll also improve your UX, enabling more people to interact with your services online and turning more visitors into customers.
Every business or organisation with a website should be working hard to improve their accessibility. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports over 1,000,000,000 people in the world live with some form of disability. If your website isn’t optimised for accessibility, not only are you contributing to the problem of giving those people a negative experience with technology, you’re also losing their business.
Beyond that, you should consider the thousands of other people who face difficulties when using technology, for reasons like having a broken hand in a cast or losing their ability to read small text on a digital screen.
As well as this moral obligation to make your website more accessible for everyone, there are more and more legal obligations being put in place for businesses now too.
Much like GDPR and similar digital regulations, a governing body, called The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), oversees web accessibility. The WAI created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to standardise what constitutes good accessibility.
Companies in the hospitality industry are legally obligated to ensure websites and other digital services comply with the WCAG.Web accessibility in the UK is covered under the Equality Act 2010, which protects all individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair, more equal society.
To ensure you’re practicing good accessibility, your website’s design, structure, and content must be as clear and simple as possible. It should also be compatible with various adjustments or assistive technologies certain people need to use.
More specifically, the most recent iteration of the WCAG emphasises four key principles that are required by a website to be considered accessible for all users. These are:
One particularly useful way to validate that your website is following these principles is to test it with a relevant audience. Reach out to some people who have real disabilities, and people with a wide range of accessibility needs. You can then hold one-to-one sessions with test users who need their technology to be fully accessible. Ask for their feedback to identify problems or gaps in your own accessibility, and ask their advice to help you fix those issues.
Another proven way to ensure your website’s accessibility is up to scratch is to work with an experienced partner with expertise in UX design, who can provide you with professional guidance. Either way, it’s important to realise that simply being compliant with the guidelines won’t give you genuine empathy for the real-life challenges disabled people face when using technology.
Additionally, it’s highly beneficial to use a content management system (CMS) that’s built to proactively facilitate accessibility, such as WordPress. A CMS like WordPress provides a great deal of in-built support for web accessibility. It’s easy to use the platform to structure your site with simple, intuitive logic and make the navigation straightforward. It also helps you keep all your content –written, visual, and audio – as easy as possible to consume and understand.
While the primary outcome of accessibility is to benefit people with disabilities , there are also advantages to be gained from a business perspective.
Businesses in travel, tourism, and hospitality will find that better accessibility will make a significant contribution to overcoming the digital challenges discussed earlier in this article.
It will make your website more engaging for a larger audience, and will stop you from excluding any potential users. Improved accessibility will also give your users a more intuitive and satisfying UX.
From a technical perspective, your website will begin ranking higher in SERPs, because Google rewards more accessible websites in its SEO algorithm.
And, as mentioned earlier, a surprising number of websites today are still yet to implement accessibility best practices. By making your website more accessible, it will provide you with a point of competitive differentiation online.
Each of these things will, in turn, help you attract, retain, and convert more website visitors, ultimately driving business growth.
Accessibility helps give everyone a fair, equal experience online. Making your website more accessible will make life easier for all your visitors, while specifically helping those with disabilities and other difficulties.
In 2023, this should be a priority for every marketer and content manager. After all, creating a great user experience online is a crucial aspect of any successful business today.
Want to learn more about accessibility? We’ve recently collaborated with UX consultants Web Usability to produce The Marketer’s Guide to Web Accessibility: Making Technology More Accessible in the Private and Public Sectors.
Our newly published eBook answers the most commonly asked questions about web accessibility, and also provides guidance that will help you make your own website more accessible for your visitors.