Friday, 23 August 2013

Bath Welcomes the Special Olympics

There are only 5 days to go until Bath welcomes the country’s largest sports event for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
Held every four years, the 9th Special Olympics National Summer Games will take place from 28 August to 1 September 2013.

Over the three days of competition, 1,700 athletes from England, Scotland and Wales will compete in 12 sports.

Accompanying the athletes will be 600 coaches, 3,500+ family members and supporters, 500 event volunteers and 120 sports officials. So the impact on the city and surrounding area should not be underestimated!

Last year's London 2012 Games showed how major sporting events can really profile a city and country - certainly Bath is this year basking in the halo effect of last year's Olympics, with many more international visitors being noted in the city.

I would hope that next week's Special Olympics can have a similar effect for Bath, with a legacy of showing how Bath and North East Somerset is itself a special, inclusive and welcoming visitor destination.

At Bath Tourism Plus, our work to support the Special Olympics dovetails with a programme that we are undertaking with VisitEngland which focuses on accessibility. Through this initiative, we are working with an number of local businesses, supporting them with accessibility audits and staff training, to enable them to better understand how to cater for people with mobility, hearing or visual needs. These businesses will then be supported with a specific marketing and PR campaign. 

There is certainly a compelling business case for making our tourism industry more accessible:

- Over one quarter (27%) of the UK population have a long-standing health problem or disability.
- Attracting the business of someone with access needs attracts the spend of their entire party.
- By 2025 more than a third (35%) of the UK’s population will be over the age of 55. The importance of meeting the needs of older people is increasing every year.
 - Tourism businesses that have improved their accessibility often report that people with access needs are very loyal.

The lessons for others? Well, if businesses set in an historic, Georgian, World Heritage city can address access issues, then there are solutions for businesses everywhere!

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