By Veronica Figueroa Fernandez, PRSA Diversity & Inclusion Committee
Our need for exploring and adventure connects us as people, allowing us to create lasting memories. And while traveling can be stressful at times, for persons with disabilities the challenges can often feel overwhelming.
According to The World Bank, one billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities.
With an awareness that understanding the needs of disabled persons can result in increased visitation, Experience Kissimmee (Osceola County’s tourism authority) is leading the charge locally in promoting diversity and inclusion in their marketing and public relations efforts.
Recently, Experience Kissimmee partnered with leading accessible travel blogger Cory Lee (pictured above) from CurbFreeWithCoryLee.com, where he visited the destination and shared wheelchair accessible activities in Kissimmee–from soaring over alligators at Gatorland to exploring the town of Celebration.
Cori Powers, director of communications at Experience Kissimmee, shared with us why diversity and inclusion are crucial to the travel and hospitality industry.
Why is it important for Experience Kissimmee to promote accessible tourism?
As a destination, we promise a vacation where sunny hellos, out-of-this-world adventures, and wow-worthy experiences are always included. That promise pertains to everyone. Part of Kissimmee’s appeal is its accessibility. We put the focus on fun, so that accommodations, transportation, and access is as worry-free as possible. It’s important our messaging promotes that in Kissimmee, the entire family, no matter age, race, style, or culture, stay and play together.
Why should diversity and inclusion matter to the travel and hospitality industry?
The travel and hospitality industry needs to be representative of the population it serves. As buying power shifts, the industry needs to work to acknowledge and pivot messaging and communications efforts to fit individual audiences and needs.
How else is Experience Kissimmee featuring diversity and inclusion in their public relations efforts?
Whether we are talking to consumers, groups, event planners, event rights holders, or travel agents, our messaging is that Kissimmee is accessible. We work to educate different audiences that all are welcome here. We achieve this by promoting our partners and events that share our focus on inclusion and diversity, making it easy for us to tell that story.
As you already know, we hosted blogger and disabled traveler Cory Lee in Kissimmee. At Gatorland, he was able to zipline 350 feet through the air right over the Alligator Breeding Marsh on the Gator Gauntlet. We’ve also worked with LGBTQ influencers such as Perez Hilton, distributed a press release touting Kissimmee’s autism-friendly attractions and accommodations, and constantly showcase our hotels and vacation homes’ ability to accommodate any special needs.
We also have established local events that help promote our destination as inclusive and diverse. Experience Kissimmee sponsors PrideFest Kissimmee in June, a celebration grounded in welcoming and acknowledging the impactful contributions of our local LGBTQ community. Our area celebrates diversity through many multicultural events, such as the Caribbean Fusion Festival and the Cuban Sandwich Festival.
As public relations professionals, we need to engage a focus on minority audiences to make them our regular audience because ultimately, diversity and inclusion is something that all customers, including discerning travelers, notice and value.