Authors: Jillian Rickly*, University of Nottingham, Nigel Halpern, Kristiania University College, Norway, Scott McCabe, University of Nottingham
Topics: Tourism Geography, Animal Geographies, Disabilities
Keywords: travel, tourism, accessibility, dog, decision-making
Session Type: Paper
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
Service animals are increasingly employed to mitigate mobility challenges, including visual impairment, physical disabilities, disorder response, and emotional and psychological support. As they accompany their handlers on holiday, service animals are also becoming more prevalent in the tourism and travel sector worldwide, revealing our lack of understanding of their needs in tourism mobilities. Further, a recent EU (2015) study of the accessible tourism market in European Union countries suggests that service animals and their handlers are amongst the least catered for in the industry. So while there is growing research attention in regard to human disabilities and mobilities needs in tourism, the ways in which transportation services, accommodations, and tour operators provide for the needs of service animals remains underdeveloped and underexamined. In partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK) and Assistance Dogs UK, this paper presents the findings of an ongoing project focused on the role of guide dogs, specifically, in the travel behavior and tourism decision-making of visually impaired tourists. While evidence suggests that guide dogs improve the mobility of their handlers within their local communities, less in known about their tourism mobilities. In particular, this research uncovers the challenges of travelling with an assistance dog on holiday, either domestically or internationally, by examining various transportation modes, the services available for assistance dogs along the journey, and visually impaired tourists’ perceptions of the accessibility of such services for their dogs.