Ashlee Morton has not let being a paraplegic stop her and her family from being frequent travellers.
"Before COVID happened, there was a lot of overseas travel, but since then we've been sticking a bit closer to home," the mother-of-two said.
But Ms Morton has had her fair share of frustrating run-ins with inaccessible accommodations.
"Everybody else can just jump on a website and book a room and know that they're going to be able to access the shower and the toilet," she said.
"Whereas when I'm looking to book accommodation, I've got to spend 10 times more amount of time doing that research and making sure that the property is going to meet my needs.
"I'm sure many other people with a disability have got a horror story when it comes to travelling of being told that a property would meet their needs, only to turn up and the property doesn't meet their needs."
Ms Morton wants to change the tourism and accommodation industry to better reflect the accessibility needs of Australians with disability.
"People with disabilities do love travelling just as much as everyone else," she said.
"And if you don't see people with disabilities at your accommodation, that's more than likely a case of them not feeling welcome."
A booming industry
About 4.4 million Australians live with some form of disability, and they count for around 17 per cent of total tourism revenue.
This works out to be about $3.3 billion annually, and is the fastest growing travel sector in the country, according to research published by Accessible Accommodation and Spinal Cord Injury Australia (SCIA).
This is not to mention the increasing number of people 65 and over who are also keen travellers and may have accessibility needs.
But Accessible Accommodation's Kerry Williams said many Australian hotels still fall short in offering truly accessible and comfortable accommodation for people with disabilities or accessible needs travellers.
"While Australian hotels offering accessible accommodation are required to adhere to regulations to advertise as accessible, this doesn't necessarily translate to guest comfort for those living with a disability," Ms Williams said.
Being part of the solution
Accessible Accommodation and SCIA have launched a new training program online designed to "help accommodation providers feel confident in their offerings for providing accessible rooms and facilities and welcoming guests with accessibility needs".
Among the organisations that have already taken part in the program is Kew-based Aligned Corporate Residences (ACR).
General Manager of ACR, Nu Nizam said he wants to advocate for accessible accommodation, and gained a lot of valuable insight from the program.
"The training was really beneficial [because] it showed real life stories with people who have a disability," Mr Nizam said.
"We've just got to come on board and deliver."
Mr Nizam said he wanted to encourage more tourism and accommodation services to think about the needs of travellers with disabilities.
"It really is an eye opener, and it is a big opportunity," he said.
"[It's something] we should all embrace — we shouldn't treat [people with disabilities] differently."
It makes good business sense
Mr Nizam said some companies worry about how much it will cost to implement adjustments to meet accessible needs at their accommodation properties.
"[But] most of these adjustments are free [or] very low cost, and it makes a big difference for the person who's staying," he said.
"Hotels will have their strategies in place or think about revenue [but] … you've got to treat the accessible accommodation, or people with specific abilities or disabilities, as a particular segment, a revenue-generating segment."
Ballarat Regional Tourism chair Paul Martino said there was plenty of unrealised potential for industry stakeholders when it came to providing accessible tourism options for guests.
"There's no question there's a large market, and there's no question that it's potentially one of the most untapped markets," he said.
"There's a real opportunity to grow our tourism market, and visitor economy, and to market these spaces."
Mr Martino urged accommodation providers to be mindful of the fact the Commonwealth Games would be returning to Australia in three years' time.
"I think there's an expectation around the world that we are providing these sorts of services," he said.
"It's not an optional service, It's an expectation."
Ms Morton said it was in the interests of accommodation providers to think about people like her.
"We're a well-connected bunch of people, we do talk as a community," she said.
"The biggest thing that a property can do for a person with a disability is to give them the information that they need to decide for themselves whether their offering is going to be suitable or not.
"It's in an accommodation providers best interests to do those small things to look after their clients that have a disability, because, yes, they will come back."