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Welcome Customers with Assistance Dogs

Thursday, 30th January 2014

VisitEngland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have produced a new guide for tourism businesses on welcoming customers with assistance dogs. Take the lead highlights the important role performed by assistance dogs, it outlines the legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, and how tourism businesses can boost business by attracting more visits from disabled travellers and their canine companions.

Assistance dogs provide an extremely important service to their owners, who rely on them to help with everyday activities that many people would take for granted. As well as support for people with visual impairments, they also provide valuable help for people with hearing loss, epilepsy, diabetes and physical mobility problems.

By making small changes, often at very low cost, accommodation providers can help ensure all visitors feel welcome, make the most of the accessible tourism market -  a sector worth over £2billion a year* with strong growth potential, and ensure they fulfil their legal duties to the 6500 assistance dog users in the UK.

James Berresford, Chief Executive of VisitEngland said: “Assistance dogs are highly trained travel companions, providing a crucial service to their owners and used by thousands of people with access needs. By making even small changes, accommodation providers can go a long way in helping guests with assistance dogs feel supported and welcomed, as well as a boost to business by appealing to the Accessible Tourism market.”

Mark Hammond, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "VisitEngland and the EHRC have worked together to make sure tourism businesses have the right information available to help them make all their customers welcome. Tourism businesses can expand their customer base by understanding how to treat people with assistance dogs. The guide explains the important role assistance dogs play in the lives of their owners and provides answers to questions raised by the industry."

Minister for Tourism, Helen Grant said: “The ‘Take the lead’ publication is a handy guide for all businesses in the tourism sector to make sure they are doing all they can to give the right support to customers who need additional assistance. It sets out the legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010, how small changes can make a big difference to the customer experience and the potential financial benefit businesses could enjoy.”

Download the new guide from   


For more information contact Angelah Sparg, Corporate Communications Manager Tel: 02075781482, Email or Sarah Long, Head of Corporate Communications Tel: 020 7578 1452, Email

Or contact the Commission’s media office on 0161 829 8102, out of hours 07767 272 818.

Notes to Editors:

*In 2009, 11% of all domestic trips included someone with a health condition or impairment – a total of 11.28 million trips worth £1.9 billion (Great Britain Tourism Survey, 2009). In 2010, 1.8% of all international visits to England were by someone with a health condition or impairment – a total of 576 thousand trips worth £341 million (International Passenger Survey, 2010.)

VisitEngland and Equality and Human Rights Commission lead a partnership that included Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, VisitScotland and Visit Wales to produce Take the lead.

VisitEngland provides a number of tools and resources to help tourism operators accommodate people with access needs, available at

VisitEngland also provides tourism information for people with physical and sensory needs at

About the EHRC

  • The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals. 

About VisitEngland

  • VisitEngland is the country’s national tourist board. We work in partnership with the industry to develop the visitor experience across England, plan national tourism strategy, grow the value of tourism in England and provide advocacy for the industry and our visitors
  • Our work is underpinned by robust research and customer insights. You can access the latest in-depth market intelligence and statistics on   

About England

  • England is a unique destination and a real powerhouse in global tourism. It represents 84 per cent of the total UK visitor economy, is worth £97 billion, and supports in excess of 2 million jobs
  • More information can be found on  and

Angelah Sparg

Corporate Communications Manager

VisitEngland, Sanctuary Buildings, 20 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT

T: 0207 578 1482 | E:

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