Saturday, January 12, 2008

SATH World Congress

January 5-9, Orlando FL

This past week we were fortunate to attend the 12th annual SATH World Congress put on by the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality, the ancestral roots of access on the road. SATH has been around since the 1970s and has played a major part in advocating for travelers with disabilities.

The World Congress is quite a different experience that all other disability-related expositions we attend; it is the only one that is completely travel focused for starters. Accessibility liassons attend from major companies all over the world; airlines and cruiselines, travel bureaus and chamber associations, hotels and resorts, tour companies and travel agents, all facets of the travel industry are represented.

Speakers panels and group sessions make up the bulk of this event, a 1/2-day trade show thrown in for networking and information-sharing is but a mere blink on a four-day event that is truly more of a congress than an expo. Although the 350-attendee number sounds low, this is a tight group that spends the week together; breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening activities surround the informative talks and industry panels, making the event more of a family reunion than a continual 10-minute commercial that all other disability expos equate to.

A focus on improving the travels of people with disabilies, the SATH World Congress is more about advocacy and change than anything else. Suggestions, improvements and ideas are brought to the table for improving access among airline, cruiseline, and individual travel aspects of the industry. We're always impressed when we attend this event; the work that goes into bringing experts from all corners of the earth together is inspiring.

Focused until recently on "the mature," our mission at this Congress was to bring Adventure Travel to the table. Our speakers panel and adventure activity side trips was just an introduction to this group, and we hope to continue to work with SATH to include adventure travel as a viable niche to explore, and not to be overlooked.

If you're a travel agent, a traveler, or an industry professional, SATH is a wonderful resource for all, as experts with four decades of experience under their belts.

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