Author: Seulgi Chung, Pima Community College
Travel vitalizes our lives. New tourist spots, comfortable hotels, delicious food, and more. Many interesting things can happen while traveling. For some, however, travel might be a challenge or dangerous thing. ‘How can I go from home to the destination? Is there braille at the museum? Does the hotel have a spacious room for me? Are there stairs at the restaurant I would like to visit? How can I find accessible restrooms while I’m outside?’ These were questions that I’ve heard of when participating in an interview with people with disabilities on their tourism experiences. These are the things someone probably comes up with first when thinking of traveling. Travel can be an exciting journey for some, but a very difficult task for others.
Accessible tourism, or ‘Tourism for all’, is the action to give everyone the same right to enjoy tourism. It is a human right that all people should enjoy all experiences, which is one of the most important issues in tourism today. Therefore, many International Organizations and governments put in a great deal of effort to improve awareness of accessibility in public.
However, it cannot be done with only their efforts alone. This is because all key elements are connected like a chain in tourism. If any of these – tourist information, transportation, accommodations, restaurants, and shopping information – are not guaranteed for accessibility, people with disabilities may give up traveling. Therefore, participation and investment from private businesses including travel agencies, restaurants, shops, and accommodations are strongly required.
I know many business owners are reluctant to invest in accessibility infrastructure. Many agree with the thrust of the policy, but you may think that it may cost a lot of money, or it is burdensome. As a person working in tourism sector for several years, I would like to say that investment in accessibility can create new opportunities for your businesses. According to the World Health Organization, 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Data shows that the average spend of tourists with disabilities in Spain is more than 940 USD (800 euros), compared with just over 700 USD (600 euros) for tourists without disabilities (UNWTO).
Furthermore, investing in accessibility isn’t just for people with disabilities. Investing on accessible tourism does not only benefit people with disabilities, but it also benefits all tourists. It can attract the elderly and families with children. By 2050, one in six people worldwide will be aged 65 or over. In addition, the market for families with children is becoming larger.
It is not a difficult or costly task at all. For example, making small adjustments to a facility, providing accurate online information, and understanding the needs of people with a disability can result in increased visitor numbers to your business. If you need some information on that, there are many useful tips on the internet.
It’s time to change your mind. It is an investment opportunity that strengthens the competitiveness of your business, not just welfare for the underprivileged. If we have the will to work together, travel is no longer a ‘challenge’ or ‘dangerous’ thing for people with disabilities.
World Tourism Organization. “ACCESSIBLE TOURISM.” www.unwto.org/accessibility. Accessed 21 Sep. 2021.