Tourism industry in action: Traveling without barriers
Tourism industry in action: Traveling without barriers
Whether they are blind or use a wheelchair – people with disabilities have individual needs when they travel, which should be supported by tour operators, the accommodations and surroundings on location. The keyword here is accessibility. After all, active participation is an important basic need that must be met not just in everyday life but also on travels.
Some prefer a camping holiday in nature, others prefer to mingle with people in a city: The preferred way to travel is usually as different as people are.
And this applies equally to young and old. The demographic change plays an important role throughout the world and must also not be neglected when it comes to accessible travel. Travel options appeal to even more people if they also pursue an inclusion strategy.
To make sure that this is going to be more often the case in the future when it comes to children and adolescent travel and to ensure a wider range of options, a team from the Technical University of Cologne (TH Köln) along with industry partners has created a strategic action plan to promote more inclusion in travel. "The action plan wants to contribute to the further development of travel options for all children and adolescents and simultaneously advance the field of pedagogical children and adolescent travel," explains Judith Dubiski at the TH Köln in an interview with REHACARE.com. Not only does she report about the status quo, she also talks about the future of the children and adolescent travel market.
Making accessible tourism a priority
Whether it’s young people with disabilities, families traveling with strollers or older people who are restricted in their mobility or eye-sight – accessible tourism benefits everyone. Meanwhile, access to information and structural accessibility are often inadequate in many European holiday destinations, accommodations, venues and tourist attractions. This has a direct and mostly negative impact on the number of tourists and potential travelers. That’s why the European Network for Accessible Tourism or ENAT, aims to make tourism more accessible and provide an accessible travel experience for people with a variety of disabilities. ENAT makes its knowledge available to all stakeholders of the tourism sector, so they can use and share it. ENAT’s website states that "accessible tourism must become a priority – for the good of the tourists and for the long-term sustainability of the European tourist industry."
"How can I go on from here?" – A certain willingness to help and openness often help people with disabilities when travelling.
In many ways, the United Kingdom –along with the Scandinavian countries - is considered the poster child in all things inclusion within Europe. Given that about 11.9 million people have a disability, one in five customers of any travel agency has a disability. There are many efforts to accommodate this target audience. The mission of the small national organization Tourism for All is to promote accessible tourism and travel for all in the United Kingdom.
In its own words, the company focuses on travel and tourism aspects – and not on disability. Nevertheless or maybe because of it, the organization tries to meet the needs of people with a variety of disabilities. After all, accessibility is an important market in the tourism sector. Tourism for All also offers training courses for companies and employees in the tourism industry to raise awareness of these needs and train people accordingly. The aim of the Tourism is for everybody campaign is – among others – to raise general awareness – both in the industry and in society.
Meanwhile, it’s not just local transportation services that try to make travel easier for people with disabilities. More and more travel businesses also explicitly target people with disabilities and offer special group or individual tours – for both children and adolescents and adults. Sometimes, they specialize in meeting the needs of people with physical disabilities or – if needed - they try to find travel companions for people with learning disabilities.
The travel destinations are as different as the people who visit them. One trend that has emerged in recent years are trips to and through Canada. BSK-Reisen GmbH, for example, offers a round trip option through Canada with a rental car. AHORN REISEN GmbH also primarily targets people with mobility disabilities with its USA and Canada travel options.
The RUNA REISEN travel agency has often received inquiries about tour options in Canada: "People expressly suggested the round trip because they wanted to be flexible and self-determined in discovering the country and driving the streets of North America," says Karl B. Bock in an interview at REHACARE.com that is completely dedicated to this coveted travel destination.
Adina Hermann likes to travel a lot – together with her husband Timo. They are also happy to pass on their experience of accessible travel options to other people with disabilities.
Sharing experiences and spreading information about accessibility
Interested travelers can visit the travelable.info online portal to discover wheelchair accessible destinations on a city tour of Canada’s largest city of Toronto. Last year, project manager Timo Hermann talked about tried and tested city tours published on the portal in a REHACARE.com interview. On his website Mobilista.eu, he also publishes his own experiences while visiting countless travel destinations around the world with his wife Adina. The wheelchair user and her husband are also always happy to answer questions and connect inquirers with local contacts.
There are also many travel bloggers with disabilities in the English-speaking realm. One of them is "Simply Emma" from Scotland. She regularly publishes comprehensive reviews and advice on accessible travel. On her blog, she writes that her mission is to "show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips, and reviews." Needless to say, they are chiefly based on her personal experiences.
The demand for accessible travel experiences and options is huge. The market is growing fast and steady. Major companies like Google or Airbnb have also come to realize this fact. Both have recently announced that they plan to focus more on people with disabilities in the future. While Airbnb announced 21 new search filters for his accessibility portal, Google Maps points out that it will gradually expand its mobile wheelchair accessible routes. This feature is already rolled out and available in major metropolitan areas such as Sydney, Tokyo, London, Boston, and Mexico City.
These announcements are a step in the right direction. However, the market for accessible tourism could still use more impetus. Yet serious efforts and targeted initiatives to promote diverse options are often only initiated when people with disabilities themselves get actively involved in the process. They know all the pitfalls and barriers they face in everyday life, are familiar with the gaps in the market and offer the right inspiration and ideas – after all, they are experts in their own lives.