Ensuring accessibility for tourists with specific access requirements may represent a “paradigm shift” for destinations around the world seeking to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
A new set of World Tourism Organization Guidelines for Inclusive Recovery, developed in collaboration with the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), the ONCE Foundation in Spain and Travability in Australia, makes clear the importance of placing inclusion at the heart of recovery plans and provides key recommendations for achieving this.
Launched on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the UNWTO Guidelines for Inclusive Recovery – Socio-Cultural Impacts of COVID-19: Theme I Persons with Disabilities, builds on the expertise of the UNWTO Department of Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility and its partners. While much progress has been made, the publication makes clear that people with disabilities and older persons face barriers that prevent them from fully enjoying the tourism experience, even more so during the pandemic. Now, as UNWTO leads the resumption of tourism globally, this guide outlines steps that governments, destinations and businesses should take to build back better by becoming more inclusive and competitive.
Accessibility as a Priority
UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “Tourism environments and services are often designed without taking into account the different access requirements that visitors and residents of these places may have. The tourism sector must make accessibility a priority. This can make a difference for destinations and businesses, helping them recover from the crisis and grow again in a more inclusive and resilient way.
Highlighting the potential benefits for more accessible destinations, the publication notes that by 2050, one in six people worldwide will be 65 or older, a figure that will rise to one in four in Europe and North America. In addition, the data show that the average expenditure of tourists with disabilities in Spain, for example, exceeds 800 euros, compared to just over 600 euros for non-disabled tourists.
Recommendations for a recovery that meets different access needs
Recommendations advocating accessibility during the recovery of tourism emphasize six main areas of action:
- Assistance in a crisis: include accessibility during each stage of repatriation, which requires the support of destinations and organizations of people with disabilities
- Adaptation of protocols: follow the UNWTO recommendations on adaptations of health and safety protocols, of a general nature, as clients may have different capacities or needs
- Inclusion in post-pandemic tourism: including the effective use of data to guide decisions on accessible tourism planning and the adjustment of accessibility policies and strategies to reflect post-pandemic realities
- Accessibility in business planning: Treating accessibility as a competitive advantage, improving customer service, and applying harmonized international standards to improve the quality of life for all
- Training and inclusion of staff: Expand professional training to better serve tourists with different abilities and ensure equal opportunities for professionals in the tourism sector
- Innovation and digital transformation: Embracing innovation to make travel and tourism safer, smarter and easier for everyone
The guidelines reflect UNWTO’s ongoing commitment to inclusive tourism, as enshrined in the UNWTO Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics, which calls on signatories to facilitate tourism for persons with disabilities. This publication is also the first in a planned series of thematic guidelines from the UNWTO Department of Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility, in an attempt to provide guidance to our sector.
UNWTO and its partners are asking administrations, destinations and companies that have successfully incorporated accessibility into their mitigation measures to share their stories through the ‘Accessibility Champions‘ questionnaire.
Click here to access the questionnaire