Tourism for All: Promoting Universal Accessibility

Today marks the World Tourism Day, and countries across the globe are celebrating with a common theme set by the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation on ‘Tourism for all – promoting universal accessibility’.

In his message on the occasion, Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon noted that with almost 1.2 billion people travelling abroad each year, tourism has become a powerful economic sector, a passport to prosperity and peace, and a transformative force improving millions of lives.

He noted that “everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis. Yet 1 billion people around the world living with disability, along with young children, seniors and persons with other access requirements, still face obstacles in accessing fundamentals of travel such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate.  Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments are being left behind in many tourism destinations.”

Secretary Ban stated that accessibility is both an important market opportunity and central to responsible and sustainable tourism policies and business development strategies.

He called on policy makers, destination planners and companies working with people with special needs to work together to remove all barriers, mental and physical, to travel.

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifa also called on all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, to promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels.

Noting that tourism has experienced a revolution in the past 50 years, Rifa stated “15% of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability. That is 1 billion people around the world who may be unable to enjoy the privilege of knowing other cultures, experience nature at its fullest and experience the thrill of embarking on a journey to explore new sights.”

“Accessibility for all should be at the center of tourism policies and business strategies not only as a human right, but also as a great market opportunity,” he said.

The Maldivian government today commenced a high level Industry Forum, centralised around the theme of accessible tourism. Bringing together key tourism industry stakeholders and government policy makers, the forum focused on three areas of Tourism and Environment, Tourism and Human Resource Development and Tourism and Aviation.

Additionally, a one day conference for industry professionals and related government bodies is to follow on the 29th of September to discuss and review the government’s current approach towards destination marketing.

According to the Tourism Ministry, the main focus of the conference is to present and discuss key findings and analysis on the destination and relevant competitor markets derived from data-intelligence research by the Ministry of Tourism and the LexisNexis Group of Consultants.