Accessible Tourism For All: UNWTO, Fundación ONCE, ENAT care for travelers with disabilities

by Olamilekan Okeowo

Three critical stakeholders in the Tourism Sector have called on destinations to recognize the needs of travelers with disabilities or specific access requirements as they open up to visitors again.

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) made this call in conjunction with the ONCE Foundation of Spain and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) while releasing new guidelines to ensure accessibility and inclusivity as the responsible restart of tourism gets underway.

These Guidelines from the stakeholders show that simple, thoughtful measures can make a real difference for travelers – and in return, allow destinations to welcome this wide and diverse demographic as they look to recover from COVID-19.

The Guidelines are a set of basic recommendations addressed at different stakeholders working across the whole of the tourism value chain. All are aimed at helping stakeholders, including accommodation providers, bars, restaurants, and tourism offices, adjust to new health and sanitary demands without reducing accessibility. The recommendations cover four distinct areas.

The “Reopening Tourism for Travellers with Disabilities” guide also notes the opportunities available to destinations that take steps to accommodate the specific needs of persons with disabilities, those with specific access requirements and seniors. This is particularly relevant now since tourism has been among the hardest hit of all major economic sectors, with businesses big and small at risk.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili has this to say on the development:

“Much progress has been made in making tourism more accessible to all. As we guide the responsible restart of tourism, we must make sure that this progress is not rolled back. Instead, it must be stepped up as it will benefit everyone. These Guidelines, produced in collaboration with ONCE Foundation and ENAT show that simple, thoughtful measures can make a real difference for travelers – and in return, allow destinations to welcome this wide and diverse demographic as they look to recover from COVID-19”.

On his part, Fundación ONCE Vice-President, Alberto Durán, underlined the importance of making great efforts to help everyone enjoy tourism.

“We are making great efforts to help everyone enjoy travel and tourism. It is fundamental that we use this time of change to sensitize all stakeholders to the need to include persons with disabilities and their families in tourism, leaving no one behind. These clients can help businesses stay afloat in these challenging times, representing opportunities for all” he said.

Similarly, ENAT President, Anna Grazia Laura, stated that adhering to the practical guidelines can contribute in no small measures to reassuring everyone.

“These practical guidelines for curbing the spread of COVID-19, with due regard for accessibility and inclusion within tourism, can contribute to global efforts to reassure all visitors, benefitting tourists, businesses, and destinations alike” she added.

Recall that the latest data from UNWTO showed that 40% of global destinations have now eased restrictions on travel introduced in response to COVID0-19. Now, with tourism steadily returning, UNWTO has joined disabled people’s organizations and organizations from across civil society to design a basic set of recommendations aimed at maintaining the ethos of “Accessible Tourism for All” in the new reality.

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