Listen with webReader

Logo Colour

News and views about  tourism, travel, and leisure that is accessible to people with disabilities, seniors, and Baby Boomers who will experience increasing disability as they age.

Blog by Sandra Rhodda, Director, Access Tourism New Zealand

Views are strictly my own


British Hospitality Association members named Disability Champions for Government

Listen with webReader

Robin Sheppard, Chairman of Bespoke Hotels and BHA member, was appointed Hotels Disability Champion. Sheppard will use his influential status as a leader in the industry to promote the benefits of being inclusive to disabled people. He was put forward for the role by Ibrahim.   Bespoke Hotels has recently renovated the Chester Grosvenor and Hotel Gotham, Manchester to make bedrooms, bathrooms and disabled access rooms as seamless as possible. The company also sponsored The Bespoke Access Awards 2016/17 which invited entrants to re-imagine the welcome that hotels extend to guests with physical disabilities and learning difficulties to make the hotel experience more joyful and inclusive. Speaking about his appointment Sheppard said: ‘One of the lines you are currently unlikely to hear in a hotel reception is “Can I have an upgrade to a disabled suite please” why? Because they don’t exist. The good news is this clarion cry is being heard by Government and echoed by representatives from a wide array of key sectors – all passionate about improving recognition of, and respect for, the disabled community.’

Michael Connolly, Regional Training and Standards Manager for OCS Ltd, another BHA Member, was appointed Disability Champion for Airports. OCS Ltd is an international facilities management company based in the UK.

Chris Veitch, Co-founder of Access New Business who spoke at last year’s annual BHA Summit was appointed Tourism Disability Champion.

The sector champions will amplify the voices of disabled customers and employees within their own industries, increasing accountability and challenging inequality. They will also highlight specific changes and improvements to make that will make a difference to the millions of people who often miss out.


Follow on Twitter: @BHAtweets  @alfresco12 @bespokehotels @ChrisGVeitch @AccessNewBiz

Native Hotels a finalist for access at WTTC

Listen with webReader
NATIVE Hotels is a finalist in this years World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) “Tourism for Tomorrow” Innovation Award for its work in Accessible Tourism.   Set up by two journalists to promote accessible tourism, Native Hotels pays particular attention to ensuring accessible communication. Guests have access to vibrating watches with alerts and messages for deaf customers, while signage packs and door signs in Braille help the visually impaired navigate through the hotel, its rooms and bathrooms. They have recently launched a new online platform for the travel industry, which Native says is the only one to offer total accessibility, and allows users with any kind of disability to use a computer to make their holiday choices. It can be used by anyone, even if they are unable to see the screen, touch the keyboard or speak to the computer – so long as a person can blow onto a microphone, they can use the platform. For tourism to ensure it delivers its benefits to as many people as possible, everyone needs to be able to discover what is within their reach. Native’s new platform brings that world closer for many more.
The winners of the awards will be officially announced  during the awards ceremony at the WTTC Global Summit, Thailand April 26, 2017. Professor Graham Miller (University of Surrey) – whose interests include accessible tourism – will present the awards.
Follow on Twitter: @nativehotels @WTTC @UKguchan

Future international standard on accessible tourism for all

Listen with webReader

Logo of the United Nations World Tourism Organization

From the initiative of the ONCE Foundation, the Spanish Association for Standardization (UNE) and the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the first working meeting for the development of an International Standard on Accessible Tourism for All was held in Madrid on 13-14 February.  

The Technical Committee TC 228, responsible for tourism and related services within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), will develop a global and transversal international standard that will include, initially, a systematic inventory of existing standards, technical criteria, recommendations and requirements in the field of accessible tourism. In addition, recommendations and requirements will be suggested for those segments of the value chain and related activities whose international standardization in terms of accessibility is still pending.

The future standards will be called “ISO 21902 Tourism and related services—Tourism for all—Requirements and recommendations”. In terms of scope, the new standard will set clear guidelines for tourism planning and destination management.

According to Jesús Hernández, Director of Universal Accessibility and Innovation of the ONCE Foundation, the new standard will be “a lever to promote Design for All in such an important economic sector as tourism at the world level. In many cases persons with disabilities cannot exercise their rights to leisure and the enjoyment of culture and tourism. This is discrimination. In addition, from an economic point of view, tourism activity that is designed for all people represents a source of wealth creation”.

For his part, Márcio Favilla, UNWTO Executive Director, emphasized that universal accessibility is a right and a business opportunity for destinations and companies: “Accessible tourism is the answer to everyone’s universal right to travel and discover the world. At the same time, it is an opportunity for the tourism industry to capture a global marketplace that includes millions of people with disabilities, seniors, families with young children and many others who encounter numerous barriers, both physical and cultural, when travelling.”

Javier García, Director of Standardization of the Spanish Association for Standardization (UNE), stated that “technical standards are documents available to all, which contain the consensus of all parties related to globally-accepted good practices, helping organizations to establish their criteria for action. Currently, the Spanish catalogue contains 75 standards and draft standards that establish the accessibility requirements in many areas, benefiting persons with disabilities and their families, as well as society in general”. UNE is the entity responsible for the development of technical standards in Spain and is the national representative at international and European standardization bodies.

To date, the working group established under ISO TC228 has representatives from Panama, Austria, the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Portugal, Argentina, Malta, Canada, Ireland and Spain, as well as representatives of associations such as ENAT (European Network of Accessible Tourism), HOTREC (European Association of Hotels, Restaurants and Cafés), ECTAA (European Association of Tour Operators and Travel Agents), SBS (Small Business Standards, the European association representing SMEs in standardization), and ANEC (the European consumer association for standardization)

The new standard, which is expected to be approved in 2018 after reaching consensus at the ISO level and promulgated during 2019, will be applied to the different stakeholders of the tourism sector, both public and private and at different levels.


Follow on Twitter: @ONCE_oficial   @isostandards   @UNWTO


Queensland: New guide about developing Accessible Tourism and the Access Market

Listen with webReader


The Queensland (Australia) Government has launched a new guide to help grow Queensland’s accessible tourism market and break down barriers preventing people with disability from enjoying a holiday.   Disability Services Minister Coralee O’Rourke said the Inclusive Tourism guide had been developed to increase the sector’s knowledge about accessibility and legal obligations relating to inclusiveness.  “Disability impacts on every aspect of people’s lives and travel can be something that is either not possible, or too complicated for many Queenslanders with disability,” Mrs O’Rourke said.   “Any changes we can make within the tourism industry can help people with disability to experience travel in a more meaningful way, without the experience being overshadowed by barriers.

“As a state we need to roll out the welcome mat for people of all abilities and ages, and create a unique tourism experience that is accessible, inclusive and benefits both operators and visitors.  The Inclusive Tourism guide offers businesses some great examples of inclusive initiatives already in place in the market, explanations of legal obligations, as well as practical information and strategies on how to be more inclusive” continued O’Rourke.  “It is about more than installing ramps, widening parking bays and doorways, or building larger rest rooms – it is about everything that a business should do to be inclusive for everyone.”

Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) Chief Executive Officer Daniel Gschwind welcomed the release of Inclusive Tourism.  “This tool will provide tourism businesses the tools and resources to ensure their destinations, facilities and services delivered an exceptional experience for all of our visitors,” he said.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones said improving accessibility would enable more people to enjoy Queensland’s world-class tourism destinations.  “Our Government is committed to making a difference in the lives of people with disability, their families and carers,” Ms Jones said.   “If we can remove some of the barriers people with disability encounter when they travel, it will improve their overall holiday experiences here in Queensland” she continued.   “Inclusivity is priority for organisers of major events in Queensland, including the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.    All venues will meet the national requirements for accessibility, which means everyone – regardless of age, family needs or mobility – will be able to enjoy the Commonwealth Games events.”

Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks said visitors with a health condition or disability and their companions spend a significant amount of money each year in Queensland.  “The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission is a strong advocate for a society that is inclusive, fair and equitable and this guide supports the tourism industry to meet this challenge,” he said.

Inclusive Tourism was produced in partnership between the Queensland Government, QTIC, Anti-Discrimination Commission, Queensland Disability Services Council, and the Local Government Association of Queensland.

Source: Press release.  For more information, visit

India working hard to improve accessible tourism for visitors with disabilities

Listen with webReader

Guest article by Rohit Agarwal. Rohit is an architect who loves to travel and write about his experiences on Trans India Travels. Readers can get information about visiting varied destinations in India and across the world at  In this article, he describes the rise of accessible tourism in India.


To travel is a desire that is not unique to any creed, class, or country. The mind craves to explore and exuberate in finding a new location, delving into the joy of a never-ever-have-visited-before kind of situation. So, then why should physical disability of any sort be an obstruction in indulging in this pleasure?

India is making steady progress in enabling the disabled traveler.  By a survey study, nearly 17% of the total population of India comes into the category of being disabled.  But unfortunately, barely a handful actually explore other places. With this in mind, the Ministry of Tourism in 2010 started to focus on them, luring the related industries like Hospitality and so on the benefits of promoting ‘the accessible travel’. This term means providing amenable conditions to Persons with Disabilities (PWD) to help them travel more.

Making Travel an Accessible Experience for The Disabled

Now, creating the right conditions involved a lot of factors and efforts as well as investment, and a careful chalking out of them by the Department is helping make India one of the best places in the whole world for PWDs! From constructing special toilets to make availability of sign language specialist for proper communication all along, it all has started to show results by India being one of the most travelled by their disabled by choice! Also, the top cadre hotels have been given specific instructions to make them more ‘disabled friendly’ place to stay in

Several travel companies have tied up with different associations and have started something known as ‘The Wheel chair bound Trekking’. This is basically a  tailor-made holiday package across Ladakh region. Many of the Hotels too are changing ways and trying to suit the requirement of a ‘Wheel chair bound’ travel,  for example, making the hotel doorways wider up to a measure of 90 cm or having a step alongside a slope to separate a bathroom from the bedroom etc.

Even the Archeological Survey of India has been given similar instructions. This is to ensure that many structures can be made easily accessible to PWDs. An example is the ancient Alchi Gompa, a Buddhist monastic complex which now has a ramp for easy wheelchair movement.

Another example can be cited – that of ‘Golden Chariot’. It is the luxury train and a joint venture between Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways that has wheel chair compatible cabins. The availability of a staffer is there should the PWD require assistance in movement, even in excursions. Also, the palanquins are made available free of cost to them. The Yeshwanthpur Railway Station, in Bangalore, has wheelchairs and electric passenger carts to ease their movements.

The very fact that the Indian Railways gives concession up to almost 75% for the ‘differently abled’ itself has given a lot of boost and a will to promote the ‘accessible travel’ plans. Indian Airlines gives straight 50% discount to visually impaired people. All the State Governments and Union Territories allow free journeys in buses to physically challenged people.

Slowly, yet steadily, the emphasis has increased to design special tour packages for PWDs, slow walkers, wheelchair users, and special accessible tours for groups of people, leading to a growth in these offers from various Travel Companies in India.

Every disability has its unique need and thus requires adjustments and use of various travel-supporting infrastructure. There are now options of even jungle safaris to widen experiences and also,  cruises are availed now. Now, the fun and excitement of travelling is no longer limited by any disability and India is growing in stature as an accessible holiday destination!

Follow on Twitter: @TransIndiaTrvls  On Google+

VisitEngland: there is a strong business case for providing accessible tourism

Listen with webReader

Whitehall (4)

There is a strong business case for providing inclusive tourism experiences that are accessible to all. So says VisitEngland on their page about good accessibility, which benefits all visitors whether they are young, old, use a pushchairs, wheelchairs, assistance dogs, or have learning difficulties or temporary health conditions. Disabled people have the greatest need for accessible facilities and services but it should be remembered that only around 8% use a wheelchair: many more having other mobility, hearing or visual impairments.

VisitEngland is amongst world leaders in the development and fostering of accessible tourism because they understand that this is a profitable market.  The total expenditure of people with health conditions and impairments – and their travelling companions – on tourism in England is a staggering £12.1billion a year.  In addition,

  • In 2014, one in five (20%) of tourism day trips in England were taken by people with an impairment and their travelling companions, spending £9.1billion.
  • In 2014, 14% of all overnight trips by British residents in England were taken by those with an impairment and their travelling companions, worth £2.7billion.
  • Over half a million people with a health condition or impairment visit England from abroad each year, spending around £341million.

Research by VisitEngland also reveals the following beneficial characteristics of the accessible tourism market:

  • More likely to take longer trips;
  • Seaside destinations are particularly appealing;
  • Anecdotally very loyal.

The VisitEngland website has all sorts of information, guides, advice, and help for people interested in improving or adding access in their tourism business, and it id free to all.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitEngland

DOT Focuses on Training to Improve Access to Air Travel for Individuals with Disabilities

Listen with webReader
Passenger in a wheelchair. Source: DOT

Passenger in a wheelchair. Source: DOT

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today released a series of new disability-related training materials for airlines and passengers with disabilities on the four areas where the Department receives the greatest number of air travel disability complaints.  DOT worked closely with disability-rights organizations, airlines, and airports to ensure that any material that is developed is of optimal use. “We must ensure that Americans of all ages and abilities can access our nation’s transportation system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx.  “Today’s actions recognize the critical importance of training in providing accessible transportation and reinforce our commitment to full implementation of the Air Carrier Access Act.”

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits airlines from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.  Under DOT rules, airlines are required to train to proficiency all airline personnel and contractors who interact with the traveling public.

The new DOT training material target areas are (1) wheelchair and guide assistance; (2) stowage, loss, delay, and damage of wheelchairs and other mobility assistive devices; (3) aircraft seating accommodations; and (4) travel with service animals.  They are intended to be an additional resource that airlines can use to supplement the disability-related trainings that they are required to provide their employees and contractors under DOT rules.  The new training materials also include companion pieces to provide passengers with disabilities information about their rights under the ACAA and the Department’s rules.

The content includes two videos, downloadable brochures that can be printed or viewed on a mobile device, and a foldable accordion wheelchair/guided assistance tip sheet that airline personnel can carry and reference while assisting passengers with disabilities.  These resources are available on DOT’s website at

In the near future, the Department will also be posting on its website two interactive guides designed to supplement airline personnel and contractor trainings.

DOT is committed to using all the tools available to it, including enforcement action, to ensure that airlines understand and comply with their obligation to ensure that their personnel and contractors are trained.  For example, DOT has issued an order against American Airlines (American) for failing to properly train its reservation and gate agents regarding the proper handling of service animal requests.   The order is for a series of errors in the handling of seating arrangements for a military veteran who attempted to travel on an American flight with his service animal.  These series of errors reflect lapses in training and led to significant travel complications and frustration for the passenger.  The order directs American to provide supplemental training to its reservations agents and gate agents about the proper handling of service animal requests.  The consent order is available at, docket number DOT-OST-2014-0146.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @USDOT


EPM Museum Seattle the “most accessible in the world”

Listen with webReader


Seattle’s EMP Museum has had accessibility built into the project from its inception. The non-profit museum was the dream of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.  It is a both a giant shrine to the music and history of Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix, and a global archive for all things Sci-Fi, Horror and Fantasy.  The museum was designed by architect Frank Gehry, who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Spain.

Access was a focus throughout the entire project. Gehry worked closely with Seattle’s disabled community to ensure that disabled visitors and employees could experience a new level of accessibility and inclusion.   Celebrity consultants and advisory board members threw their weight behind public awareness of inclusiveness, and the museum serves as an exemplar of accessible public architecture.  It includes six lifts just for wheelchairs; electric door openers at every entrance; and low, 70 cm counters and surfaces throughout. The best seats in the house, including in the Sky Church, the EMP’s main music venue, are the wheelchair-accessible seats.  An assisted listening system and ‘Rear Window’ captioning for the deaf and hearing-impaired, and sub-woofers installed in the floor so patrons can feel the music. All exhibitions and events have complete audio narration for the vision-impaired.

Visitors with a disability can choose from an array of real and virtual instruments, compose an instant hit and then perform it ‘live on stage’ before a massive audience created using virtual reality.

Setting an international benchmark for accessibility proved costly but was helped substantially by advisory board members including Steven Spielberg, James Cameron and George Lucas.

EMP Museum was formerly known as Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.  Source: Brett Woodward, Captioner in a-i magazine  Follow on Twitter: @accessinclusion  @EMPmuseum  @frankogehry @Microsoft @PaulGAllen

New Florida Guidebook Highlights Wheelchair-Accessible State Parks

Listen with webReader

Cover of Barrier-Free Travel: Favorite Florida State Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers

If a trip to Florida is on your travel calendar, then pick up a copy of Barrier-Free Travel; Favorite Florida State Parks for Wheelers and Slow Walkers, ($7.95, C&C Creative Concepts) and prepare to be wowed by the natural beauty and accessibility of some of the Sunshine State’s popular state parks. Penned by accessible travel expert Candy Harrington, this new travel guide highlights trails, attractions, and lodging options for wheelchair-users and slow walkers in twelve of the author’s favorite Florida State Parks.

Filled with updated access details the book includes information about:

  • Accessible Trails and Boardwalks
  • An Accessible Glass Bottom Boat in the Florida Keys
  • Accessible Wildlife Viewing Opportunities
  • Barrier-Free Camping
  • Access Details and Photos of Park Cabins
  • A Crystal-Clear Spring with a Wheelchair Lift
  • Accessible Auto, Tram and Boat Tours
  •  Discounts on Park Admissions, Tolls and Campsites
  • Nearby Accessible Trails and Attractions

Says Harrington, “I’m very impressed with the accessible facilities in these Florida State Parks, including a bounty of accessible boardwalks, and one of the most accessible pontoon boats that I’ve ever seen. I even uncovered an accessible snorkeling tour! No mater what your ability, you’ll be able to get up-close-and-personal with Mother Nature, and even spend the night in some of the parks.”

The book also includes information about recent access improvements, such as the newly renovated historic cabins in Myakka River State Park. “One of the cabbage palm log cabins even has ramp access and a spacious bathroom with a roll-in shower. Even better — it’s surrounded by a pine and palm forest for optimal wildlife viewing opportunities”, adds Harrington.

This inclusive book is the fourth in a series of accessible travel guides to popular destinations throughout the United States. Says Harrington, “Although it’s written for wheelchair-users and slow walkers, moms who have stroller-aged kids will appreciate the access information in this guide. In the end, good access really benefits everyone.”

Candy Harrington has covered accessible travel for over 20 years. She is the founding editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of several accessible travel titles, including the classic, Barrier-Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She also blogs regularly about accessible travel issues at

Follow on Twitter: @CBHarrington @FLStateParks   

Ilunion Hotels receives UNWTO Ethics Award for Accessible Tourism

Listen with webReader


The World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE) has awarded Ilunion Hotels (Spain) with the UNWTO Ethics Award. The Award distinguishes Ilunion Hotels for its work in the area of accessible tourism for all and its contribution to change attitudes, break down social barriers and make the accommodation industry more inclusive.

This new category of the UNWTO Awards, the flagship awards of the World Tourism Organization, aims to recognize tourism companies and associations for their commitment and work in the promotion and implementation of the principles of the Global Code of Ethics of Tourism.  The UNWTO Awards on Excellence and Innovation in Tourism were established in 2003 to distinguish the work of organizations and individuals that positively impact and inspire the tourism sector through innovation and knowledge.  The UNWTO Ethics Awards were added in 2016 and is open to all companies and associations that are official signatories of the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

Ilunion Hotels’ pioneer policies and outstanding commitment in the area of universal accessibility is applied throughout its business model, comprising not only customers with disabilities and other access needs, but also its employees and suppliers. For these reasons, the Jury considered that Ilunion Hotels represents a virtuous, innovative and replicable best practice of corporate social responsibility.

The Jury of the UNWTO Ethics Award is composed of the Chair and members of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics, an independent and impartial body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

The 13th UNWTO Awards Ceremony will take place on 18 January 2017 in Madrid, in collaboration with the International Tourism Trade Fair (IFEMA/FITUR).

Follow on Twitter: @Ilunionhotels   

Additional information:

UNWTO Ethic Awards

UNWTO Awards on Excellence and Innovation in Tourism

UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

World Committee on Tourism Ethics

Lonely Planet names 10 Most Accessible Vacation Destinations for 2016

Listen with webReader

Lonely Planets Accessible Melbourne front cover street sceneLonely Planet is one of the world’s most successful travel publishers, printing over 120 million guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet in eleven different languages. This includes a number of accessible tourism guides.   It also produces a range of gift and reference titles, an award-winning website and magazine and a range of digital travel products and apps. Lonely Planet has offices in the Australia, UK, USA, India and China with over 400 employees, including Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager.

Recently, Lonely Planet named the world’s top ten most accessible travel destinations for 2016.   The company recognizes that the number of people in the world who have a need for better access is already large, and that with the rapid ageing of the world’s population, there will be an impact on global business and tourism.  Companies are slowly starting to realize that accessibility is not just an issue that must be addressed for those with a disability. It’s a real issue that many grey nomads are putting some extra thought into before booking their next vacation. Lonely Planet agrees that with an aging baby boomer population that isn’t willing to slow down when it comes to travel, accessibility is becoming paramount. It is with this in mind that they put together their list of the most accessible vacation destinations for 2016.  The list includes: Playa del Carmen, Mexico; Barcelona, Spain; Galápagos and Amazonia, Ecuador; Sicily, Italy; Manchester, UK; Melbourne, Australia; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Singapore; San Diego, USA; and Vienna, Austria.

Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

Accessible Tourism the theme for this year’s UN World Tourism Day

Listen with webReader

Tourism for all - Promoting universal accesibility

For the last quarter–century World Tourism Day, held annually on 27 September, has aimed to foster awareness of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic impact. This year’s official celebrations will be held in Bangkok, Thailand on the theme of ‘Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility.   “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.” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his official message (

“All of the world’s citizens have the right to experience the incredible diversity this planet has to offer. Therefore, it is highly important that all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai (  “This year’s theme, ‘Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility’, is a challenge for Thailand and the world to recognize the necessity of accessibility in tourism and to accommodate everyone anywhere they may travel to (…) We have to understand the theory of Universal Design (…) As the world of travel and tourism is an expanding industry and the number of travelers increases every year, we have to ensure that travelling the world has to is as safe and seamless as possible,” explained Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand.

The official celebrations include a ‘Tourism and the Media’ session held on 26th September at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, and a full-day conference ( the following day. During the event, experts on accessibility and tourism will exchange views and best practices, addressing the need to work in cooperation to advance in the ‘Tourism for All’ agenda.

Creating an adequate policy framework for specific business development strategies, the need to increase awareness and capacity building targeting both decision makers and tourism professionals are some of the topics to be addressed during the conference. Andrew Stevens, Asia Pacific Editor of CNNMoney, will moderate this discussion.

The conference will also address innovative strategies in the development of accessible tourism infrastructure, products and services which add value to destinations and enhance their competitiveness on the global tourism market. A number of best practices will be featured with the aim of emphasizing the value of investing in accessibility.

The celebrations of World Tourism Day 2016 are being held in collaboration with CNN, UNWTO media partner.

Follow on Twitter:

Accessible tourism forum brings together government boards from across UK, Europe

Listen with webReader


Representatives of more than 20 tourism organisations from around Europe will gather in Edinburgh to raise the level of accessible tourism expertise across the continent.  Jointly organised by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (, VisitScotland ( VisitFlanders (, the ‘Aiming for Inclusive Growth’ forum is designed to share best practice.

Bringing together the most experienced countries and regions in the field of accessible tourism, the event will give participants the chance to present their policies and achievements, as well as share ideas on how to raise their game in the years ahead.Items on the agenda will include discussion on an overall strategy for accessible tourism development, industry engagement and customer engagement.

Last year, Scotland’s accessible tourism market was estimated to be worth more than £1.3 billion. To capitalise on this market and make it easier for visitors to identify businesses which can cater for their access requirements, VisitScotland and VisitEngland ( have been developing a new website which will not only help businesses create their own Accessibility Guide but also allow visitors to search and locate suitable venues for their holiday.

Guest speakers at the two-day event include Chris McCoy, Equality and Diversity Manager at VisitScotland, Kiki MacDonald, founder of the accessible review website Euan’s Guide (, and Charlotte Vella, Accessibility Officer at VisitParis (

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, who will provide the opening address, said: “Accessible tourism provides an equal opportunity for disabled people, older people, families with young children and those with temporary or hidden disabilities to be part of the tourism experience. Accessible tourism means families can visit somewhere together, with no-one having to be left out. In Scotland we are committed to making this vision a reality by ensuring a fair, inclusive and equal society, enabling everyone to have the same opportunities.

“The latest 2015 accessible tourism figures confirm the economic importance of the accessible tourism market to Scotland, with an estimated £1.3 billion spent on trips. The Scottish Government has invested £38,000 to support the accessible and inclusive market specifically by delivering three projects to boost the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.”

McCoy said: “VisitScotland’s Accessible Tourism Project aims to harness the growing, high-value accessible tourism market and for Scotland to become internationally recognised as a leading destination for people with access needs. The Scottish tourism industry has made great progress in terms of accessibility over the past few years, but we know there is still much work to be done. We are delighted to be able to showcase exactly what this country has to offer but we are also keen to learn from experts from the likes of France, Denmark and Sweden.

“Aiming for Inclusive Growth will give countries across Europe food for thought about how they can improve their tourism product for those visitors who have specific access requirements, such as disabled people, senior travellers and families with young children, with the ultimate goal of making our holiday destinations accessible to everyone.”

Anna Grazia Laura, President of ENAT, said: “Europe is the biggest tourism magnet in the world and has very high quality tourism products that visitors can enjoy. Yet all countries need to put more focus on making sure that tourism and travel is accessible for everyone, including people with disabilities and the senior market, as these are key growth markets for the future.”

“Given the huge size of the accessible tourism market in Europe, which is worth over 130 Billion Euros per year, there are certainly enough customers to go round. People with disabilities are yearning to enjoy tourism and travel the way everyone else can but accessible tourism products are in short supply. The challenge all tourist boards face is to improve the quality of destinations and offers, making sure that all the suppliers are working towards better access along the whole tourism supply chain.”

Peter De Wilde, CEO of Visit Flanders, said: “In the last 15 years, Visit Flanders has developed many instruments to increase the accessibility of tourist facilities in Flanders, Belgium. As time passes, the tourism sector in Flanders is moving in the right direction. Yet the goal has by no means been reached. A sustained effort is needed in all areas: investment, awareness raising, providing information and promotion. With the experience gained, further work on an Accessible Flanders will be carried out step by step.

“Several projects of destination development, like the one for the Great War commemoration, in the coastal area and in Bruges fit perfectly within the strategic goal of Visit Flanders of improving the international reputation of Flanders as a tourist destination and developing it into a quality, exciting and sustainable destination, also for people with a disability.

Follow on Twitter: @VisitScotland @VisitEngland @EUaccesstourism @toerisme_vla @EuansGuide @VisitParisIdf

For more information on accessible tourism in Scotland, go to



UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism: from international convention to binding international law?

Listen with webReader

Participants at the UNWTO in Spain

The 17th meeting of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCET), held at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) headquarters in Madrid, Spain on 26-27 April 2016 discussed the advances in the process of conversion of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) into an international convention and reiterated the importance of transforming the Code into legally binding international law.    The WCTE is the independent body responsible for overseeing the implementation of the GCET), and is a subsidiary organ of the UNWTO General Assembly.    The process of transformation is led by a group of UNWTO Member States which is currently drafting the text of the convention to be presented to the 22nd UNWTO General Assembly to be held in China in 2017.

Stressing the relevance of adopting a convention on Tourism Ethics, Pascal Lamy, Chair of the Ethics Committee and former Director General of the World Trade Organization, said “Transforming the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics into an international convention represents a major step forward in ensuring that tourism development is a force for good in our societies and UNWTO Members States are committed to this objective.

Over the course of the two-day meeting, the Committee debated how to increase the awareness of the GCET and its core values such as accessibility for all, child protection and the obligations of tourism service providers in the field of safety and security standards in tourist accommodation and beach water sports.   As the organ responsible for promoting and monitoring the implementation of the GCET, the Committee commended the growing number of companies and trade associations that have adhered to the Private Sector Commitment to the Code. By April 2016, a total of 452 signatories from 64 countries had committed to promote and implement the Code in their business operations, including just one from New Zealand: The Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ).


UNWTO Ethics and Social Responsibility Programme

World Committee on Tourism Ethics

UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

UNWTO Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism

Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO

USA Disability Rate 12.6%

Listen with webReader

Cover of the “2015 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium” USA

The USA Annual Disability Statistics Compendium is available from the University of New Hampshire website. This is a web-based tool that pools disability statistics published by various federal agencies together in one place.  The Compendium shows that the overall rate of disability in the US population in 2014 was 12.6%. The percentage of those with a disability in the United States civilian population rose from 11.9 in 2010 to 12.6 in 2013 and 2014.  Rates of disability increase with age. In 2014, in the population under 5 years old, less than 1.0% of the population had a disability. For the population ages 5-17, the rate was 5.4%. For ages 18-64, the rate was 10.5%. For people ages 65 and older, 36.0% had a disability.  In 2014, of the US population with disabilities, forty percent (40.7%) of people with disabilities were 65 and older.  All disability types (hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living) have increases in disability percentages with age, however cognitive shows the least change between age groups.

Hearing disability is connected strongly with age: there are very low percentages in the under 5 and 5-17 age groups (0.5% and 0.6% respectively), rising to 2.1% of 18-64 year olds, and to 15.0% of those ages 65 and over.    Vision disability also is connected strongly with age. Only 0.5% of children under 5, 0.8% of the 5-17 age group, and 1.9% of 18-64 year olds had a vision disability. For those 65 and over, the percentage increases to 6.7%.  The national prevalence percentage for civilians with cognitive disabilities increases with age, starting at 4.1% for those age 5-17, rising to 4.4% for those 18-64, and jumping to 9.1% for those ages 65 and over.  the percentage of ambulatory disability increases rapidly with age. In those ages 5-17, the rate was a very low 0.6%.  For those in the working age (18-64 year olds), the rate jumps to 5.2%.  The rate then leaps to 23.0% for those ages 65 and over.  As with the other disabilities, the national percentage of civilians with a self-care disability rises with age (Figure 27).  The percentage was 1.0% for those ages 5-17, 1.9% for those ages 18-64, and 8.4% for those 65 and over.  The national percentage for independent living disability for civilians ages 18-64 was 3.7%. For those 65 and over, however, the percentage skyrockets to 15.2% (or nearly 1 in 7).

References: Kraus, Lewis. (2015). 2015 Disability Statistics Annual Report. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire.   Follow on Twitter: @UNHIOD @Dialogue4Health

Oyster Accessible Travel New Zealand

Listen with webReader

Oyster Accessible Travel New Zealand came about when three motivated women joined forces with their own funds to build a better accessible world for tourism in New Zealand.   They told Access Tourism New Zealand: “We saw a need and wanted to make a difference”   In this guest article, Kimberly Graham and Maddy Widdowson write about setting up this service.

Wheelchair waiting to be loaded onto a plane


Kimberly Graham writes: –

“Our family loves to travel and see new places. I worked for years in front-line tourism in New Zealand’s South Island before moving north to Auckland to start my family. My first child Finlay, who is now 11, was born with Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Travelling and visiting family in the South Island was becoming harder to achieve and needed a lot of planning. Our biggest hurdle was suitable accommodation, equipment hire and adaptive transport. Within closed groups on social media it soon became evident we weren’t alone with these frustrations. That is where my vision for a ‘one-stop shop’ travels resource for people with access needs started. There was an obvious need and no one was doing it in New Zealand”

Oyster Accessible Travel started to take form when Jill Goddard (Kim’s cousin) introduced Kim to her friend Maddy Widdowson.

Maddy Widdowson writes: –

“Last year I finished my career as an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and decided to set off on a 6 month trip to Europe with my husband. Just before leaving my friend Jill called and wanted to introduce me to her cousin Kim. She apparently had an idea that Jill thought I might like to be a part of. I became instantly drawn in to her vision of a much needed travel resource for people with access needs. I saw everything I love doing sitting in front of me – making a difference, research, project planning and New Zealand, the country I adopted 15 years ago. The three of us collaborated and with limited funds we built on the vision that it is Oyster Accessible Travel today”

Getting down to business and formulating the Oyster Plan!

We intend New Zealand to become the ‘Pearl in the Oyster’ for accessible travel.

The key was to provide a resource that provided everything the user needed at their fingertips. We didn’t want to be a website full of links to other sites. We want our users to find the information they need in one place.

It was also important we created an interactive website that talked and discussed access needs regularly with its users. Everyone’s access needs are different and having a diverse sector of community to cater for was going to be the challenge. We knew feedback and a review system played an essential part for the site. Detailed descriptions backed up by photographs a must. Our mission is to encourage people to travel more by making the planning stage easier and giving them the assurance they needed.

Another key element to our website is the ability to BOOK the access room in a selected accommodation! Access rooms are generally not advertised for whatever reason the provider has. This means, as a guest with access needs you are never quite sure whether your comments are read or your call is properly logged and processed.

Oyster was launched on 1st March 2016 and it is now packed with information!

Oyster Accessible Travel New Zealand provides a comprehensive booking site and travel guide for both domestic and international travellers who travel with extra mobility needs. It covers the following categories: –

* Accessible Accommodation

* ‘Things to do’

* Accessible Walks

* Transport

* Adaptive Equipment Hire

* Downloadable Maps and Brochures on access facilities

* Interactive Blog, Review System and Newsletter

* And lots more!

Oyster NZ encourages positive travel information, products and experiences. It welcomes feedback to build an essential window into New Zealand’s accessible world.

Oyster’s future plans!

Our vision is big!

* We intend to visit all listed accommodation to provide verification that the information stated by the business is correct. In doing this we will be able spread the knowledge of what true access means for people with extra mobility needs.

* We will have all our regions covered with detailed accessibility descriptions and photographs where possible.

* We will continue to encourage feedback, discussion and hope that our review system will become utilised by everyone.

* We will be working in collaboration  with other disability and tourism organisations to make New Zealand the number one accessible destination of the world!

* We will customise packages for the access tourist who requires that little bit more!

Social change is big at present worldwide and over the last 5 years has been steadily growing in New Zealand. We want to help with that positive change and breakdown the barriers society puts up!

Follow on Twitter: @oyster_nz @Maddy_oysternz @kim4oyster

UK: South West tourism awards for Access and Inclusivity

Listen with webReader

Photograph of the Baths showing a rectangular area of greenish water surrounded by yellow stone buildings with pillars. In the background is the tower of the abbey.

Congratulations must go to the Roman Baths in Bath and to the Calvert Trust in Exmoor for winning the Gold Award for Access and Inclusivity at the South West Tourism Awards (UK).     The Roman Baths also won the prestigious Winner of Winners award.   The awards were presented at a ceremony at Exeter Cathedral on February 4 (2016).   The Roman Baths is one of the finest historic sites in Northern Europe, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK.   Run by the Heritage Services section of Bath & North East Somerset Council, it attracts around one million visitors a year – making it one of the most visited heritage attractions in the United Kingdom.  In 2011 the Roman Baths completed a £5.5 million redevelopment to transform its accessibility, bring the best of modern interpretation to the site, and preserve it for the next 100 years. This is the first phase of an on-going programme of development that will continue over the next seven years.

The Roman Baths were recognised for its efforts to welcome all types of visitors and particular praise was given to the British Sign Language (BSL) trained staff, BSL audio tours, large print leaflets, use of braille on exhibits and online information for people with claustrophobia.   The provision for wheelchair users was also praised, including the availability of wheelchairs for visitors to borrow, lowered ticket office counters and accessible toilets. The assessors also noted the high level of training for all staff.

Bath Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “The Roman Baths constantly strives to improve accessibility for all visitors and local people.  “There have been many efforts made to ensure the historic site can be enjoyed by everyone, including staff training, information provision, and improvements to the building, such as the recent addition of new lifts.  We are delighted that these efforts have been recognised with both of these South West Tourism Awards. They are a testament to the fantastic customer service that the staff provides.”

Disabled Holidays: Archery

The Calvert Trust Exmoor runs the only 5 star activity centre in the country, and caters for people with physical, sensory and learning disabilities of all ages and levels of ability, together with their families, friends and carers. Activities on offer include sailing, horse riding, wheelchair abseiling, accessible cycling and archery. Almost 4,000 guests had a residential break with Calvert Trust Exmoor last year.

Tony Potter, Chief Executive of Calvert Trust Exmoor said “This (the award) is fantastic news that rewards all the hard work that the team at Calvert Trust Exmoor consistently put in;  we are so pleased to be recognised for delivering an excellent experience for anyone and everyone,  of any ability or age.”

The Roman Baths and the Calvert Trust have also been shortlisted for the Access for All Tourism Award in Visit England‘s Awards for Excellence, winners for which will be announced on Tuesday, March 8.

Follow on Twitter: @RomanBathsBath @CalvertTrust @VisitEngland @swtourismawards #SWTA

Dubai Forum on Accessible Tourism

Listen with webReader


In October, The Dubai Inclusive Development Forum took place.  The Forum included international experts in the field of Accessible Tourism, and sessions considered best practices and opportunities for inclusive tourism to thrive, not only in Dubai but across the Gulf region.  Contributors included Dr Ivor Ambrose, consultant and managing director at European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT); Rehabilitation International, New York, secretary general, Venus IIagan; and Victor Calise, commissioner, New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.  Present where a number of local hotel operators.

The Forum heard that there is a growing population of people with disabilities, believed to be about one billion people worldwide. They are looking to travel, and the onus is on TAs, governments of countries, suppliers and most importantly the hotels, to provide easy accessibility.  Research from VisitEngland notes that accessible tourism in that country accounts for 14% of the overnight hotel occupancy with growth in the value of three time that of tourism in total.

Although the industry is driven by the private sector, governments have a major role in regulating the travel and tourism of a country. “Governments ensure there are laws in place for accessibility. When a place is being built, for example, it needs to be accessible ready. New York had 54 million visitors last year, do we know how many of those were people with disabilities? A lot of surveys and studies need to be done by government, which at this point is not too frequent,” said Calise.

Hotelier Middle East contacted a few hotels to discuss the issue, and operators seem to have geared themselves up to match up to the supply of inclusive tourists. Salalah Rotana Resort general manager Hossam Kamal said: “A number of rooms in the resort have been designed specially to accommodate guests with disabilities and elderly guests. All rooms are located on the ground floor making them easily accessible by wheelchair. Room amenities have been positioned lower for easy reach such as the key card slot, lighting control switches, towel rack, storage cabinets and wardrobe.”    The Ajman Palace Hotel in the United Arab Emirates has a slightly different approach. The hotel goes all out to ensure they pamper their guests, offering them deluxe rooms located near the elevator for easy access.  “We have special Braille telephones with jumbo dial pads, Deafgard vibrator pillow alarms and vibrator room alarms that help guests enjoy a comfortable stay,” said Ferghal Purcell, general manager of the Ajman Palace Hotel.

Illaghan and Calise stressed the importance of adequate training amongst hotel staff to best serve tourists with disabilities. It is evident that hotel operators have sensed the market and are providing adequate facilities for tourists looking to travel.  The Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai for example notifies the staff at Dubai Airport to keep a wheelchair on hand as soon as a relevant booking has been made. The hotel staff is in constant communication with the airport representatives and the latter ensures that the reception and bell boy are geared up to offer dedicated service to the incoming guest.  The hotel’s general manager Simon Moore said “Priority is given for guests with special needs in order to fully satisfy their requirement.”   Dusit Thani Dubai has a well-defined programme in place. Aside from the ‘Disability Awareness Training Programme’ conducted, the hotel has 25 first aiders who are trained for emergency situations.   An Emergency Response Team (ERT) is also in place at the hotel. Front liners are also trained on how to welcome, check-in and out and escort guests who are physically challenged. Guests who require special attention are discussed during daily morning operation briefings and are written on the ERT board, a company spokesperson told Hotelier.

Calise was impressed with Dubai, and the potential and promise that comes with a developing city.  “Dubai has a great opportunity to market Expo 2020 as the first fully accessible World Expo” he said.

Source: Hotelier Middle East.  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism @ri_global @NYCCalise @NYCDisabilities @VisitEngland @DubaiExpo2020 @HotelierME

Edinburgh sees 2016 conference as a huge opportunity to enhance the city as an accessible destination

Listen with webReader

Scotland Edinburgh Castle

Business tourism leaders in Edinburgh have hailed an international event they say will play a crucial role in cementing the city’s reputation as an accessible destination that welcomes disabled and disadvantaged visitors.   Scotland’s capital city has been selected as the host city for the Rehabilitation International 23rd World Congress (R.I. World Congress) in October 2016. The four-day event will bring more than 1,000 delegates to Edinburgh and an estimated economic impact of over £2million.  Jointly led by Convention Edinburgh and host venue, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), the winning bid not only showcased the city’s strong business tourism offering, but ensured the Edinburgh’s accessible credentials were at its core. From Edinburgh’s transport providers and its compact size, to the considered approach to accessibility by the EICC and city businesses, Rehabilitation International leaders agreed Edinburgh was the best fit for its conference and delegates’ needs.

Chris McCoy, who heads up the accessible tourism project at VisitScotland (Scotland’s national tourism organization), said: “VisitScotland has been working to promote accessible tourism in Scotland for some time now [for an example, see here]. There are parts of Scotland that have embraced accessibility and Edinburgh is preparing for a big International Rehabilitation World Congress in October 2016. We are working with tourism businesses throughout the city to produce access statements, which give visitors a full description in words and pictures of the facilities available. The Royal Yacht Britannia and the Royal Botanic Gardens, for example, have produced excellent access statements.   VisitScotland has been working closely with Euan’s Guide for the last year and we are keen to establish such great partnerships with the ultimate aim of an accessible Edinburgh.” Euan’s Guide is a listings and review website that helps disabled people and their families know which venues are truly accessible.

Lesley Williams, head of business tourism, Convention Edinburgh said: “In many ways, the compact size and solid transport connections for Edinburgh make it an incredibly accessible city, a key reason why the RI World Congress, event planners selected the city to host its high profile global conference in October 2016. That said, there is a huge opportunity for more to be done to make Edinburgh, its shops, restaurants, hotels and attractions, more user-friendly for everyone. Next year’s Rehabilitation International World Congress is set to be an incredible catalyst, providing a focus and structured timeline for improving Edinburgh’s accessibility. The coming months will see a solid programme of training workshops and focused collaboration that will raise awareness, provide insights and offer practical assistance for businesses to improve their customer offering. The city is coming together, working with VisitScotland, The Shaw Trust, our members and Euan’s Guide, to create a legacy of improved services and inclusive-customer experience, for all its visitors and residents. This is a legacy we want to live on long after the World Congress comes to an end.”

Joel Charles, a spokesperson for Shaw Trust Scotland, said: “Shaw Trust Scotland is a charity committed to ensuring disabled people can lead independent lives. We are privileged to be hosting the Rehabilitation International World Congress in Edinburgh next year. The World Congress brings together a global network of member countries who work to promote the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities or health problems. Shaw Trust Scotland is working closely with Edinburgh City Council, Convention Edinburgh, VisitScotland and Transport Scotland to make sure accessibility issues are not a barrier encountered by disabled delegates at next year’s World Congress.”

Source: Conference News.   Follow on Twitter: @ri_global @VisitScotland @conventions @eicc  @ShawTrust

Endeavour Safaris – World Travel Market winner for accessible accommodation

Listen with webReader

This year’s World Travel Market (WTM) World Responsible Tourism award for best accessible accommodation has been shared this year by Scandic Hotels and Endeavour Safaris.  Scandic’s win has already been celebrated on this website (here).  WTM – held in London each year on World Responsible Tourism Day – is the largest travel and tourism event in the world. The accessible tourism award is sponsored by Enable Holidays, which was established in 2004 as the first UK tour operator to be accredited for its competence in auditing the accessibility and grading the suitability of accommodation abroad for people with mobility impairments

Endeavour Safaris is a tour operator based in Northern Botswana, but offering safaris to Namibia, South Africa, Victoria Falls, Mozambique, and elsewhere.   In addition to the journeys they create for all their clients, they have a unique division that specializes in accessible travel for persons with disabilities: including mobility-, visual-, and hearing impairment, as well as persons requiring oxygen or kidney dialysis.   Guests on mobile safaris sleep in specially designed, state of the art, luxury safari tents.  Clients travel to different places throughout the holiday, including remote spots such as the islands of the Okavango Delta where they can camp under the stars after a day on safari. Inclusivity is at the core of Endeavour Safari’s work, taking accessible tourism away from niche to norm and showing that tourism accommodation, even in the wildest of environments, can be enjoyed by nearly all tourists. Access requirements include mobility, visual, hearing, or medical issues. And with inclusivity at the core of what they do, their vision is to also have people with and without disabilities working alongside each other within the business too, particularly with the forthcoming opening of their 100% inclusive Lodge, where integration will be continue to be the inspiring ethos.

Follow on Twitter: @EndeavourSafari @enableholidays @WTM_London @RTAwards