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 (http://www.accessibletourism.org/), VisitScotland (https://www.visitscotland.com/)and VisitFlanders (http://www.visitflanders.com/), 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 (https://www.visitengland.com/) 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 (https://www.euansguide.com/), and Charlotte Vella, Accessibility Officer at VisitParis (http://pro.visitparisregion.com/Optimisation-de-vos-prestations/Accessibilite).
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 www.visitscotland.org/accessible-tourism.aspx