International NGO Naturefriends promoting Accessible Tourism

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Nature Friends Barrier free tourism brochure front cover showing wheelchair user

Naturefriends International is the global umbrella organisation and a member of the Green 10, the platform of the ten largest European environmental organisations.  They have 500,000 members in approximately 50 member and/or partner organisations throughout the globe, and are therefore one of the largest non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide.  Naturefriends supports tourism and leisure activities that are socially equitable and in tune with nature, the protection, preservation and dynamic interpretation of our natural and cultural heritage, and the promotion of sustainable mobility as a contribution to climate protection.

Mindful of the 2011 World Health Organisation/World Bank publication which pointed out that there are more than one billion people with disabilities globally, and mindful of the worlds ageing (and therefore increasingly disabled) population, Naturefriends is getting behind Accessible Tourism.  They have produced a brochure – “Accessible Tourism for All” (Barrierefreier für Alle/Tourisme sans barrièrs pour tous– which demonstrates that there are different ways of rendering access to tourism and leisure­ time activities as barrier­-free as possible. They are all intended to serve as models, as inspiration and as incentive to Naturefriends activists and tourism experts.

Source: Naturefriends (2014). Accessible Tourism for All. http://www.nfi.at/dmdocuments/NFI_BarrierefreierTourismus.pdf

Follow on Twitter: @NFI_Brussels @annagl42

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Tourism Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe

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T GuIDE logo from website

The Tourist Guides for People with Learning and Intellectual Difficulties in Europe programme (T-GuIDE)is an initiative of nine organisations supported financially by the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme, ”Leonardo Da Vinci”.  The aim is to produce an EU training model and Manual for training Tourist Guides in guiding people who have learning difficulties or other intellectual impairments.  Many tourism destinations and businesses recognise that they must diversify and increase the quality of their products in order to reach new and wider markets. A re-orientation of the tourism sector is taking place with a focus on  ”Accessible Tourism for All”, which aims to deliver safe, comfortable and enjoyable tourism experiences for the entire tourism market, including people with disabilities, seniors and others with specific access requirements.   Tourism providers in all parts of the tourism service chain need targeted training to develop their skills, so that they can meet the particular needs of guests with learning difficulties or intellectual disabilities.  There are 8 European countries involved, as well as networks for Accessible Tourism, Social cooperatives and Foundations involved in tourism, the Federation of Tourist Guides, and several universities.

Main T-GuIDE outputs include:  A discussion document on methodologies for tourist inclusion of intellectually disabled people;  Draft T-GuIDE Manual with good practices and methodologies for intellectually disabled;  Training of 18 tourist guides in the EU, using the Draft T-GuIDE Manual (test and refine);  An  EU training model and T-GUIDE Manual (final version);  A framework of skills for training and skills assessment of “T-GuIDEs” at EU level;  A Trial of a Tourist Itinerary for visitors with intellectual disabilities/learning difficulties.

The T-GuIDE project is supported through the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme, “Leonardo da Vinci”, Transfer of Innovation.   Source: T-GuIDE.  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism

Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe

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S Westminister 052 

The final summary report of one of three studies commissioned in Accessible Tourism in Europe has been released.  The report is by the European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR) in 2012-2013 and aims to build a comprehensive picture of Accessible Tourism in the European Union (EU). The survey was conducted by GfK Belgium, the University of Surrey, NeumannConsult and ProAsolutions. The main aim of the study is to better understand demand for Accessible Tourism in order to guide policy-making in this field. For this purpose, five main research objectives were identified:

  1.  To examine the current and future demand for Accessible Tourism in Europe and beyond
  2.  To investigate the travel patterns and behaviours of, and information provision for people with access needs
  3. To evaluate the tourist experience across different tourism sectors from demand and supply-side perspectives
  4.  To estimate the current and future economic contribution of Accessible Tourism and its impact on employment
  5. To propose recommendations and success factors to improve the supply of Accessible Tourism offers.

The study results show that the accessible tourism demand by people with special access needs from the EU currently generates a total economic contribution of 786 billion Euros in terms of total output and 356 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 394 billion Euros in terms of GDP within the EU. This scale is equivalent to about 3% of total GDP of EU27 in 2012.   In addition, the people with special access needs from the 11 key international inbound markets generated a total economic contribution of 34 billion Euros in terms of total output and 15 billion Euros in terms of gross value added or 17 billion Euros in terms of GDP to the EU.

The objectives of the study were translated into five key tasks whose key findings are presented.  Key predictions include that by 2020 the demand for EU accessible tourism by people within the EU will continue to grow to about 862 million trips/year, while demand  by the key international inbound market will reach 21 million trips/year.  If EU tourism destinations were improved so that almost complete accessibility of buildings, hotels, restaurants, museums, and various accessible services were available, the study showed that demand would increase almost 44% against the baseline, so that trips by EU residents would by 2020 rise to 1, 231 million trips/year.  The rise amongst people from key international markets would rise by almost 77%.  This could potentially result in 36 million trips/year by 2020.  In economic terms, this rise could translate into a rise of 39% in economic contribution. 

 Source: Miller, G (2014).  Economic Impact and Travel patterns of Accessible Tourism in Europe   Service Contract SI2.ACPROCE052481700 European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry.  https://www.academia.edu/7606067/Economic_Impact_and_Travel_Patterns_of_Accessible_Tourism_in_Europe

 Follow on Twitter: @UKguchan

Glastonbury praised over access for deaf and disabled fans

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The huge Glastonbury Festival has been praised for its access for deaf and disabled fans in a BBC report (Tom Bateman).   The event is a five-day music festival that takes place near Pilton, Somerset, England. In addition to contemporary music, the festival hosts dance, comedy, theatre, circus, cabaret, and other arts.   This year’s Festival was the first ever to be awarded “gold” status by campaigners who want better access for deaf and disabled people at concerts and music venues.  The festival site includes accessible showers and toilets and is staffed by volunteers who provide wheelchair hire and a minibus service to help people move around the festival site.  It also has a “high-dependency” unit which can give people with serious illnesses access to sterile toilet, washing and medical facilities.  Festival organisers said the award was a sign of how “society is changing the way it thinks and acts towards disability”.  The event had a bespoke campsite for deaf and disabled festival-goers, uses raised “viewing platforms” for wheelchair users at 11 stages and employs sign language interpreters to allow deaf people to understand lyrics during live acts.  Gideon Feldman from the charity Attitude is Everything, which made the award earlier this year, says Glastonbury has taken disabled access “incredibly seriously”.  “There are an awful lot more deaf and disabled people [than there used to be] who feel that this is a festival they want to come to.”

One of Glastonbury’s regular features is its DeafZone area, which offers lessons in British Sign Language and a team of interpreters for deaf people to access acts across the festival site.  This year two sign language interpreters were used during Blondie’s performance on the Other Stage on Friday afternoon.  Jo Stevens, a support worker for deaf people in Bath, has been working at the festival and says she has a hearing problem which means she struggles to understand lyrics in music.  “I really like to be able to understand what is going on, what is happening,” says Ms Stevens.

The biggest changes to accessibility for deaf and disabled people at Glastonbury have taken place over the past seven years.  Claire Elsam, the festival’s access co-ordinator, says Glastonbury is working to make more progress but thinks it has helped “change attitudes” towards disability.  “It amazes me that there are still venues that could quite easily be changed and still aren’t being changed,” she says.  “Certainly when it comes to other festivals there are far smaller and easier sites that people can make accessible but they don’t necessarily do that.  Campaigners acknowledge that cost is often a barrier to music venues becoming more accessible to disabled people.  But Attitude is Everything argues that venues may be missing out on ticket sales, with four out of five deaf and disabled people saying they are put off going to events as they lack confidence in sites being accessible.

Source: BBC Radio 4.  Follow on Twitter: @GlastoFest @BBCr4today @attitudetweets

EU opens Access City Awards 2015

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The European Commission has opened the competition for the fifth ‘Access City Award 2015′, the European Award for Accessible Cities. The annual prize recognises and celebrates cities for their efforts to make it easier for the disabled and older people to gain access to public areas such as housing, children’s play areas, public transport or communication technologies.   Making Europe more accessible to those with disabilities is a key part of the EU’s overall disability strategy 2010-2020, which provides the general framework for action in the area of disability and accessibility at EU level to complement and support Member States’ action .  Since 2010, 171 cities have participated so far in the 4 previous Access City Award. The Award is part of the EU’s wider efforts to create a barrier-free Europe: improved accessibility brings lasting economic and social benefits to cities, especially in the context of demographic ageing. Cities with at least 50,000 inhabitants have until 10 September 2014 to submit their entries for the award.   EC Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice said that people with disabilities still face too many barriers in everyday life, which is why the EU has placed accessibility at the centre of their strategy for building a barrier-free Europe.  “The Access City award allows cities across Europe to showcase their efforts in making life more accessible for all!” said Reding.  “I am pleased to see that there are so many good practices shown by European cities – accessibility offers new business opportunities and can be a real stimulus for innovation and growth. I encourage all European cities to participate in this excellent European initiative and help make Europe more accessible for all”

The Access City Award is given to the city that has demonstrably and sustainably improved accessibility in fundamental aspects of city living, and that has concrete plans for further improvements. The Award covers actions in the areas of:

1. Built environment and public spaces; 2. Transport and related infrastructures; 3. Information and communication, including new technologies (ICTs); and 4. Public facilities and services.

Previous Access City Award winners include Avila Spain,  Salzburg Austria,  Berlin Germany, and Gothenburg (Sweden).  

Source:  EU release.   Follow on Twitter: @EU_Justce @VivianeRedingEU 

EU Commission ‘Mainstreaming Accessibility’ Across All European Tourism Policies

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At the EU Tourism Stakeholders’ Conference, “Mind the Accessibility Gap“, Pedro Ortún, Director for Service Industries, Directorate General Enterprise and Industry declared that accessibility is to be a permanent element of the EU’s future tourism policies.  Speaking to an audience of over 200 tourism professionals and representatives of NGOs,  Ortún laid out the Commission’s vision for tourism policy development and actions in the coming years.  “The ‘Key Enabling Themes’ (KETS) for the future of European Tourism include accessibility, as a permanent element”, said  Ortún.   He pointed to the Commission’s continued focus on quality, sustainability and reaching new tourism markets, particularly the seniors market.   As the fifth largest sector in the European economy, tourism should be seen as a key driver of growth and jobs – and therefore deserving of wide recognition and support from Member States and the European Union as a whole.  “Mainstreaming accessibility means that access for all citizens has to be integrated in all our tourism activities at every level”, Ortún concluded.

 Source: European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT).  Follow on Twitter: @EUaccesstourism  @EU_enterprise

United Nations to participate in first World Summit “DESTINATIONS FOR ALL”

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Logo Destinations for All

Ms. Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), will inaugurate the first World Summit Destinations for All, to be held in Montreal October 19-22, 2014. Bas was appointed Director of UNDESA’s DSPD in May 2011.  She is a specialist in international politics, human rights, and social development.  The summit aims to identify and implement the necessary measures to establish international tourism that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.  More specifically, the event is expected to:

1) Make progress in determination of a set of international norms and standards with regards to accessible tourism and transportation

2) Highlight the economic benefits for destinations to be completely inclusive and accessible, and to develop and enhance accessible tourism products

3) Establish a world partnership and a common international strategy to develop universal accessibility for infrastructures, tourism services, transport, and to increase the availability of information on the accessibility of different destinations

The main driver of the conference is Keroul, a key consultant for Tourisme Québec regarding accessibility.  Many prestigious international organizations support the Summit, including the World Tourism Organization, the International Organization of Social Tourism, the World Centre of Excellence for Destinations, the European Network for Accessible Tourism, the ONCE Foundation in Spain, and Association Tourisme et Handicaps France.  Members of the steering committee and programme committee come from around the world, including Australasia (Access Tourism New Zealand being one), Asia, Northe America, Europe and the UK, and the Middle East.  The co-chairs of the summit are André Vallerand of Keroul and Ivor Ambrose of ENAT.

Edinburgh Airport first in Scotland to develop support toolkit for passengers with additional needs

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Logo of Edinburgh airport from the airport website

In the first project of its kind in Scotland, Edinburgh Airport has launched a support package to help passengers with autism and other additional support needs travel through the airport.  Working closely with the charity Scottish Autism, the airport’s corporate charity partner for 2014, and disability equality group Wideaware, Edinburgh Airport has developed the ‘Travelling with Additional Needs’ toolkit as part of a wider support package to help passengers and their families better cope with the what can be a daunting task of navigating their way through a busy airport.  The toolkit is made up of a series of factsheets, each tailor-made to focus on the different parts of the airport journey which may be particularly stressful, for example checking in and going through security. The factsheets are available to view, download and print from the airport’s website at edinburghairport.com/prepare.

The factsheets provide an easy step-by-step airport guide and aim to help passengers prepare for what to expect within an airport. The toolkit will be supported by hands-on initiatives including advance walk-throughs for passengers who may be on the autism spectrum, in a wheelchair, or even someone who may not have been in an airport before.   If passengers feel that they would prefer to discuss their journey in more detail, they can contact the team at Edinburgh Airport who can help familiarise them with the airport and its usual operations.   Text versions of the factsheets are also available for passengers with visual and hearing impairments and work is underway to develop a wider support package for wheelchair users.

The airport is also working with airlines, such as easyJet and British Airways, to help facilitate bespoke courses for people with a fear of flying.   David Wilson, Chief Operating Officer at Edinburgh Airport, said: “We realise that each passenger is unique and may have different requirements so that’s why we’ve been working hard to understand the complex types of barriers which can stop people from being able to fly.   We’ve taken on board expert advice so we can remove these barriers and show that travelling through Edinburgh Airport can be an enjoyable experience. Our specially designed toolkit and the wider support package have been specifically designed for those passengers who may need a little bit of help or reassurance before they fly, whether that is information on where to find their check in desk or how to use a self-service machine.”  Wilson went on to say “We firmly believe that everyone who wants to fly can fly and we’re committed to making sure all of our passengers have the best experience possible. We have an amazing team here at Edinburgh Airport and we’ll continue to work to ensure our services are of the highest standard.”

Charlene Tait, Director of Development at Scottish Autism, said: “We know of many people living with autism who, along with their families, are disenfranchised from air travel because they simply cannot cope with the stress and trauma of an airport.  The busy nature of airports with crowds, queues, security checks and the accompanying noises can be overwhelming for people with autism who often have an adverse reaction to a unique and unpredictable environment which they cannot control.  This new initiative with Edinburgh Airport is a great starting point in trying to change this situation. The toolkit and other support measures have the potential to really help people with autism and other support needs by making them more aware of what they can expect in an airport environment and help them prepare in advance.”

Maria Zedda, Director at Wideaware, said: “”At Wideaware we’ve had the opportunity to work with many transport providers but this is the first time we’ve been able to provide advice on the production of disability-friendly factsheets. This is a fantastic initiative from Edinburgh Airport.   The factsheets will help passengers with a range of impairments and provide crucial information on what to expect when arriving at the airport and using its facilities.   I am so impressed with this initiative. In a profit-driven world of public transportation that often excludes disabled people, it’s great to see Edinburgh Airport working so hard to ensure all of their passengers have a good experience.”

Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s busiest airport. More than 40 airlines serve 100-plus destinations and 9.78 million passengers a year passed through the airport in 2013 – the busiest year ever for a Scottish airport.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EDI_Airport @scottishautism @wideaware @easyJet @British_Airways

New Universal Design Guide for Inclusive Tourism

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Front cover of Universal Design Guide for Inclusive Tourism showing a range of people needing better access

A new guide to designing for Inclusive Tourism has been produced by Scott Rains and Sarah Pruett. The “Universal design guide for inclusive tourism“ opens with a description of Inclusive Tourism (with a discussion why the authors reject the term “Accessible Tourism”), and Universal Design (UD), and discusses why  UD in Inclusive Tourism  makes social and economic sense.  UD is a way of thinking about design to eliminate barriers and make things easier to use for the entire population.  The guide goes on to discuss basic considerations in access, then considers in more detail access to transportation and parking, pathways and roads, ramps and steps, entrances and doors, interior access (including multi-story access), access in restrooms, guest rooms, and bathrooms, access in food service and retail, and accessible lighting .  It also discusses access in leisure venues and locations, and access to beach and sea, and concludes with a section on education and training and communication to the public.

Follow on Twitter: @UDPartners @SRains

Half of NYC cabs to be wheelchair-accessible by 2020

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New York City cabs Public Domain Image

Congratulations to New York City (NYC) for changing the rules so that by 2020, 50% of yellow cabs will be accessible to people who use wheelchairs.  The rule changes by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission are the first of their kind in the country, and will make NYC’s yellow taxi fleet the most accessible in the nation and one of the most disability-friendly in the world.  “This is a historic victory affirming the civil rights of New Yorkers with disabilities,” said Julia Pinover of Disability Rights Advocates (a nonprofit legal centre), and “a real civil rights victory for all New Yorkers”.  Wheelchair-user Ronnie Raymond said at the hearing where the changes were announced that reliably accessible transport would change his life.  “I would no longer be relegated to staying home or spending hours trying to get somewhere that takes everyone else 20 minutes,” said Raymond.  Another wheelchair user – Simi Linton – echoed these statements.  “Having an accessible taxi fleet is essential to me.  My livelihood, my well-being, and the well-being of my family depend on being able to use taxis.”  Linton is a writer, consultant, and public speaker, and one of the USA’s foremost experts on disability and the arts.

Follow on Twitter: @nyctaxi @dralegal

Greece to develop accessible tourism

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Wheelchair user at the Parthenon photo from ENAT

The Greek Tourism Ministry (GTM) and the Greek National Confederation of Disabled People (ESAmeA) will work together so that people with disabilities will have access in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.  GTM and ESAmeA signed a cooperative protocol at a meeting on 28 March to promote and implement actions – on a national level – to ensure the accessibility of infrastructure and services to people with disabilities and other social groups with similar characteristics.

“This agreement aims to coordinate actions so that the (Greek) tourism product is accessible to people with disabilities of all categories,” Greek Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni said.  According to the tourism minister, potential foreign visitors with a disability currently do not choose Greece as a holiday destination as not all of the country’s services are accessible.  “We want to change this,” she said.  The agreement will also aim to ensure that people with disabilities will have access to reliable tourism information and communications.

ESAmeA President Ioannis Vardakastanis suggested during the meeting the creation of an access and information guide for people with disabilities, an idea that Kefalogianni found excellent.  The tourism ministry intends to inform Greek tourism professionals of the potential benefits of accessible tourism. Actions for accessible tourism in Greece will be coordinated at both the government level and at the level of regions and municipalities.

Source: Press release. Follow on Twitter: @OKefalogianni

 

EU free June conference on Accessible Tourism: registration open

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Mind the Accessibility Gap conference logo

The European Commission, DG Enterprise and Industry, is organising a conference with the title: Mind the Accessibility Gap for all tourism stakeholders as Europe strengthens its efforts to make Europe a destination Accessible For AllAt the conference, the results of three specially commissioned studies on Tourism Accessibility in Europe will be presented and discussed by a panel of tourism practitioners and stakeholders.  The aim of the conference is to have an open debate about the evidence presented, and seek ways to bridge the many accessibility gaps that have been identified, by drawing on proven good practices from around Europe and establishing concrete actions, using the support mechanisms which the European Commission has at its disposal.  The three studies have made a ‘360 degree’ review of accessible tourism in Europe, looking at the economic opportunities and factors which influence the demand, the quality and extent of supply, and the need for training and skills improvement in the tourism sector.  Within the framework of the Commission’s “Preparatory Action on Accessible Tourism, 2012 – 2014”, which was requested by the European Parliament, recommendations will be presented for possible Commission’s actions, designed to tackle the current accessibility gaps in supply and skills and to chart a course towards achieving Tourism for All in Europe within as short a time-frame as possible.

The European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) is assisting the Commission with the organisation of the event.  Registration for the free conference is now invited and must be completed by 2nd June in order to attend.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @EU_enterprise  @EUaccesstourism

Bucks Accessible Tourism workshop attended by European experts

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Twenty-five of Europe’s leading lights in the Accessible Tourism Field gathered for an Accessible Tourism Workshop at the Oculus in Aylesbury on March 1st to share best practice and to see how new standards relating to more inclusive visitor standards could be delivered as the norm.  The workshop was organised by the Buckinghamshire Legacy Board in partnership with the Buckinghamshire Disability Service who aim to make Buckinghamshire the most accessible visitor destination in Britain. To do this they aim to encourage through a new Buckinghamshire wide Destination Management Organisation, attractions, accommodation providers, transport and hospitality providers to all aspire to the “Stoke Mandeville Standard” around accessible tourism visitor experience.

Ross Calladine, Accessible Tourism Manager for Visit England helped set the scene by outlining the national context where Visit England have secured regional growth funding to work alongside a number of destinations to develop new visitor guides and promotional material based on the visitor experience rather than any perceived barriers to services. This approach was supported Brian Seaman of Accessible Outlook who explained that the most important skill for a tourism business was to listen to its customers and to make sure it adapted its services to their needs.  Seaman said  the most important message he could provide to any tourism business looking to make its service more accessible was:  “customer service, is what the customer thinks it is.”  This ethos became a recurring theme of the workshop with many speakers saying how they had benefitted from taking personal care with all of their customers and how by doing the right thing they had also benefitted their overall profitability. Geraldine Lundy, Head of Accessibility at Virgin Atlantic explained their philosophy which was based on a total customer experience and highlighted how by employing people with different disabilities had given the company a competitive edge and better insight into all of its customers

Magnus Berglund from Scandic Hotels, one of the fastest growing hotel chains in Europe, said simply that “I can get you more business”  He explained that award winning Scandic had adopted a simple 110 point standard, many of which were mandatory for all of its hotels. Many of the standards such as providing a stick holder in all receptions were extremely cheap to implement but had proved instrumental in increasing the profitability for the hotel chain.  Scandic offers free web training for best serving guests with disabilities.   Damiano La Rocca, the director of double award winning tour operator Seable Holidays, shared his passion for making exciting accessible holidays, creating a fully accessible offer that includes sport activities, cultural excursions and gastronomic experiences.

The delegates agreed that 10 themes had emerged from the  workshop:

• Always listen to and ask questions of your customers
• Don’t be fearful
• Often, accessibility costs very little
• Where possible, keep it simple
• Embrace innovation
• Share knowledge and involve all of your staff
• Doing the right thing can also be financially rewarding
• In the UK many aspects of visitor accessibility are done very well
• We need to share and celebrate best practice more widely throughout the UK and internationally

At the end of session, delegates agreed to work together to start planning for a much larger event linked to the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting for the 2016 Rio Summer Games.

Source: Seable and BucksLegacy.  Follow on Twitter: @BucksLegacy @BuDs_UK @RossCalladine @VisitEngland @BrianMSeaman @VirginAtlantic @ScandicGlobal @SeableHolidays

UNWTO, EC endorse accessible tourism at recent meeting in Vicenza Italy

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From Wikipedia A collage of Vicenza showing: the Villa Capra "La Rotonda", the classical temple in the Parco Querini, a panorama of the city from the Monte Berico, the Piazza dei Signori and the Renaissance Basilica Palladiana.

Delegates at a recent meeting of MITA (International Meeting for Accessible Tourism) in Vicenza, Italy heard a video message from United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General Taleb Rifai.  Rifai highlighted the importance of accessible tourism.  “Accessibility is the across-the-board element of a policy of responsible and sustainable tourism. Accessible Tourism is both an ethical imperative and a business opportunity: everyone benefits from it, not just people with disabilities or specific needs” said Rifai. “That’s why Accessible Tourism, as stated in the UNWTO Advice 2013, has become an important Mission for our future”.

Also at the meeting, Massimo Baldinato of the Cabinet of Antonio Tajani, confirmed the willingness of the European Commission to work on the development of Accessible Tourism in a speech highlighting that “giving more quality to tourism means increasing the satisfaction of all tourists, developing a tourism that seeks excellence”.

Other speakers at the meeting included Victor Calise, New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), Igor Stefanovic, UNWTO Ethics and Social Dimensions of Tourism Program, Ivor Ambrose and others from the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), and Karen Staley, VP, International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (Iaapa).   The meeting was organised by VillageForAll (V4A®), Regione del Veneto and Fiera Di Vicenza in cooperation with UNWTO, and with the sponsorship of the European Commission (EC), European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and EXPO 2015.

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @Villageforall @UNWTO @EUaccesstourism @NycCalise @NYC_MOPD @IAAPAHQ @IAAPAEuropeVP

 

Lonely Planet’s Travel for All project

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Guest article by Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet (Australia).  Guest article reprinted with permission from Lonely Planet.Martin Heng and family at the beach photo courtesy of Martin Heng

The 3rd of December 2013 was the International Day of People with Disability, a United Nations–sanctioned day that aims to promote an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights and well-being.  Om that day, Lonely Planet launched a project that seeks to make travel possible for more people.

Our core belief is that travel is a force for good when practised responsibly, that travel enriches those who are touched by it either directly or indirectly. Travelling with a disability requires a lot of organisation, but information on accessibility is often hard to find. Around 50% of people with a disability would travel more if they could be sure more accessible facilities were available. With almost a billion people in the world — that’s almost 15% of the world’s population — having a physical, mental or sensory disability, we believe it’s important to ensure their access to travel opportunities is not limited.

What is the aim of Lonely Planet’s Travel for All project?

Our goal is to make Lonely Planet the world’s premier provider of accessible travel information, the first port of call for all accessible travel needs, not only for those with a disability, but for anybody with access issues.

So what exactly do we intend to do?

We believe that this is all about community. Lonely Planet already hosts the world’s largest, most well-known, highly respected and frequented online travel community; we want to extend that to the accessible travel community. There is no group of people better qualified to assess the accessibility of venues than those themselves affected by access issues and none more highly motivated to provide advice and recommendations for their peers. We intend to give our community the platform to share their information and experiences, through our existing Thorn Tree forum, and via social media channels such as Google+, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.

The first thing we intend to do is listen! There are few, if any, degrees of separation between you and somebody who may have difficulties accessing the same travel opportunities as others because of physical frailty, health issues or disability. Let us know what you think we can do to help them reap the benefits from travel, whether planning, on the road or from the comfort of their own home. Simply send us an e-mail to community@lonelyplanet.com.au with the subject header Travel for All or post on our Google+ page (see below).

While we’re waiting for your ideas to flow in, we’ll publish a series of articles on lonelyplanet.com written by people affected by different access issues.

Our pilot project will be an Accessible Melbourne & Victoria e-book since this format is the most affordable and appropriate medium for many with access issues. Melbourne is also where Lonely Planet has been headquartered for most of our existence and where the lead for the project, Martin Heng (formerly Editorial Manager of Lonely Planet and himself a quadriplegic), is based. Again, if you have any ideas specifically related to this project, drop us a line to community@lonelyplanet.com.au with the subject header Accessible Melbourne.

Introducing our new community on Google+

There has long been a Travellers with Disabilities branch on Thorn Tree, but it is little used. We believe that part of the reason for this lies in the fact that much of the information needed by people with access issues should be shared in a different format to a standard forum, particularly in the digital age where it is so easy to share photos and videos, and where blogging has become so commonplace.

So we are delighted to invite you to join our new community on  Google+ to share your experiences and to SHOW other people what they can expect when they visit a particular attraction, hotel, cafe etc. Every person’s access issue is different, according to their level of ability and type of disability, and the only way for them to truly judge whether a place is suitable for them is for them to see it or to read about it in detail. Come and join us and help us build a community that can change the lives of millions of travellers worldwide.

Accessible Tourism for All: UN recommendations

We are far from alone in our commitment to accessible travel. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recommendations on “Accessible Tourism for All” (2013) have been approved by the General Assembly. The recommendations outline a form of tourism that will enable people with access requirements to travel independently through universally designed tourism products and services. These recommendations were developed within the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2007, the first human rights convention adopted in the 21st-century, signed by 158 countries and ratified by 138 (though not yet by the United States).

A manual on “Accessible Tourism for All” has been designed to guide tourism stakeholders to improve the accessibility for tourism destinations, facilities and services worldwide. The development of the manual is a joint effort between UNWTO, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and two Spanish institutions, the ACS Foundation and the ONCE Foundation.

As UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai says, “We must come to appreciate that accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities or special needs, it benefits us all.” More and more tourism bodies around the world are beginning to realise this. Spurred on by hosting the Olympics, VisitEngland and VisitScotland have led the way by providing concrete support and guidelines for businesses and by sponsoring the Open Britain website.

The wind of change has begun to blow and we at Lonely Planet are riding its current. Join us as we embark on new journeys, not necessarily to different places but in different ways. Help us share our journeys with other companions.

Link http://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/travel-for-all-join-lonely-planets-accessible-travel-project  Martin Heng tel.+61 (0) 3 8379 8100 ext.8482; mob.0412 759322; Google+ +Martin Heng Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng @UNWTO @Fundacion_ONCE

Martin Heng of Lonely Planet and accessible tourism

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Guest article reprinted with permission from Lonely Planet. Martin Heng is Accessible Travel Manager at Lonely Planet.  Here he writes about how he became involved in accessible tourism

 Lonely Planet's Accessible Travel Manager Martin Heng in Hays Paddock, Melbourne, Australia. Image by Sabine Heng / Lonely Planet.

Travelling has always been in my blood. Perhaps I inherited it from my father, who was born in Singapore, travelled the world in the British Merchant Navy and finally settled in the UK, where I was born. I’ve lived and worked in half a dozen countries and travelled to more than 40. In the 80s and 90s I spent the best part of 10 years on the road, pausing only long enough to make enough money for the next trip. Imagine my euphoria in 1999 when I landed a job with Lonely Planet, whose books had been a constant companion across three continents over the previous decade! I’ve been with the company ever since in several different roles, including Trade Publishing Manager and Editorial Manager, overseeing the production of the entire range of printed books.

I had always been very keen bike rider. At 16 I cycled from Birmingham to northern France to meet my parents there. In the 90s, I cycled with my partner round the South Island of New Zealand, around Hokkaido, in northern Japan, and made several trips in the Tokyo area when living there. I was also lucky enough to be selected to join the Lonely Planet relay team on the Tour d’Afrique, riding from Nairobi in Kenya through northern Tanzania and along Lake Malawi – a trip of some 2500 kilometres over 18 riding days. And of course I rode to work every day, a round trip of 40 km, year-round, rain or shine. And then every cyclist’s nightmare came to pass: I was hit by a car. Unfortunately, I didn’t just break a few bones; instead, I damaged my spinal cord and was left a quadriplegic.

In some ways I have been lucky in that I do have some movement below the level of my injury. In fact, all my muscles do work – imperfectly and in an uncoordinated fashion – and over the last three years I have learned to walk again, albeit only with the aid of a walking frame, very slowly and over short distances. The only major trip I have undertaken was to a boot camp for paraplegics and quadriplegics in the USA, where, using the latest machinery and techniques, patients undergo 3 to 4 hours physio every day.

As I started back to work, part-time at first, I started to look into what resources there were for people travelling with a disability. Surely, I thought, it should be easy in this digital age to find information on accessible accommodation and on travelling in different countries with a disability. Wrong! There is quite a lot of information out there but it isn’t easy to find – it’s all siloed in special-interest websites or hidden away on local government websites, often only in the local language. As I started to connect more with disabled communities I kept hearing the same story from other people and, when they learned I worked for Lonely Planet, they asked why we were not producing books on accessible travel.

Now that I have been appointed Accessible Travel Manager at Lonely Planet, it has become my mission to make travel easier for those who are hampered by issues of accessibility, whether it be through illness, age or disability. We may never produce printed books specifically for disabled travellers, but there are many other things we can do, particularly through building a community which is happy to share ideas, information and experiences through words, pictures and even video. I believe this is the true potential that the digital age offers us. I’m truly excited – for myself, for Lonely Planet, but most of all for those 1 billion people around the world whose physical limitations are preventing them from the joy that is travel.

Source: Lonely Planet.  Follow on Twitter: @lonelyplanet @Martin_Heng

UNWTO, San Marino to hold first European Conference on Accessible Tourism

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San Marino scenic

Policies and measures to promote universal accessibility in tourism will be at the centre of the first UNWTO European Conference on Accessible Tourism, jointly organized by UNWTO and the Government of the Republic of San Marino (RSM) on the 19th of November, 2014.  Accessible Tourism for All ensures that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications, and facilities open to the public or for public use.  The conference is being organized in recognition of the importance of accessibility in tourism, and will look at how to maintain and develop quality, sustainability and competitiveness in accessible tourism.  The agreement to hold the conference was signed at ITB Berlin by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai and Teodoro Lonfernini, Minister of Tourism and Relations with Public Utilities State Corporation of San Marino.  “Accessible tourism benefits everyone and advancing the rights and opportunities of people with disabilities should be seen as an opportunity as well as an obligation; UNWTO and the Republic of San Marino are both deeply committed to taking concrete action in this area”, said Rifai.  “Accessibility has become a fundamental issue in tourism. Many countries are devoting special attention to this topic and are adjusting their tourism systems and legislations. After being recognised as 2013 European Destination of Excellence (EDEN), San Marino is being offered by UNWTO the opportunity to focus on accessibility through the organisation of a European Conference in the Republic, which fills us with pride. This is a major challenge for the future that we all must meet”, said Lonfernini.

According to the World Health Organization 15% of the world population has a physical, mental or sensory disability. In its efforts to mainstream universal accessibility within the tourism sector, UNWTO works closely with disabled people’s organizations (DPOs). In 2013, the General Assembly adopted the Recommendations on Accessible Tourism for All which incorporate the most relevant aspects of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and Universal Design.

Additional highlights include the publication of Manuals on Accessible Tourism, one of which has been already released in partnership with the Spanish ACS Foundation. The manual co-produced with the ONCE Foundation is expected to be issued soon.

The 1st UNWTO European Conference on Accessible Tourism will be held alongside the 14th meeting of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE), which recently declared accessible tourism for all one of its top priorities.

Source: UNWTO press release.  Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO @RisiMarcelo @Fundacion_ONCE @SanMarinoxTutti

Brighton Hove one of four destinations to work with VisitEngland on Access for All campaign

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Three women in wheelchairs at Brighton from the Brighton Hove CC website

Brighton & Hove is one of four destinations to have been chosen to work with England’s national tourist board (VisitEngland), on its Access for All campaign aimed at championing and improving accessible tourism in England, and making it a leading destination for accessible tourism.  Brighton & Hove was invited to take part in the initiative because of its consistent commitment to improving accessibility for visitors. Accessible tourism is estimated to be worth over £2billion a year to the domestic tourism industry, and has strong growth potential.

VisitBrighton is the official destination marketing body for Brighton & Hove and is part of Brighton and Hove City Council.   As part of the Access For All Campaign, which is funded by £100,000 from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund plus contributions from partners, VisitBrighton coordinated work to identify top class accommodation and attractions, ensure they are delivering the highest possible standard of access for visitors and to identify areas for improvement. A range of tourism experiences, including visiting the Royal Pavilion, Preston Manor and the city’s museums as well as three hotels, Thistle Brighton, Jurys Inn and Hilton Brighton Metropole, were assessed.

Primary audits looked at access to each of the hotels and attractions, including public areas and bedrooms, signage, literature and websites, to assess accessibility for wheelchair users, and hearing and visually impaired visitors. As part of the process front-line staff received training and the businesses had to work through an improvement plan to ensure all areas were as accessible as possible for disabled visitors.

The participating businesses now feature in a new local access friendly guide available in either PDF, large print Word or audio format from www.visitengland.com/access-brighton. For those who cannot access the guides online a limited number of printed copies are available from the Visitor Information Point at the Brighton Centre box office.  Offers, downloadable factsheets about accessible places to stay, visit and eat, and maps showing step-free access to the main hotels and attractions, the locations of dropped kerbs and disabled parking bays are also detailed on the VisitBrighton website www.visitbrighton.com/plan-your-visit/accessibility

The other destinations involved are Leicestershire, Newcastle Gateshead, and Bath.

About Growing Tourism Locally – a Regional Growth Fund (RGF) Tourism Investment Project:   In October 2011 VisitEngland’s application to the Government’s Regional Growth Fund was approved by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS). £19.8 million was awarded to deliver a three year partner marketing project entitled ‘Growing Tourism Locally’.  The project aims to stimulate the domestic visitor market to grow local economies through increased tourism activity by UK residents. The project enables VisitEngland to work in partnership to facilitate growth at a local level, further amplifying the second Holidays at Home are GREAT campaign that was launched in March this year.  ‘Growing Tourism Locally’ has the potential to create the equivalent of 9,100 full time jobs across England and is focussed on areas suffering economic challenges with tourism growth potential. The RGF funding is matched with private sector funding at national and local levels to create a project of £41million over 3 years.  It is a £3.2 billion fund designed to help companies in England to grow. So far £2.6 billion of funding has been allocated to support projects and programmes committed to deliver sustainable jobs and economic growth. Round 5 will open on 11 October and close on 9 December. For more information, www.bis.gov.uk/rgf

Source: Press Release.  Follow on Twitter: @BrightonHoveCC @VisitEngland

UN World Committee on Tourism Ethics includes a focus on accessible tourism

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Logo of UN World Committee on Tourism Ethics from their website

Accessible Tourism for All, protection of children from all forms of exploitation, the fight against trafficking, and anti-poaching are among the work priorities defined by the newly formed World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE). The Committee recently met at United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) headquarters to identify the major challenges facing responsible tourism and define its Action Plan for the coming four years. It was the committee’s first meeting in its new constitution as appointed by the UNWTO General Assembly in August 2013, and was under the chairmanship of Pascal Lamy (former Director-General of World Trade Organization – WTO). “The World Committee on Tourism Ethics is not destined to solve major political and economic issues at the global level; it will be a useful instrument in interpreting a frontier area, which is tourism ethics, by binding people together in an operational way”, said Pascal Lamy.  “One billion tourists crossing international borders every year can mean one billion opportunities but also one billion catastrophes; it is up to us to decide. Governments, companies and tourists themselves need to ensure tourism works as a force of good and I am convinced that the new Committee on Tourism Ethics will assist greatly in this endeavor”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

The Action Plan of the Committee for the coming four years will focus on:

  • accessible tourism for all;
  • the exploitation of children in all its forms;
  • trafficking;
  • poaching and the illegal trading of wildlife;
  • promotion of fair models of all inclusive holidays; and
  • unfounded ratings on travel portals which may impact the reputation of companies and destinations

The WCTE is an impartial body responsible for interpreting, applying and evaluating the provisions of the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET).  This is a set of principles designed to guide the development of tourism in a way that maximizes the socio-economic benefits of the sector, while minimizing any negative impacts. It was adopted in 1999 by the UNWTO General Assembly and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001.  The Committee is a subsidiary organ of the UNWTO General Assembly, and reports directly to the Assembly. Members are elected in their personal capacities and not as officials of governments or representatives of their countries.  Currently, they include I Gede Ardika (Former Minister of Tourism of Indonesia), Yoshiaki Hompo (Former Commissioner of Japan Tourism Agency), Fiona Jeffery (Former Chair of the World Travel Market), Khelil Lajmi (Former Minister of Tourism of Tunisia), Jean Marc Mignon (President, International Organisation for Social Tourism),. Tanja Mihalic (Head of Institute of Tourism, University of Ljubljana), Ron Oswald (General Secretary, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers´ Association), Eugenio Yunis (Executive Vice President, Federation of Tourism Enterprises of Chile).  Alternate members include Hiran Cooray (Chairman, Jetwing), Suzy Hatough (Director of Dar Al-Diafa for Tourism Human Resources Development Consultancy) and Gunnur Ozalp (Secretary-General, Association of Turkish Travel Agents).

Source: Press release. Follow on Twitter: @UNWTO

VisitEngland launches national marketing campaign to promote Accessible Tourism

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Portrait of Richard 111 from the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre website

In the spirit of Olympic and Paralympic legacy, VisitEngland has launched a national marketing campaign aimed at championing and improving accessible tourism in England, a sector worth over £2billion a year* to the domestic tourism industry, with strong growth potential. The national tourist board has worked with a number of destinations and the Disabled Persons Railcard to develop guides highlighting fantastic and accessible tourism experiences across the country. The Access for All Campaign aims to position England as a leading destination for accessible tourism.

The campaign, funded by £100,000 from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) plus contributions from partners, is a cost-effective way for selected English destinations to showcase their accessible tourism businesses and attract more visits from disabled travellers and others with access needs, and their companions.

Each destination has selected top class accommodation and attractions which have then been through an Access for All programme developed by VisitEngland to ensure they’re delivering the highest standard of access for visitors. These places to stay and visit are featured in a series of local guides that highlight key attributes of the destination as well as promoting it as access friendly. The four destinations involved in the campaign are listed below, with a few highlights of what is on offer:

Leicestershire – Situated in the heart of the country, Leicestershire has been welcoming visitors for more than 2,000 years – everyone from Roman armies to medieval Kings and Queens. Visitors to the city and county can explore its unique heritage in a new accessible package, Stay Play Explore Glorious Heritage. Visit the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, site of the dramatic conclusion to the Wars of the Roses, where Richard III lost his life and Henry Tudor was crowned king. From here, visit the Richard III exhibition at Leicester’s Guildhall to continue your discovery of this intriguing monarch, before taking afternoon tea at The Belmont Hotel. The National Brewery Centre makes a perfect pit stop, and celebrates the history, art and fun of brewing.  Finally, see the National Memorial Arboretum and Snibston Discovery Museum, the largest science and technology museum in the East Midlands. The Stay Play Explore Glorious Heritage package includes entry to a choice of three out of five attractions and an overnight stay at the 4-star Hinckley Island Hotel for just £109. Each site has completed VisitEngland’s Access for All programme and offers excellent facilities and access.

NewcastleGateshead – A must-see for visitors to NewcastleGateshead is the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, with its four accessible gallery spaces, it has an ever-changing programme of exhibitions. NewcastleGateshead is home to Europe’s largest shopping and leisure centre, intu Metrocentre which offers a range of services for visitors with accessibility needs, including Shopmobility, assisted changing facilities, and free wheelchair hire. The city is also home to one of the world’s premier music venues, Sage Gateshead. This ‘Access for All’ award-winning venue’s extensive access facilities include level access throughout, hearing loop systems, 35 accessible toilets and monitored light levels in all areas.  At the end of a long day, head back to the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead, an award-winning hotel set on the historic Quayside with fantastic views over the River Tyne. There are twelve accessible guest rooms, including three Executive rooms which have access to a private lounge and panoramic views of the city.

Brighton – Bustling seaside destination Brighton & Hove has a jam-packed cultural calendar, making it a top spot for a seaside break. Take in Brighton’s art culture with visits to the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and the Hove Museum & Art Gallery. Heritage fans can visit Brighton’s spectacular seaside palace, the Royal Pavilion, with easy access throughout the ground floor, or visit the nearby Preston Manor, a delightful Edwardian country house with the ground floor, basement and walled garden accessible for all visitors. Thistle Brighton, Jurys Inn and Hilton Brighton Metropole have all been through VisitEngland’s Access for All programme and feature guest rooms accessible for wheelchair users and visually or hearing impaired guests.  VisitBrighton offers downloadable factsheets about access in the city and a map showing step free access to the main hotels and attractions, and the locations of dropped kerbs around the city.

Bath – For centuries, Bath has enchanted everyone from ancient Romans to Jane Austen and it continues to offer everything required for a perfect weekend break: from heritage sites and contemporary culture to top hotels and excellent food. You can take in the atmosphere and impressive architecture on a fully personalised tour with Bath Parade Guides. Renovations to The Roman Baths – one of the wonders of Roman England – have made the Baths accessible for all, and include a lift to the lower level museum, level access, and ramps across ancient Roman obstacles. The Bath for Everyone offer for £74.50 will transport you to the city’s origins and ensure you get to know the best of Bath. Take in Bath’s culture and visit the Fashion Museum, housed in the impressive 18th century Assembly Rooms. All floors are accessible and equipped with ramps, a lift and level access throughout. Victoria Art Gallery is home to a plethora of international artists from the 15th century to the present day. Make a weekend of it with a stay at the Holiday Inn Express, where seven purpose-built accessible guest rooms have been designed to suit a variety of access needs.

The full list of partners involved in the Access for All campaign can be found in the destination guides which are downloadable from VisitEngland.com/accessforall

James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland said: “England is a very accessible destination with plenty on offer for everyone. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase these particular locations as shining examples of best practice; to build on the legacy of the 2012 Paralympic Games and encourage tourism businesses to make the most of the accessible tourism market, which has enormous potential for growth. Whether exploring the wonders of Roman England in Bath, enjoying a vibrant seaside break in Brighton, journeying through Leicestershire’s heritage, or taking in the bustle of NewcastleGateshead, with these guides you can enjoy a fantastic holiday and feel confident that the places you visit are working hard to meet your access needs.”

Guides can be downloaded in either PDF, large print Word or audio format from  VisitEngland.com/accessforall.  A limited number of printed copies are available for those who cannot access the guides online. Email qad@VisitEngland.org or call 0207 578 1454.  For more information contact Angelah Sparg, Corporate Communications Manager Tel: 02075781482, Email Angelah.sparg@visitengland.org or Sarah Long, Head of Corporate Communications Tel: 020 7578 1452, Email sarah.long@visitengland.orgwww.visitengland.org

*In 2009, 11% of all domestic trips included someone with a health condition or impairment – a total of 11.28 million trips worth £1.9 billion (Great Britain Tourism Survey, 2009). In 2010, 1.8% of all international visits to England were by someone with a health condition or impairment – a total of 576 thousand trips worth £341 million (International Passenger Survey, 2010.) • VisitEngland provides a number of tools and resources to help tourism operators accommodate people with access needs, available at www.visitengland.org/access and tourism information for people with physical and sensory needs at www.visitengland.com/accessforall

Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @VisitEngland @VisitEnglandBiz @JBerresfordVE @RossCalladine