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

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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

How cultural institutes can improve access for under $100

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Ballet dancer public domain picture

Museum for All (MFA) is a European network backed by artecontacto and the Design for All Foundation which promotes access to culture using a collaborative, inclusive approach.  It promotes implementation of Design for All.  The core of MFA is an online database of museums, which brings together information from the websites of selected cultural institutions in more than 30 European countries. Potential visitors can compare information from different venues.   MFA is also a place for debate, collective reflection and knowledge sharing between professionals in culture, accessibility and Design for All.

Recently, Betty Siegel, Director of Accessibility at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts described on MFA 60 ways to create more accessible facilities and programmes for under $100 at cultural institutions.  The ideas she presented were compiled from the participants at the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) conferences for Arts administrators and managers held over the past 5 years.  The ideas include ways to improve accessibility for patrons with disabilities, whether those are physical, sensory, or intellectual. The Kennedy Center website also has a list of Tip Sheets containing information on a variety of topics for those involved with or interested in making their facilities and programming more accessible to people with disabilities.

Follow on Twitter: @MuseumsForAll @kencen @ArteConTacto_  @DesignforAllFd

Accessible Tourism again on the agenda at ITB Berlin

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German National Tourism Board logo from their website

The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) has its headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.  It is funded by and works on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) to represent Germany as a tourist destination.   The GNTB will this March host the third annual “Day of Accessible Tourism” at ITB Berlin travel and tourism fair, aiming to raise awareness of the topic of accessible tourism and the economic opportunities it presents.

The GNTB is supported by its partners , the National and State Offices of Tourism for All (NatKo) and Barrier-free Destinations in Germany. This year, the event focuses on the challenges of demographic change and what the development of accessible tourism offers. Speakers from national tourism organizations, as well as service providers and groups supporting accessible tourism will present information, best practice examples and current trends in their areas. There will also be several panel discussions for interested parties to attend and engage in.

“Together with our partners we have set ourselves the goal to develop and market reliable and quality-tested products along the entire travel and service chain. The objective of the GNTB is to communicate the various travel options we offer internationally, and to anchor accessibility as an important facet of the essence of Destination Germany as a brand,” explains Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the GNTB.

In Europe alone there are about 50 million people with mobility and activity limitations and almost 90 million people who are older than 65. Therefore it is important to ensure that the specific requirements of this market are linked to long-term and cooperative actions by stakeholders in business, government, research and disability organisations. This is a worthwhile investment because accessibility should not only be an issue for travellers with mobility and activity limitations – but for everyone – including tourists and residents. Thus, the level of accessibility for all should be a benchmark of quality for tourist services and be a competitive factor for destinations.

The event takes place on Friday the 7th of March 2014 between 10.30am and 4.00pm in the “New York Saal” (Hall 7.1a ) in the morning and in the ” Berlin Hall” (Hall 7.3 ) at the Exhibition Grounds in Berlin in the afternoon.

Main Source: Press release.  Follow on Twitter: @GermanyTourism @gntb2014 @BMWi_Bund @ITB_Berlin

Program to improve taxi accessibility first of its kind in Canada

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City of Vancouver taxis from the City website

Vancouver City mayor Gregor Robertson, the Vancouver Taxi Association and the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities have launched ‘Ask-Listen-Act’, a new form of enhanced taxi driver training involving seniors and people with disabilities. Robertson said the training will help make the taxi fleet more accessible and convenient for local seniors and people with disabilities. One in six people in BC has a disability and one in eight people in Vancouver is 65 years of age or older.   “From our new building code to enhanced investments in pedestrian safety, the City is committed to improving accessibility for everyone”, said Robertson.  ‘Ask-Listen-Act’ Enhanced Taxi Driver Training will provide Vancouver taxi drivers with extensive training to ensure customers with different types of disabilities are transported safely and respectfully. In development since April 2012, the program is created by the Vancouver Taxi Association, in partnership with the City of Vancouver and the BC Coalition of Disabilities, and involved consultation with several groups, including the City’s Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee, Seniors Advisory Committee, Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC (COSCO), Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers (ASIC), and GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre, among others.

‘Ask-Listen-Act’ will provide no-charge, specific training for taxi drivers when serving customers with a range of disabilities including those using mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters. It also provides guidance for helping customers with developmental disabilities, customers who are blind or visually impaired, customers with guide or assistance dogs, and customers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Follow on Twitter: @CityofVancouver @BCCPDHealth @VCHhealthcare

UK Caterer and Hotelkeeper Catey Accessible Award

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Table setting

The  Caterer and Hotelkeeper is a weekly UK business magazine for hospitality professionals.  It runs several events each year, including The Cateys. The Cateys  have an Accessibility Award category, which recognises the operators going above and beyond the requirements of the Equality Act in accommodating and catering for disabled people.  The winner will be an individual hotel, pub, restaurant, foodservice contract or other hospitality operation complying with all aspects of the Equality Act, and offering great levels of customer service to non-disabled and disabled customers. This category is not open to groups but is open to an individual establishment within a group.  Entrants must submit their accessibility statement, and clearly demonstrate that they have understood the business case of providing excellent customer service for disabled visitors and guests. The judges will consider answers provided to questions, including

Why did you target the market segment that includes people with disabilities?

What did you do to attract people with disabilities?

How did you involve your staff in meeting the needs of people with disabilities?

What were the results for your business?

What was your budget and return on investment?

Judges will also look for evidence to support answers given. This could include customer feedback, market research, staff training activities, access statement, accessible improvements to the building or facilities and financial success.

Source: Caterer and Hotelkeeper website and Cateys website. Follow on Twitter: @Caterertweets

Village 4 All success at UNWTO Ulysses Awards

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Roberto Vitali of Village for All

Village for all (V4A®) is the International Quality Brand Hospitality for all that provides information to people with disabilities, those with food or environmental allergies, seniors, those with health needs, and families with small children, so that they can make informed choices about where to spend their holidays. V4A® recently entered the United Nations World Tourism Organization UNWTO Ulysses Award.  The award recognizes innovation in tourism and honour tourism initiatives that contribute to advance tourism through knowledge and innovation, in line with the principles of the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.  This year, V4A® achieved First Runner-up for Innovation in Enterprises with its V4A® International Quality Brand for Hospitality for All project and Second 2nd Runner-up with its V4AInside software, designed to survey and record information about the accessibility of tourist accommodations and points of interest.  The awards were given during a ceremony at the International Tourism Fair in Madrid, FITUR, (the Feria Internacional de Turismo en España), which was attended by UNWTO Secretary-General, Mr. Taleb Rifai.

Roberto Vitali, President of V4A®, commented: “To be nominated as candidates in two categories is in itself an exceptional event, but that neither nomination was for an ‘accessible’ tourism category, but in the Tourism – with a capital T – category, the one that covers all sectors of the industry, is truly worth note. This world level recognition is proof of just how innovative and cutting-edge our projects and activities really are: V4A® is not just a project for the disabled in Italy, it is a tourism project for Everyone, Everywhere!”  

Congratulations to V4A® and founder Vitali. Read more about V4A® here. Follow on Twitter: @Villageforall @Vitali_Roberto @UNWTO @Fitur_

Scott Rains: People with disabilities are THE market, not a niche

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Scott Rains with a lion from Vimeo website

International travel and inclusion design consultant and author of the Rolling Rains Report, Scott Rains discusses accessible (or inclusive) tourism in New Mobility magazine.  Rains says that it is time for people with disabilities (PwDs) to “stop insisting we’re a market niche”.  This is because PwDs “cross-cut all niches and all demographics.”   Rains goes on to say that PwDs cover all economic brackets and travel for the same reasons as everyone else.  “We date, we marry, we have families” says Rains.  The article goes on to describe results from a survey carried out by New Mobility.  The survey found that about 44% of PwDs travel for family vacations, 32% for couple getaways, and 19% for work-related trips.  That’s a “lot of family members, lovers, and co-workers all benefiting from access technically needed by only one person”, says the article.  The survey also found that about 34% of PwDs aim to book rooms in the US$50-$100 range, 45% in the $100-$150 range, and 11% in the $150-$200 range.

Follow on Twitter: @srains @NewMobilityMag

Accessibility Pass extended to needs of seniors

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Boomer couple from 50 plus Hellas website

ACCESSIBILITY PASS, the global certification scheme that classifies hotels’ accessibility level based on their infrastructure, services and personnel skills, is extending its scope to ensure that it addresses the accessibility needs of Senior Citizens. The Greek older people’s organization 50plus Hellas is contributing valuable input regarding particular aspects of the Senior Citizen arm of the scheme. 50plus Hellas is a non-governmental and not-for-profit organization, which aims to improve the quality of life of those over 50 years of age in Greece. The ACCESSIBILITY PASS “Senior Citizen Friendly” certification is awarded to hotels successfully assessed for fulfilling the scheme’s related criteria.  Source: ENAT Twitter: @EUaccesstourism

VisitEngland and others write about the importance of the ageing market

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Picture of beach cabins on the front of the Visit England report

In a new publication on “Domestic Leisure Tourism Trends for the next Decade”, VisitEngland (England’s National Tourism Board) identifies 5 trends influencing domestic tourism in the next ten years.  The first on the list is demography, with a concurrent trend in the need for accessibility.  The report states that:

Changes in the population and demographic make-up of England over the next decade will have a transformative effect on society – and significant implications for consumers’ leisure choices. Common to many of the trends in this section is the changing shape of the family – something evident in the rising number of older people and grandparents’ increasing involvement in childcare, and also in the diverse structures and types of family. Overall, the population of England will grow, but this growth will not be spread evenly across age groups. There will be a very well understood trend is the growth in the number of older people and rise in the average age of the country – referred to as the ageing society. Not every section of society is growing; there will actually be a decline in the number of people aged 35-49 over the next few years, leading to a ‘squeezed middle’ generation. The medium term future will also see a rise in the number of younger people, as a result of a sustained rise in fertility rates since the mid 1990s – a baby boom.

The report goes on to say that the implications of these shifts on domestic leisure tourism will be profound. The rising number of older people not only signals a change in the needs of this particular group – there is an implication, for example, for all types of business to meet accessibility needs – but also a shift in their attitudes. The next retired generation will be heavily comprised of the baby boomer cohort, who differ greatly from previous older generations in their attitudes to leisure – they are generally more affluent and far more leisure focussed than previous generations of older people.  Businesses and destinations in the tourism market will need to adapt to cater for an increasing number of intergenerational family holidays.  The ageing population will intensify – in three decades time, there will be more than 9 million over 75s in England (twice as many as there are currently) making the importance of catering for both older and intergenerational groups a crucial implication for decades to come. The appetite for travel and tourism amongst the oldest groups in society is likely to increase over time (‘healthy life expectancy’ is increasing, as well as overall life expectancy), but
accommodation and travel options that can cater for people with reduced mobility will be in great demand.

Of course, an ageing society is not going to just affect English domestic tourism.  Access Tourism New Zealand has for a long time been publishing blogs about the need for the New Zealand tourism and travel sector to sit up and take notice of demographic trends.  New Zealand is getting older.  According to the 2013 NZ Census, the median age (half are younger, and half older, than this age) of the population continued to increase, reaching 38.0 years in 2013 compared with 35.9 years in 2006.  The number of people aged 50–69 years rose to 989,364, an increase of 21.5% since 2006. People in this age range made up 23.3% of the population in 2013, compared with 20.2% in 2006. The number of people aged 65 years and over continued to increase. In 2013, there were 607,032 people in this age group, making up 14.3% of the population. This was an increase from 12.3% of the population in 2006 and 12.1% in 2001.  Over 73,000 people were aged 85 years or over at the time of the 2013 Census. There was a 29.4% increase in this age group since 2006.

In the USA, Mark Bradbury (senior director, Insights and Integrated Marketing, AARP Media Sales) explain why 50+ travellers will rule the airways, railways and hotel hallways into 2014 and beyond.  According to Bradbury, the 50+ traveller is the lifeblood of the travel industry.  They are responsible for 48% of all vacation expenditures, up from 42% just five years ago—a trend that will continue as 50+ population growth outpaces that of 18-49 by a 3:1 margin over the next decade, according to the U.S. Census. People 50+ consider travel more of a necessity than a luxury, as evidenced by a post-recession increase of 25% in their travel spending. Since 2007, 50+ vacation spending is up nearly $20 million, compared to a $1.7 billion drop among 18-49. 50+ travellers spend 23% more on domestic vacations and 22% more on foreign vacations than younger travellers, and spend more high-end. With more time and money at their disposal, older Boomers eager for new experiences are growing the 60+ segment of the travel market. Since Boomers started turning 60 just seven years ago, the 60+ travel market has grown by 24%, or 3.6 million travellers.  Younger Boomers value gratification that can be realized today.  Boomers are at the core of several travel trends, including: ecotourism, adventure travel, medical tourism, multigenerational travel, passion/hobby vacations (that is, combining a vacation with a passion, such as biking, language learning, food, wine, etc.), and spiritual travel. They are also increasingly switched on to digital media.  In summary, no one travels more than Boomers, and no age group is wealthier.

Worldwide, older people are also increasingly switched on to digital media.  In New Zealand 77% of those aged 55-64 are connected to the internet, 61% of those aged 65-74, and 32% of those 75+.

In other areas, SilverGroup reports that those 50+ comprise 35% of all travel and 80% of all cruises in the EC,  Japanese 50+ will comprise 80% of the total tourism dollar across key Asian Markets by 2015, and Chinese 50+ will comprise 39% of total overseas travel and 66% of spending this year (2014 – MasterCard Asia Pacific and ING).   By 2015, those 65+ will spend US$129bn on travel and leisure (SilverGroup).

For tips on travelling as a senior, visit Tourism Review.

@VisitEnglandBiz @VisitEngland @Tourism_Review @SilverGroup @StatisticsNZ

Medical tourism market to reach $32.5 bn globally in 2019

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medical symbol

The global medical tourism market was valued at $10.5 billion in 2012 and is estimated to reach $32.5 billion in 2019, according to a new market report published by Transparency Market Research:  ‘Medical Tourism Market (India, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Turkey, South Korea, Costa Rica, Poland, Dubai and Philippines) – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2013-2019‘.  The report cites rises in healthcare costs, long wait times, an ageing population, and increasing demand for cosmetic and dental surgery not covered by insurance in developed countries,  coupled with the availability of high quality, low cost medical services in developing countries for the rise.  Patients travelling abroad can save 30-90% on a procedure by travelling abroad.  With a rise in medical tourism will come an increasing need for accessible tourism, travel, and hospitality as patients who are temporarly disabled pre- or post-surgery recover from their procedures.

Village 4 All a finalist in two United Nations World Tourism Organization worldwide projects

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V4A banner from their website

Village for all – V4A® is the International Quality Brand Hospitality for all that provides information to people with disabilities, those with food or environmental allergies, seniors, those with health needs, and families with small children, so that they can make informed choices about where to spend their holidays.  Village for All (V4A® ) is a finalist in two United Nations World Tourism Organization worldwide projects :

UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Enterprises: International Quality Brand for Hospitality for All

UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Research and Technology

Every year since 2003, the UNWTO Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism have honoured tourism initiatives that contribute to advance tourism through knowledge and innovation, in line with the principles of the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Roberto Vitali, President of V4A® says that V4A® identifies closely with the founding values of the award, and that they have placed Ethics, Innovation and Knowledge at the basis of their work. “In 2008, when we first started the V4A® adventure, we knew that we were being pioneers” says Vitali. “However, we have achieved this level of “Global” success thanks to the many other people all over the world who have shared this adventure with us, through the networks that we belong to. Right from the outset, we envisaged a project that could ensure that anyone, regardless of their conditions, could have a holiday in any country, and we did this by promoting the culture of Inclusion and Responsibility, without forgetting that this essential human right is also an exceptional opportunity for businesses. We have developed a V4A Software, which took us more than 3 years of research and development, precisely so that we could make it systematic and economically viable to work in Accessible Tourism. Now, we can offer our services to any country, guaranteeing a quality level that would have been inconceivable in the past.”

As well as founder of V4A®, Vitali is a member and spokesman of the Commission for the Promotion of Accessible Tourism to the Ministry of Tourism, and technical referent for FISH (Italian Federation for Overcoming Handicaps),  Tourism sector

The finalist’s award is scheduled for January 22 in Madrid at the UNWTO Gala Dinner and a  Knowledge Network Symposium.  Also in Madrid from 22 to 26 January FITUR – Feria Internacional deTurismo – will be held, and V4A® will have a stand there.

Source: Press release. Information Elisa Meneghini +39 0532 067120; e-mail: stampa@V4A.it Twitter: @Villageforall @Vitali_Roberto @UNWTO @Mi_BACT @Fitur_

Stockholm Sweden working to improve accessibility

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Stockholm coat of arms

Stockholm Sweden was a finalist in the recent European Commission Access City Award 2013 (won by Berlin). The award was created in 2010, and set out to recognise and celebrate cities that have worked to achieve accessible environments in all areas of life. Stockholm has a population of nearly 869 000. It was founded in the mid-13th century and is located on 14 islands around one of Europe’s largest mediaeval city centres.  The city has a long-standing commitment to accessibility and has been running extensive accessibility programmes since 1999. It was the first city in Sweden to acquire a Disability Ombudsman in 2002. It also has a Vice-Mayor for accessibility.  The projects undertaken by the city underline that accessibility is embedded within both the political and executive functioning of every aspect of life in the city.  In 2011, Stockholm’s City Council decided on seven priority targets for the years 2011–2016 to increase the participation of people with disabilities in the life of the city.  They are that everyone:

  1. must be able to travel around, visit and enjoy Stockholm’s indoor and outdoor environment.
  2. must be able to receive information and to communicate on the basis of their individual needs.
  3. must be treated with understanding and respect and be personally involved in decisions on all issues that apply to him or her.
  4. must be able to participate in education and receive the support that is required to attain their goals.
  5. capacity to work must be utilised.
  6. must have accommodation that is individually adapted to their needs.
  7. must be given the necessary means to participate in and benefit from leisure activities.

The goals are monitored through the city’s monitoring and follow-up system.

In addition, Stockholm has produced a “Handbook for the Design of an Accessible and Usable Environment” (now in its third edition).  A network of routes important for accessibility has been agreed and comprises essential streets, walkways, park paths, etc.  There is also an “e-Adept” digital pedestrian network which is a project for personal navigation, travel planning, and safety.  The aim of the project is to increase pedestrian accessibility for older people and people with disabilities.

Source: Access City Award 2013 publication.  Follow on Twitter:  @EU_Justice @VivianeRedingEU

Nantes France a finalist in the EC Access City Award 2013

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City of nantes consulting with people with disabilities about access picture from access City Award publication

Nantes France was a finalist in the recent European Commission Access City Award 2013 (won by Berlin).   The award was created in 2010, and set out to recognise and celebrate cities that have worked to achieve accessible environments in all areas of life it was  The sixth largest municipality in France, Nantes, is situated on the Loire Estuary near the Atlantic coast and has a total population of 590 000 of whom 291 000 live in the city. Nantes has a long-standing commitment, both political and practical, to improving facilities and services for disabled people across all aspects of city life. The city has taken the view that what is good for disabled people is of benefit to everyone. As part of the Disability Action Plan which the City has adopted, 430 access audits of public buildings and public open space (highways and the pedestrian environment) have been carried out (130) or are scheduled. Site visits to audit facilities in the pedestrian environment are often carried out with people with mobility difficulties and vision impairment.  Once the need for particular improvements has been identified and agreed, they are added to the city’s rolling programme for the delivery and funding of public works. The City of Nantes pays for the audits of the buildings and other facilities it owns, while the owners of other buildings are required by law to fund access audits.

Another key objective of the Disability Action Plan is to ensure that every stage of the journey is accessible to everyone, whatever their disability. This includes upgrading parts of the transport system that are already accessible and gradually expanding the accessible network across the city.  A team from the Department of Disability works with the Nantes Council of People with Disabilities (CNPH) to gather information on every aspect of the daily living needs of disabled people, including access to housing, education, culture and the transport environment.

Source: Access City Award 2013 publication.  Follow on Twitter:  @nantestourisme @EU_Justice @VivianeRedingEU

EC: Barrier-free travel: a win-win for society and EU tourism

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Wheelchair sign at a beac from the EC website

The European Commission Enterprise and Industry magazine reports that barrier-free travel is a win-win for society and EU tourism.  Making tourism more accessible is essential to the development of new markets and services that will help Europe’s tourism industry thrive. By making basic adjustments to facilities and information services, senior citizens and travellers with special access needs will promote equal opportunities, social inclusion, and boost the tourism industry.

Senior citizens and people with special needs have the desire and the right to travel like everyone else. However, their travel experiences are often restricted by physical barriers such as transportation constraints, inaccessible accommodation and tourism sites and a general lack of information.  Senior citizens are an essential element to the European tourism industry. Currently, more than 128 million Europeans are between 55 and 80 years old, and according to current demographic trends, this proportion is expected to increase. However, the potential for senior travel has not yet been fully exploited: Only 41 % of seniors between 55 and 75 currently travel.  Tourism authorities, as well as industry and senior organisations, are being encouraged to engage in a stronger public-private partnership. In this context, the Commission is preparing to launch an initiative, ‘Europe, the best destination for seniors’, which is designed to increase the flow of senior tourists, particularly during the low and medium seasons, between countries both inside and outside the EU.

According to the World Health Organization/World Bank, an estimated one billion people in the world live with disabilities. Together with their families, that means approximately a third of the world’s population is directly or indirectly affected by disability.  Many people have access needs, whether or not related to a physical condition (e.g. wheelchair users, visual, hearing impairment, allergies). For example, older and less mobile people or people with pushchairs have access needs, which can become a huge obstacle when going on holiday.  For those people, travelling can be a real challenge, as finding the information on accessible services, checking luggage on a plane, booking a room with special access needs often prove to be difficult, costly and time consuming.

In order to promote accessible tourism, the Commission this year (2013), dedicated European Destinations of Excellence (EDEN) awards 2013 to locations that excel in accessible tourism.  Destinations in 19 countries were recognised for their efforts in developing accessible tourism offers.  In addition, barriers that restrict travel within or to Europe are being lifted. The EU boasts a comprehensive set of passenger rights which apply regardless of the transport used.

Follow on Twitter: @EU_enterprise

EC: ICARUS report on access to air travel

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ICARUS banner from website

The International Centre for Archival Research (ICARUS) is an association under Austrian Law, consisting of more than 120 public bodies from 23 European states and Canada. It is supported financially by the European Commission (EC). ICARUS is a project squarely targeted to support the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and its implementation plan. The Project tackles the stumbling blocks that are currently hindering freedom of movement. ICARUS focuses on improving access to air transportation for disabled and elderly people by bringing relevant stakeholders together to find the most relevant research needs and technical solutions.

The general objective of ICARUS is to identify, characterize, justify and prioritize research as well as analysis approaches in those solution areas with the greatest potential towards improving access to air transportation for people with disabilities and elderly people. It also strive to initiate actual change, specifically through awareness and knowledge dissemination among the main players in the accessibility chain that foster the adoption of effective solutions.

A recent ICARUS report (Users, stakeholders, and experts perspective on the end users needs and existing barriersD2.1) analyses the users and stakeholder’s experiences and views on each stage of an  airline trip (pre-trip, arrival at airport, pre-boarding, boarding, inflight, landing, leaving the airport, and post trip).  It concludes that there are still variable levels of accessibility and barrier-free travel is not always possible. The quality of service and information, as well as the level of accessibility varies a lot among operators, airlines, airports, authorities, countries, regions and cities, which renders intra-European and interregional travels difficult and creates uncertainty and complexity for passengers during their journey. The report suggests that harmonising the application of EU norms and improving interchange points is crucial to ensure seamless transport and thus passenger confidence.

Follow on Twitter: @Icarus_EU