is the ongoing endeavour to ensure tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. It encompasses publicly and privately owned tourist locations. The term has been defined by Darcy and Dickson (2009, p34) as:
Accessible tourism enables people with access requirements, including mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive dimensions of access, to function independently and with equity and dignity through the delivery of universally designed tourism products, services and environments. This definition is inclusive of all people including those travelling with children in prams, people with disabilities and seniors .
Modern society is increasingly aware of the concept of integration of people with disabilities. Issues such as accessibility
Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the "ability to access" and benefit from some system or entity...
, design for all and universal design are featured in the international symposia of bodies such as the European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....
. Steps have been taken to promote guidelines and best practice
A best practice is a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark...
s, and major resources are now dedicated to this field.
A greater understanding of the accessible tourism market has been promoted through research commissioned by the European Commission where a stakeholder analysis has provided an insight into the complexities of accessible tourism. Similarly, the Australian Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre funded an Accessible Tourism Research Agenda that sought to outline a research base on which to develop the supply, demand and coordination/regulation information required to develop the market segment. The research agenda has now seen three other funded projects contribute towards a research base on which the tourism industry and government marketing authorities can make more informed decisions.
As of 2008, there were more than 50 million persons with disabilities in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...
, and more than 600 million around the world. When expanded to include all beneficiaries of accessible tourism, as defined above, the number grows to some 130 million people affected in Europe alone. In addition to the social benefits, the market represents an opportunity for new investment and new service requirements, rarely provided by key players in the tourism sector.
According to ENAT
ENAT is a non-profit association of tourism enterprises, organisations and individuals from the private, public and NGO sectors aimed at evaluating good practices, as well as providing and endorsing services and products for accessible tourism in Europe...
, the European Network for Accessible Tourism, accessible tourism includes:
- Barrier-free destinations: infrastructure and facilities
- Transport: by air, land and sea, suitable for all users
- High quality services: delivered by trained staff
- Activities, exhibits, attractions: allowing participation in tourism by everyone
- Marketing, booking systems, web sites & services: information accessible to all
Specific needs and requirements
Specific problems found by travellers or tourists with disabilities include:
- Inaccessible, or only partly accessible, web sites
- Lack of accessible airport transfer
- Lack of wheelchair accessible vehicles
- Lack of well-adapted hotel rooms
- Lack of professional staff capable of dealing with accessibility issues
- Lack of reliable information about a specific attraction's level of accessibility
- Lack of accessible restaurants, bars, and other facilities
- Lack of adapted toilets in restaurants and public places
- Inaccessible streets and sidewalks
- Lack of technical aids and disability equipment such as wheelchairs, bath chairs and toilet raisers
Europe and the United States of America are home to the majority of the existing companies in this niche. However, companies worldwide are starting to appear as the result of a growing need, largely driven by senior tourism, due to increasing life expectancy in developed countries.
Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and other northern European countries are increasingly prepared to receive tourists in wheelchairs, and to provide disability equipment and wheelchair accessible transport.
- Accessible tourism at the Open Directory Project
The Open Directory Project , also known as Dmoz , is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links. It is owned by Netscape but it is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.ODP uses a hierarchical ontology scheme for organizing site listings...