Accessible Tourism

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Accessible tourism is a set of services and facilities for individuals with specific needs who may include the disabled, elderly people, pregnant women, parents with children, people with temporary disabilities; or the increasing number of tourists carrying heavy strollers. All these people need some particular facilitation during their travel

Why should I be aware of this?

  • Disabled people are excluded from the leisure activities that enrich all of our lives, from more active pursuits such as sports, travel, shopping and nights out, down to some of the most basic of activities that take place in the home.
  • Apart from people with disabilities, seniors and those with temporary incapacities (broken leg, etc) are also part of the market dynamic.
  • Accessible tourism is about making it easy for all people (irrespective of their age, gender or physical status) to enjoy tourism experiences.

All about accessible tourism

The demand for accessible tourism is growing. As per the UN 10% of the world population is disabled. Globally there is an ever growing increase in the 65+ age group who benefit from accessible tourism. Any disabled or elderly perople rarely travel alone and will generally be accompanied with at least one companion. Therefore making tourism accessible to the disabled and the elderly must be seen as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Benefits of accessible tourism

Accessible tourism benefits everyone. More the individuals enjoy the opportunity to travel, more the tourism industry gets visitors. This only means better economy and greater job opportunities.

The travelers face many barriers during traveling ranging from getting information on accessible accommodation to problems getting around at their destinations. Usual concerns of the disabled tourist when booking a holiday include: Accessible airport and train station transfers, Wheelchair accessible local transport, adapted hotel rooms, reliable information about a specific site's accessibility (Monuments etc.), accessible toilets, accessible restaurants/ bars, access to pedestrian environment, availability of disability equipment on rent (wheelchairs, shower chairs, toilet raisers, electric wheelchairs etc.)...

Accessibility is a major issue for letting the elderly and disabled people feel confident that they can spend leisure time as tourists and that they will not face too many barriers or problems. As noted by the English Tourism Council (2000), better provision of information about barrier-free tourism would lead to increased travel. However, poor information dissemination has been identified as a major weakness of tourism for people with disabilities.

According to a Report by UN-ESCAP on Barrier Free Tourism, the major issues identified for making tourism accessible include:

  • Travel planning information
  • Accessible Transportation
  • Accessible accommodation
  • The destination experience

A disabled or an elderly traveler requires a greater amount of pre planning before undertaking travel. It will be benefit them greatly to have handy information regarding:

  • Accessibility of various venues and sites that they want to visit. This can be provided through city access guides.
  • Knowledge of the local transport systems and their accessibility. Also information regarding any adapted accessible transport service that may be available.
  • Information about barrier free features of the hotel/motel/youth hostel they are indenting to stay in is crucial for them to make any bookings.
  • Having access to experiences of other disabled/elderly travelers is beneficial for them to be able to make travel decisions.

Accessible tourism can be enhanced by creating an inclusive society for all. To achieve the goal of Accessible tourism, persons with disabilities should recommend to their governments, and those who are responsible for tourism promotion, to introduce accessibility as criteria in validating/ accrediting the Hospitality and Travel Industry. The government can also consider providing economic and other types of incentives to promote accessible tourism for the industry.

The other factors that will enhance the accesibility of cities and travel experiences are

  • Accessibility auditing
  • Accessibility information and access guides
  • Assistive Technologies
  • Accessible Buildings and facilities design and maintenance
  • Design Guidelines that are a Design-for-All
  • Provide technical aids
  • Accessibility Education and training
  • Policy, legislation

To conclude it will be right to say that the need for accessible tourism is growing. To gear for and tap business from travelers with special needs is an opportunity that all should try and avail whether it is at a national level where the country is mandating accessible tourism in their action plan, state level where regionally accessible tourism is encouraged or even at an individual level where individual service providers (such as individual restaurant or theater owners) decide and ensure that their facility is accessible.

See Also


  • AccessAbility

Useful Websites

  • International Conference on Accessible Tourism
  • Europe for All Stakeholder Conference on Accessible Tourism
  • MLA Polices that give disabled people the right to enjoy equal access to museums, libraries and archives.