Tourists with disabilities might need an extra hand
Every year, all the member countries of the UNWTO have celebrated World Tourism Day on this day with a specific theme since 1980.
This year, the theme “Tourism for all: Promoting universal accessibility” reflects the rights of every human being regarding tourist activities. To put it more clearly, it is to make the tourism industry friendly to all types of people, irrespective of race, caste, creed, gender, age, ethnicity, and persons of special needs.
This kind of tourism engages a collaborative process among stake-holders, and 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 is, in fact, inclusive of all people, including those travelling with children in prams, people with disabilities, and seniors.
According to the World Health Organisation, there are approximately 1 billion persons with disabilities in the world. This equates to approximately 15% of the world population having a physical, mental, or sensory disability.
In addition to this data, rapid aging of the population is underway. In 2009, there were more than 730 million people over the age of 60, equivalent to 10% of the population — an increase of more than 20% since 2000.
By the year 2050, the number of persons over the age of 60 will increase to account for 20% of the world’s population, with one-fifth of this group being over 80 years old.
Due to aging population in industrialised countries, the rate of disability among people with the capacity to travel is increasing, adding to the demand for an accessible environment, transport, and services — which adds to the market value of the accessible tourism segment.
Much of the senior population has a significant income and the desire to travel, both in their home countries and abroad, and their expenditure tends to be higher than that of tourists in general. Because senior citizens and many people with disabilities are no longer active in the workforce — they have the possibility of travelling throughout the year, which helps to reduce the seasonality of demand experienced by many destinations.
The attention being turned to the accessible tourism market presents a challenge to the global travel industry in terms of improving policies and mobilising investment to carry out the necessary improvements in the short and long term. With the right approach, the tourism sector of Bangladesh has an excellent opportunity to serve an important and growing market, win new customers, and increase revenue at a time when other segments of the market may be weakening.
Bangladesh is going ahead with various programs to promote and develop its tourism industry. We must go ahead with well-planned and well-controlled tourism programs and infrastructure suitable for all types of tourists.
We must cater to all types of tourists with special focus on the physically challenged, kids, and aging tourists. The hotels and motels of Bangladesh must create suitable facilities such as separate front-desks, toilets, walk-ways, separate points at parks, museums, and destinations across the country.
A person with disabilities usually does not travel alone — at least one person is with them as a companion. So, for the tourism service providers, income doubles.
The major obstacles tourists face in Bangladesh that need to be removed are lack of accessible facilities (buildings, outdoor environment, transports etc) in the tourism service chain, lack of accessible destinations, reliable information, awareness and knowledge among tourism providers; universal design of infrastructure (hotel, transports, roads, airports, parks, museums, food service facilities), accommodation, special parking zones, allocation of priority seats, necessary equipments for sports tourism etc.
Disabled people tend to be loyal to an accessible destination, staying longer and spending more. According to figures from Open Doors Organisation, American adults with disabilities or reduced mobility spend about $13.6bn a year on travel.
In Germany, the direct turnover generated by disabled travellers is estimated at Euros 2.5 bn, and rises to Euros 4.8 bn when including indirect effects. In Australia, disabled tourists contribute up to 16% of tourism GDP and sustain up to 17% of jobs in the tourism sector, according to research studies. These figures could rise even higher in future if the gap between the potential customer base and the actual number of travellers can be reduced.
In Germany, for example, about 37% of disabled people decided not to travel in the past due to a lack of accessible facilities. Yet 48% would travel more frequently if these were available, and as many as 60% would be ready to pay higher travel costs for improved accessibility.
Bangladesh has a long way to go. It needs to diversify its tourism products as well as make the entire infrastructure friendly to all types of tourists from the beginning of construction. We must also focus on how to attract disabled people by creating better and more inclusive infrastructure, and providing good services.
Source: Dhaka Tribune