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Published on : Thursday, February 14, 2013
In view of the present social and economic factors, the travel and tourism industry needs to act on every level to create better conditions for disabled travellers. Indeed, the sector is also facing new legal obligations in terms of access, Lilian Müller, president of the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), said at the 20th World Travel Monitor Forum.
More than 080 countries have signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of ersons with Disabilities, while the European Commission is planning an EU Accessibility Act that would oblige member states to ensure equal access to goods and services, including travel and tourism, for all citizens.
The ENAT president stressed that accessible tourism has to cover all parts of the value chain, from better nformation and booking, transportation and through to facilities at the destination, including accommodation, catering and activities, as well as tourism services. Planes and trains, for example, need to become much more user-friendly for people with disabilities.
The approach should be to make tourism destinations and services accessible for all users in general. Principally, this is not a niche market any longer; accessibility must be part of all offers and tourism products but there will also be a continuing need in the market for specialized suppliers who can provide services for customers with higher level access requirements, she emphasised.
One important area in future will be to make travel and tourism information more accessible on the internet, for example for blind and deaf people. But tourist board websites are generally failing so far on this front, according to an ENAT survey. Only 10 out of 39 NTO websites complied with web accessibility criteria in a 2011 survey, meaning a failure rate of 74.4%, while more than half failed to provide accessibility information.
“Marketing of accessible tourism is not functioning equally well in all countries and regions of Europe,” Müller commented. “The lack of access to websites and the lack of accessibility information mean there is not a “single market” where customers can find sufficient and adequate information, and the choice of destinations and products is severely limited for those people who need good access.”
Moreover, social media plays only a very limited role so far in terms of accessible tourism due to
little relevant content and poor functionality, she added.