- 15% of the global population, or 1 billion people, live with disability. [i]
- The number of people directly or indirectly affected by disability rises to 30% of the global population, or 2 billion people when the family members and caregivers of people with intellectual disabilities are considered. [ii]
- It is estimated that by the year 2050, the number of people living with disability globally will have risen to 1.2 billion. [iii]
When you read these statistics, do they surprise you? Is 1 billion a higher or a lower number than you would have guessed? Who or what did you picture in your mind’s eye when you heard the word disability?
Many people immediately imagine a person using a wheelchair when they hear the word disability, which can be a problem.
What Is Inclusive Tourism?
Different terms have been used to describe this particular market segment. You might see “Barrier-Free Tourism,” “Accessible Tourism,” or “Access Tourism.” Unfortunately, those terms are narrow and deceiving. They perpetuate the misperception that they apply to people who have mobility-related issues.
We prefer the term Inclusive Tourism because it doesn’t single any one group out. It creates an environment where everyone who enters your park or establishment feels welcome and valued as a guest and customer, no matter their abilities.
Inclusive tourism adopts the principles of universal design, which creates an environment so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability, or disability. It goes beyond providing access ramps for those using wheelchairs and signage in braille.
Simply put, inclusive tourism doesn’t just make tourism accessible to everyone; it makes it enjoyable and fosters independence.
Inclusive Tourism and Your Bottom Line
We understand that adopting universal design principles and making your property enjoyable for everyone may require that you take on some additional expenses.
We know that it’s the right thing to do, but is it a good investment?
- Per a United Nations report, “the success of the 2030 Agenda, which pledges to ‘leave no one behind,’ requires a participatory and inclusive approach in which all stakeholders, including persons with disabilities, are engaged.”
- Tourism, in general, has been an essential driver of economic growth, growing consistently for six decades.
- Tourism contributes 4.4% of GDP, 6.9% of employment, and 21.5% of service exports in OECD countries (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).
- Every tourism dollar spent by international visitors generates 89 cents of domestic value-added on average in OECD countries, more than for overall exports, and creates other revenue and jobs in tourist destinations.
- People traveling within their own country account for 75% of tourism expenditure in OECD countries. [iv]
- Many studies have shown the positive economic outcomes for businesses and the hospitality industry when accessibility is provided for.
- Many studies have shown that accessibility contributes to tourism activity and occupancy, increases the customer base and market share, reduces effects of seasonality, exploits competitive advantages, improves profitability, and enhances destination competitiveness. [iv]
- People with differing access needs do travel and are likely to travel with others. According to the Amadeus Accessibility Study, these travelers represent a $70 billion market just in Europe and the USA.
The Future of Inclusive Tourism
While people with different abilities often travel with others, evidence shows that many prefer to engage in independent travel. Businesses need to understand why that might impact them.
Consumers now expect personalization when they shop, and they expect the same from their tourism experiences. The industry will need to understand the motives, decision-making behavior, needs, and experiences of people with a wide range of abilities.
As an industry and a society, we must go beyond wheelchair ramps. We must make our world inclusive to everyone.
As the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design stated so eloquently, “This is not a special requirement for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient, and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits.”
The economic rationale supporting the provision or improvement of accessibility is the driver for operators and industry alike. People with disabilities should be viewed as both market segment and as part of every market segment. [vi]
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Inclusive Restroom Design from Neo-Metro® by Acorn®
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[i] [ii] [iii] [v] [vi] Gillovic, Brielle; McIntosh, Alison. 2020. “Accessibility and Inclusive Tourism Development: Current State and Future Agenda” Sustainability 12, no. 22: 9722. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229722
[iv] OECD Tourism Trends and Policies 2020 https://www.oecd.org/cfe/tourism/2020-Tourism-Brochure.pdf