April 2008 Archives

Tirolesa de Panico

About 2 hours outside Sao Paulo is a town called Socorro. Adventure tourism is a central part of the economy there and Parque dos Sonhos (Park of Dreams) plays a leading role.

Among the activities adapted for people with disabilities are rafting, inner tubing, rappelling, canopy walks, off-roading and zip lines.

The top-of-class zip line ("tirolesa" in Portuguese) is called Tirolesa de Panico (The Panic Zip Line!). It runs almost 1 kilometer in the air, over a river, buildings -- and the edge of a very steep rock. Here I am after the 50-second / 1 km aerial trip. In this photo I am modeling the modified ultralight seating that is used for quadriplegics on this two-cable zip line.



A fuller report and photos from REATECH will have to wait for faster Internet connections but meanwhile progress continues in other parts of the world. Here is an example of what Svayam is doing in IndiaÇ

Jallianwala Bagh, a historical landmark in the Indian freedom struggle, is set be accessible to all with Svayam, an initiative of the Sminu Jindal Charitable Trust committed towards making public infrastructure accessible to persons with reduced mobility, and the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) today announced a unique initiative ahead of the occasion of “World Heritage Day” and commemoration of its 89th anniversary.

“Svayam has undertaken an access audit and come out with a set of recommendations for providing and ensuring accessibility to the Jallianwala Bagh complex. The audit has been forwarded to the ITDC, Abha Negi, director, Svayam, said here today.

REATECH in Sao Paulo is truly the largest disability expo I have ever attended.

That said, the other side of the story is told here in this video. Getting around the city is a nightmare. For those who understand Portuguese this bit of journalistic expose is entertaining. (Some small compensation for the inaccessibility of the city):

Video on Disability


The Cape Cod Disability Access Directory is a project of CapeAbilities.

In Sao Paulo for REATCH


REATECH begain with a splash. Nelida Barbeito of Argentina spoke at the opening. I was introduced also but not able to maintin a low profile (until afterwards when the conference video crew grabbed me for an interview in my rudimentary Portuguese.)

Regular Internet access has been difficult to arrange while on the road. Craig Grimes of Accessible Barcelona and Accessible Nicaragua and I have met up. He has been more successful n posting to his blog. Read his humorous entre, Corte Cabelo, for a glimpse of the trip.

Field trips include a site visit to the town of Socorro and another to Brotas. Both specialize in adventure tourism with siginificant investment and growing vendor eexperience in adaptied outdoor sports.

The Socorro experience will incude a zip line (zip wire; tirolesa) that is one kilometer long - plenty of time for second thoughts, Im sure!

This week is Brazil's third national rehabilitation expo and disabbility arts celebration known as REATECH. The event runs April 24-28 and is held in the Centro de Exposições Imigrantes.

This year promoters of inclusive tourism and adaptive sports and recreation are gathering to participate. Architect Silvana Serafina Cambiaghi of São Paulo will be speaking about her new book on Universal Design. Nelida Barbito of Buenos Aires will speak about her work with travelers with disabilities and retrofitting a hotel in Argentina. As previously reported, Ricardo Shimosakai will speak on the inclusive adventure tourism group Turismo Adaptado. Dada Moreira will speak on his adventure tour non-profit Aventura Especial.

In addition, a Bloggers Summit will track the Expo from on site.

Blogger and Inclusive Travel expert Craig Grimes has already begun blogging at his site Accessible Everything.

Eduardo Camara will be blogging in Portuguese at his site Mão na Roda

I will also be blogging from the event and providing links back to these and other bloggers who cover the event.

A public forum held by the Wellington City Council at Te Papa earlier this month was entitled “Tourism for All” and concentrated on a number of aspects around accessible tourism for people with disabilities (PWDs) and seniors. Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is probably the most proactive jurisdiction in the country when it comes to access tourism, and the forum, driven by the council’s Disability reference Group (DRG), was opened by Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast.

Guest speaker Sandra Rhodda from Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth said that the New Zealand tourism and hospitality industry ignores the boomer, senior, and access tourism market to its peril.

Open Letter to José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission:

Brussels, 22 April 2008

Dear President,

It is with great satisfaction that I am writing to you, following public announcements made by your services that a proposal for a European directive fighting discrimination against disabled people will be proposed to the College of Commissioners at the end of June as part of a comprehensive ‘Social package’.

This is the best response that you, together with Commissioner Vladimir Špidla, could give to the ‘1million4disability’ campaign that EDF has led over last year, and that has gathered the support of over 1.364.984 citizens including prominent national and European politicians, representatives of a wide variety of civil society organizations, trade unions, and heads of State. It is also very significant as it is the first citizen’s initiative that is followed up by the European Commission, even before the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. All citizens will rejoice of your decision, as it sets a positive example of democratic dialogue between the European Commission and the people of Europe.

Bathroom Talk


Let's face it. For those of us with spinal cord injuries and many people with mobility impairments bathrooms and bodily processes come up more often in our conversations than is the national average.

The Best Little Outhouse in Town!

An award-winning universally designed public restroom outside Bangkok, Thailand.

Madrid. (EFE).- Las personas sordas podrán comunicarse a través de una aplicación de videollamada on line de alta calidad que se ha presentado hoy por Skype y Logitech en la Asociación de Sordos de Madrid.
Más información sobre enlace www.skype.com

Talking Bus Stops


The e-government Awards in the UK recognize innovation. Talking bus stops in the Brighton & Hove City Council Sustainable Transport system won the award in 2007.


This article from the Cape Cod Times explores disability and citizenship. You can read the whole article here.

Every town on the Cape holds its town meeting in a location that at least meets the minimum standards to be accessible to voters who use wheelchairs.

But town meeting venues aren't always so accommodating for those who are visually or hearing-impaired.

The article goes on to document a lack of awareness of accessibility requirements by towns in the area. With financial pressures to save money this is not a hopeful sign.


May 15-16, 2008
Atlanta, Georgia

CIB Conference Website

CATEA is pleased to join the International Council for Research and Innovation in Building (CIB),the National Research Council, and the Construction Technologies Institution in organizing the Working Commission 084 "Building Comfortable Environments for All" to be held at Georgia Tech's College of Architecture.

Topic areas are related to Accessibility and Usability of the built environment, including:

* Economic Issues of Accessibility
* Harmonization of Legislation and Standards
* Sports, Recreation and Accessible Environments
* Education and Training
* Universal Design at the Urban Scale
* Technological Tools Supporting the Accessible Environment

The objectives of the CIB WG084/2008 Meeting are to explore and discuss:

* Challenges, issues and priorities that concern creating a built environment for all;
* How developing countries can address these challenges, what may be learned and adapted from developed countries, and how we can all join together to meet the international goal of creating a built environment for all;
* How research and innovation can be used to help all countries address current and future demands of building inclusive environments for all.

The Conference Registration fee will include a continental breakfast, lunch and breaks for the two days. To register and pay by credit card: Georgia Tech's EPay System

* Early registration (on or before April 30) - $125 USD
* Late registration (May 1 – May 16) - $135 USD

Please contact Trin Intra at CATEA for more information about registration.
Phone: 404-894-0954
Email: trin.intra@coa.gatech.edu

Reuters has done a story on the suit car designers use to to experience disability. See the full article but note this attention to market realities justifying Universal Design:

Launched in a rapidly graying nation where over 40 percent of the population is expected to be over 65 age by mid-century...

Over 40 percent of Nissan's Japanese and U.S. sales are to customers over 50 years old, according to the company.

I take his development to be a positive sign. This announcement was in my Inbox when I got home today:

The Global Universal Design Commission (GUDC) is a new non-profit organization that has been established to promote the adoption of universal design. It is modeled after the Green Building Council which has played an important role in increasing adoption of sustainable design practices in the building industry. Our intent is to address the need for greater usability in buildings in response to many social trends, e.g. the aging of society, globalization and social diversity.

Our first activity will be to develop voluntary guidance standards for applying universal design to commercial buildings. These standards will complement existing accessibility standards and regulations. In fact, we expect that no building will receive an accreditation from the GUDC if it does not meet accessibility regulations as a basic requirement and thus, our work will improve compliance with access laws. Like the GBC's LEED standards, the UD Standards will provide a rating system to accredit buildings that address higher levels of usability than accessibility codes and include issues beyond their scope.

The UD Standards will be flexible and allow each project to achieve accreditation in different ways in response to different conditions. Points will be awarded in different categories and there will be a graduated level of achievement based on a percentage of total points received. Neither the rating system nor the accreditation levels have been established, but work is underway on a preliminary draft that will be presented to the public at a kick-off meeting at the end of May. Attached is an announcement for that meeting. An open process will be used to develop the UD Standards, including the conceptual framework for the rating system and levels. The preliminary draft will simply be a point of departure.

We welcome your involvement in this process and the new Commission and hope that you will be able to attend the kick-off meeting for the standards development project.

*This activity is partially supported by the RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment through funding from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.


Reatech Disability Expo


Reatech is a disability expo in Sao Paulo Brazil. This year there will be a significant contingent representing Inclusive tourism. Presenters on the topic will attend from the US, Argentina, Nicaragua, and throughout Brazil.


Airline Services to Deaf Passengers


There is quite furor spreading through the Philippines, Australia, and Southeast Asia about the treatment of deaf airline passengers and rightly so. It is the slippery slope phenomenon affecting those with mobility impairments, service animals, oxygen needs, and other human with the normal range of abilities that this species comes with.

Here is an articulate story - in American Sign Language. But don't stop with the video read the active commentary documenting this phenomenon at http://www.seekgeo.com/?p=821Seek Geo

This note from Sweden's Independent Living Institute:

The Independent Living Institute Accessible Vacation Home Exchange service has been greatly improved. It is now possible for you to add, delete, and revise your own entry, as well as add photos.

Swapping homes with other persons with similar needs, in other parts of the world, is a low-cost and practical alternative. You can find out in advance how accessible the vacation home is, since you can ask your swap partner relevant questions. And, unlike most other tourists, you’ll have an infrastructure of neighbors and local contacts in place as you arrive.

As the number of visitors to the Independent Living Institute website continues to grow, so will the exposure of your offer to swap homes.

Please take a look at www.independentliving.org/vacaswap.html and contact me, should you have any questions.

Thanking you,



"Ludwig van Beethoven (the famous deaf composer) would not be allowed to fly alone on a Tiger Airways flight if he were alive today, because of the Singapore-owned airline's purported policy on deaf passengers."

A representative of Tiger Airways Australia told the group last month they could not make an interstate flight without a care provider who could hear. The group was allowed on the March 4 flight eventually, but was then sent a note by the flight attendant that they will not be allowed to fly alone on the airline again, the Herald Sun newspaper reported.

Airline Slammed on Deaf Policy

Parul Sharma in The Hindu on April 7th about improvement for travelers with disabilities using the New Delhi airport. What is not clear is whether or not these features arise from active participation by people with disabilities and their organizations (DPOs) or whether they are best guesses of the real needs of users provided by non-disabled "experts."

The responsibility lies with disabled people of India to assure that it is the former and not the latter. It is a responsibility they carry on behalf of other communities of people with disability from around the world -- and not a light burden in the face of the huge infrastructure investment being made by India on airport upgrades.

What the Indian disability community does today will be the legacy left to several generations in the future. This is the moment for it to step out on the international stage in a position of moral leadership and technical competence. Is the Indian disability community rising to the challenge?

I have not seen architect Ron Wickman 's project but if it can be described with the headline, "Signs of accessibility are subtle, lost in the style" then I am satisfied that it was a success. And it's sustainble because it will work throughout the lifespan of the owner.

He gets it. We want style not sterility in barrier-free environments.

It is the subtle details in his home that architect Ron Wickman likes to talk about -- the lowered light switches, raised electrical outlets, sloping walkway to his front door and wide, bright hallways.

Those unobtrusive features make his stylish and attractive house a "universal" design, meaning it is accessible to disabled people and flexible in its uses.

His focus was on accessibility and sustainability. So, in addition to the wider doorways and lowered door handles, the house is oriented toward the sun, its long, south wall filled with windows... He sees that flexible, universal design as a good fit with his other area of interest, sustainability. "Universal design is about sustainability. If I design a house that you don't have to modify in the future, then haven't I done something that's really sustainable."

The age inversion overtaking many developed countries is playing out this way in Israel right now as the hospitality industry there foolishly fails to take note of the trend. Locked into a "compliance mentality" where the only motivation to accommodate travelers with disabilities is in response to legal mandate, they consider travelers with disabilities as a cost center rather than a growth market:

As Israel braces itself for what the Tourism Ministry predicts will be the biggest summer for tourism in the state's 60-year history, activists for disabled rights are expressing anger over the lack of hotel facilities for those with special needs.

"There is such apathy here," Miami resident and regular visitor to Israel Michael Zwebner told The Jerusalem Post this week. "It's really surprising that the laws [on disabled access] are not taken seriously and there is no enforcement as such." *

The argument goes (with no awareness of its Alice-in-Wonderland quality of topsy-turvy logic):

"We checked out the demand for these types of rooms and saw that requests are very low," [Shmuel Zurel, director-general of the Israel Hotels Association] said. "It's difficult for hotels to rent out such rooms to a person who doesn't have disabilities." *

And why is the demand low? Simple. They didn't build it so we didn't come.

And who is "we"? Partly it is the 42 million Americans who spend $13.6 billion annually on travel.

And why are these "special" rooms difficult to rent out to Temporarily Able-Bodied People? Because they were not built using Universal Design. They are merely made accessible - and that as an afterthought. The rooms are stigmatized as is the very language used. People with disabilities are not "special." They are customers. And they are going elsewhere.


Disabled tourists to find 'unfriendly' hotels

Accessible Escape


accessible escapes logo.jpg

Accessible Escapes is the newest Inclusive Tourism travel agency on the block in the US. With itineraries to Italy they have ambitious plans to expand worldwide. The web site includes the Web 2.0 functionality necessary to succeed at their highly personalized approach -- membership, blog, bulletin board, photo and video sharing:

Accessible Escapes aims to provide a more compelling alternative to standard accessible travel options. Their goal is to share an authentic travel experience through getting to know the people, culture and landscape of every destination. They specialize in small groups and individualized attention, allowing clients to set the pace and, whenever possible, select the sites that best suit their needs and interests. Founders Jennifer Wittman and Loredana Caminiti personally visit and establish relationships in every city to which Accessible Escapes travels.

The First National Conference on Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities March 27-28, 2008 at the Great Eastern Hotel, Quezon City, Philippines. The objectives of the conference were "to promote transport accessibility as an entry point to building a non-handicapping environment for persons with disabilities."

At the end of the Conference the participants shall have:

• Developed common inter-sectoral understanding and dialogue on public transport and accessibility issues.
• Linked the call for accessible transportation to efforts on creating non-handicapping public transport facilities and physical environments.
• Identified the consideration needed for drawing an intervention plan for increasing inter-sectoral partnership for transport and accessibility issues.
• Recommended measures to address the identified gaps and issues in the public transportation system that limits the mobility of persons with disabilities resulted from the regional transport summits held in 2007.
• Drawn and formulated a National Plan of Action for an accessible public transportation system for persons with disabilities in the country.

below is the conference Delaration of Support and Commitment.

We have been describing Universal Design as:

...an orientation to any design process that starts with a responsibility to the experience of the user. It has a parallel in the green design movement that also offers a framework for design problem solving based on the core value of environmental responsibility. Universal Design and green design are comfortably two sides of the same coin but at different evolutionary stages. Green design focuses on environmental sustainability, Universal Design on social sustainability.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and First Community Housing have delivered on the green/UD link:

In San Jose, First Community Housing's 35-unit Gish Apartments earned the LEED for Homes certification. The group serves transit-oriented families as well as those with developmental disabilities.

"Green homes perform better than the average home," [LEED council spokeswoman Ashley] Katz said. "They're a healthier place to live with a smaller environmental footprint. It's like a tighter envelope."

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who offered up a green vision for the city last fall, attended Monday's ceremony. Afterward, he said his staff has started counting solar roofs in San Jose, and that fewer than 500 are now in place. His goal is 100,000 solar roofs in San Jose over the next 10 years.

Sustainable and inclusive destination development works even in Silicon Valley.


Life on the Beach


wheelchair landeez

Beach access for wheelchair users is an issue being addressed in in creative ways: ramps, boardwalks, Mob-Mats, and all-terrain wheelchairs. Shared Adventures of Santa Cruz, California has added a Landeez Beach Wheelchair to the collection of options available to the public in that beach town:

We often receive questions about beach wheelchairs. Locals and travelers alike would like to know where to rent one so that they can experience our majestic and famous coastline from the sand.

The city of Santa Cruz currently does have a beach chair program, but it is very limited in certain aspects and they can only be used onsite at three beaches.

In many instances, someone needs a beach wheelchair to attend a specific event (such as a wedding) or to visit an alternate site. There is no other place locally that rents them out, so we have not had anywhere to refer these many people. We are the ONLY place in Santa Cruz that offers a beach wheelchair available to rent on a daily (or weekly) basis!


ADA: US is Playing With Broken Toys


The 20th nation has ratified the United nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD.)

Ecuador was the tipping point nation. This means that the document will attain force of law on May 3.

It is no secret that the United States has not been supportive of this culmination of 30 year's work by the disability community. The US disability community has written and vigorously promoted the ADA Restoration Act as a remedy to US abdication of the core intent of the ADA. It now appears that the next phase in the backslide will take the form of benign disinterest and subtle claims that the ADA and CRPD are equivalent. It remains for the united disability community to mount an effective public education initiative to turn aside such patronizing dismissal of our political will as:

"We recognize that many other states may consider the convention a useful tool as they develop their own national framework for persons with disabilities," said U.S. mission spokesman Richard Grenell.

"But for the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 2001, was the most sweeping legislation to provide access for people with disabilities."


The momentum for justice on disability rights has bypassed the United States. Case in point, in practice the ADA does not provide the coherent and fundamental human rights affirmation on leisure and tourism contained in Chapter 30 of the Convention.

Speaking to US readers explicitly for the moment - It is in our best interest as a nation to admit our failure to live up to our own promise as embodied in the ADA. It is time to join the international community rather than cower behind protests of having been "first." Protests of psuedo-support are a disingenuous disservice to the disability community. False assurances that the existing - and complacent - US system is the endpoint to be sought is also a disservice to business. Without a vision equivalent to that of Chapter 30 of the CRPD the tourism industry in the US will fall further and further behind the rest of the world.

By Ivor Ambrose, European Network for Accessible Tourism

Mrs. Waterman, who wrote to Athens News (Letters to the Editor, 14 March 2008) is, of course, absolutely right. Her husband has a medical condition preventing him from climbing stairs. But when travelling on a Greek ferry they were initially refused access to the lift to take them from the car deck to the passenger decks, as Mr. Waterman does not have a disability permit nor does he use a wheelchair, both of which, they were told, are required by “The Regulations”. Only after a hefty argument were they allowed to take the lift, and then only with the unsettling message that this was an exception, not to be repeated.

The regulations for carrying passengers in lifts may have made sense to the team of bureaucrats who penned them but in applying the rule in practice, common sense is thrown overboard, the ship’s captain becomes a sea monster and the fare-paying passengers have the prospect of experiencing what should be a delightful Mediterranean sea journey from the confines of the ship’s bilges.

Bed too high for wheelchair

Hattie Bernstein of the Nashua Telegraph reports on a new resource for slow walkers and those with impairments. She writes that the site, oxymoronically named www.NEHandicap Access.com:

A bed too high

...provides information about access to public places in New England for anyone who depends on a wheelchair, crutches, braces, a walker or a cane for mobility.

The site, www.NEHandicap Access.com, which lists restaurants, parks, museums, stadiums, theaters and other public venues, has been up and running for only a few weeks.

[Site owner Jerry] Biddle, who retired for medical reasons and uses a wheelchair, said his "epiphany" was a family vacation; while visiting his son in Connecticut, he and his wife booked a room at a nearby hotel that advertised itself as "accessible."

"I couldn't get into the room," Biddle said. "I could get into the handicapped bathroom, but I couldn't get to the bed."

From Tourism-Review.com


April issue cover Tourism-Reviw
A special issue of the magazine Ethical has been published on Barrier-Free Tourism. The 13 page pdf download is available here.

Articles include:

Tourism Accessible for All in Europe
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For those who associate tourism only with holiday and leisure and luxury it should be mentioned that tourism is a sector of remarkable economic importance. The European tourism economy contributes to about 5 % (depending on its definition up to 11 %) to the GDP of the European Union and provides between 8 and 24 million jobs (depending on the definition of the sector). Furthermore, it should be taken into account that tourism is indispensably linked with travel...

Case Study: Economic Advantages of Accessible Tourism in Germany
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In November 2002 Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour commissioned a project group, comprising the University of Münster and the consulting firms NEUMANNCONSULT and Reppel + Lorenz, to conduct a study on the economic impulses of accessible Tourism for All. For the first time reliable data and statements were brought together, which represent the customer’s potential and manner regarding accessible Tourism in Germany...

Merging Architecture and Accessibility
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In the Nordic countries, improving disabled people's access to museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions has been an important consideration for a number of years. It is evident that museum buildings and the way displayed objects are presented should embrace all visitors; one of the challenges confronting museums at the turn of the twenty-first century is to ensure the greatest possible accessibility for all without compromising the architectural expression...

Providing Services in an Accessible Manner
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Access is about the absence of barriers to the use of facilities. Although this is usually seen in terms of physical access or access to informa¬tion and communication, poorly trained staff can represent a serious barrier for disabled people if they are unable to provide services in an appropriate, non-discriminatory way...
Barrier-Free Asia?

Disability Rights Fund

Press Release:

BOSTON, MA – The Open Society Institute, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, and an anonymous donor today announced a groundbreaking collaborative to support the human rights for people with disabilities.

Launched on the first anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), the Disability Rights Fund will provide financial support for human rights advocacy in the developing world and Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union. The broad objective of the Fund will be to empower disabled persons organizations around the world to effectively implement and monitor the CPRD.

“The Fund is a unique partnership among donors and the worldwide disability community,” said Emily Martinez, Director of Special Initiatives at the Open Society Institute. “It will directly support the human rights work of disabled persons organizations in the developing world.”

Dr. Donald Hawkins is interviewed at the Ashoka Geotourism Challenge. He gives a good overview of how ecotourism is morphing into geotourism and cites some of the necessary alliances -- pro-poor tourism and gender equity. Apparently we need to do more public education about the economic realities of disability and Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) for the disability community to regularly be cited in the litany of the ecosystem of geotourism allies:

While ecotourism is still associated with the natural environment, there is now a sensitivity to the cultural dimension as well, and strong emphasis on engaging and involving the communities that surround very valued, high-quality cultural and natural resources. This is one of the challenges we have in the years ahead: we have more work to do in finding ways of tapping into tourism—which is really the largest ever transfer of wealth from rich to the poorer countries. ... is there potential for creating more business-related activities—such as tours, interpretation, facilities, or ecolodges—where consumers pay for services rendered and the money then sticks within the local communities in gateways near the protected areas?

He goes on to answer Lou D'Amore's question and the one we addressed in the Ecumenical Council on Tourism's anniversary issue of the Contours journal:

Can tourism be used to address the causes of conflict and war?

What we really need is the freedom to travel anywhere we want in the world, and to be safe and secure. Freedom to travel, and safety and security, are probably the main concerns that people who live in these places are concerned about too.

Then there’s the whole education side of travel. It is such an intensive opportunity to learn and gain practical exposure to the world. We certainly need more of that people-to-people contact in this day and age where there is so much conflict.

Now we are bringing together Lou D’Amore’s International Institute For Peace Through Tourism and the Institute for Corporate Responsibility (ICR), a new institute that has been created at the GW School of Business, to collaborating. They will be offering a symposium in May titled “Peace Through Commerce, Tapping the Potential of the Global Travel Industry.”