FRAMING THE SUMMIT
Tourism, Culture & Transportation : A Common Strategy at the International Level
The Destinations for All World Summit 2014 welcomes practitioners and researchers from around the world to come together to exchange experiences and discuss the vital issues concerning the inclusion of people with disabilities and specific access requirements in tourism and travel.
The aim of the Summit is to review the achievements that have been made in the world's leading accessible destinations, regions and cities, to share and discuss best practices and methods and to chart a course for the development of One World of Inclusive Tourism for Everyone.
- The Challenge of Accessibility in Global Tourism. There are about one billion people worldwide who have disabilities. Currently, that is about 15% of the total population. This percentage is expected to increase due to the aging population. Because disability increases with age, the large Baby Boomer generation is set to retire over the next 15 to 20 years and surveys show that they intend to travel in their retirement. By 2020, 40% will have some form of disability. Consequently, the tourism industry will be impacted by the current and future number of people with disabilities, and must adapt to this clientele by embracing accessibility in order to remain profitable and sustainable. This market is already too large to ignore, and will become even more so.
- The Economic Benefits of Inclusive Tourism, Culture, and Transport. The Baby Boomer generation - at least in the West - holds a significant amount of assets, has the most disposable spending power, and will control 50% of total tourism spending by 2020. Like other people, people with disabilities tend to travel with friends and/or family. That means that if a tourism business or service is inaccessible to any person with a disability travelling in a group it may therefore miss out on the potential economic return from the entire group. It is predicted that the accessible tourism market, although under-served, will account for 25% of total tourism spending by 2020. Countries, regions, cities, and enterprises that can fulfil the needs and aspirations of this market will gain competitive advantage over those that don't. In addition, many seniors have the possibility to travel all year round, so the effect of seasonality can be smoothed out by targeting this group.
- The Global Need for Sustainable Development: There is an increasing interest and investment by international bodies and governments in sustainable development. In order to develop sustainably, any industry must meet human needs while ensuring current and future sustainability of natural systems and environments. The human needs that must be met include the needs of the growing number of people with disabilities. Therefore, the tourism industry cannot become sustainable unless it improves and includes access for everyone in its development. Development that is both sustainable and inclusive is also an investment with many returns at the local, national, and international level. These include social and economic development and investment, employment and, wealth creation, and social sustainability for local communities.
- The importance and impact of international conventions and national human rights legislation to the development of accessible tourism. The right of people with disability to access tourism is now enshrined in international treaties and increasingly in national legislation. The United NationsConvention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities -, which so far has 158 signatories - clearly lays out that people with disabilities have a right to access the physical environment, transportation, communications, recreation, leisure, tourism, and sporting activities. The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism adopted by the UN World Tourism Organization in 1999 states that tourism activities should (amongst other things) respect the individual rights of ...the elderly, the handicapped, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples. Governments have enacted legislation that protects the right to access by people with disabilities that can be applied to tourism products and services. In addition, there is a growing interest in governments and across all industries to be acknowledged for corporate social responsibility. In tourism, accessible tourism provides the perfect tool to show that a company, a destination, or even a state or nation takes responsibility for its impact on social well-being.
At this first World Summit we invite all actors and stakeholders to build, with us, a common framework for action, seeking to ensure that all tourism destinations and providers have the tools and strategies to make their environments, products, services and information accessible and inclusive to all visitors.
It is time for all players in the tourism industry, big and small, to address and embrace this growing market and to cater to those who currently do not travel as much as they would like, have fewer choices when travelling, and whose experience of the world is governed by barriers which we have the ability to remove.
Through examples of best practice cases, hard evidence and inspirational presentations, this Summit will show that Achieving Accessibility is a 'Win-Win-Win' for Destinations, Businesses, and Customers.
A Question of Rights
Today, almost one person in ten in the world is over the age of 60. By 2050 that figure will be one in 5. There is a strong correlation between age and disability. Two thirds of people with disabilities are seniors. The needs of this growing population include physical, sensory and cognitive accessibility to enable them to travel and to participate in tourist sites and activities around the world. Accessible tourism is a fast growing market, but one that is still often ignored or poorly catered to.
The United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into effect in 2008, and binds States to take measures to provide people with disabilities with what includes the following:
"...on an equal basis with others, [have access] to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, (...) and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas." (Article 9)
"With a view to enabling persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:
(e.) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to services from those involved in the organization of recreational, tourism, leisure and sporting activities." (Article 30)1
According to Article 30 of this Convention, States recognize the right of people with disabilities to participate in cultural activities, and will take all measures needed to ensure that everyone has access to cultural products in accessible formats, and to sites featuring cultural activities, including theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries, and tourism services, and, as much as possible, to heritage monuments and sites.
A Question of Ethics
People with disabilities travel like everyone else: for business, for pleasure, to visit family and friends, and to discover other cultures. Tourism may be seen by many as a luxury but increasingly it is regarded as a right. For tourism destinations and operators, catering to these customers is not only a moral obligation but also an economic opportunity.
Tourism is an integration vector, being widely recognised for its inherent potential to engender understanding between peoples of different backgrounds. Assessing a tourist destination's accessibility means verifying the accessibility of its tourist services, hotels and restaurants, transportation, attractions and commerce.
Tourism is also an internationalintegration vector: a tourist destination will want to be recognized according to international criteria; thus including accessibility for people with disabilities.
The Global Code of Ethics for Tourism adopted by the World Tourism Organization in 1999 states:
"Tourism activities should respect the equality of men and women; they should promote human rights and, more particularly, the individual rights of the most vulnerable groups, notably children, the elderly, the handicapped, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples."
The Code covers various areas of application including consumer protection, corporate responsibility, the protection of children and of the most vulnerable segments of the population, cultural and environmental sustainability, dialogue between cultures, as well as its vision of tourism as a factor for development and for the promotion of fundamental human rights, in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
In 2011, UNWTO formulated a Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism2, for the signatures of private businesses worldwide. In signing the commitment, companies pledge to uphold, promote and implement the values of responsible and sustainable tourism development championed by the Code. They further undertake to report on their implementation of the Code's principles in their corporate governance to the World Committee on Tourism Ethics. A special focus on social, cultural and economic matters is one of the main objectives of the Commitment, which draws particular attention to issues such as human rights, social inclusion, gender equality, accessibility, and the protection of vulnerable groups and host communities.
As of October 2013, 175 companies and associations from around the world have signed the Private Sector Commitment to the Code of Ethics. These signatories include businesses from Armenia, Bahrain, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hong Kong (China),Indonesia, Lithuania, Mexico, People's Republic of China, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, The Netherlands, Tunisia, Turkey, Spain,Sweden, and Uruguay as well as two regional associations from Latin America and Europe.
A Question of Sustainable Development
It is a commonly held assumption in Western society that, to ensure long-term sustainability, economic development must embody both the physical environment and society in general. Too often, however, we limit sustainable development to the physical environment at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.
Development essentially looks to the future. Designing a building or even a destination to be accessible to those with disabilities can be done with little or no "additional" expense if this goal is incorporated at the planning and project specification stage. In this way, access contributes to sustainability by fostering better management of resources, reducing the need for renovations or adaptations to buildings later in their life-span. Moreover, meeting the needs of people with disabilities improves accessibility for everyone.
Sustainable development must be inclusive. Inclusive development means offering all citizens an obstacle-free living environment that contributes to their quality of life, safety and well-being. Sustainable, inclusive environments and management practices are equally good for communities and those who come as visitors.
For numerous international organizations, the objectives to be followed at the international level, beyond the Millennium Goals, must focus on the respect of human rights, both fundamental rights as well as sustainable development principles.
Development that is both sustainable and inclusive is also an investment with many returns at the local, national, and international level. These include social and economic development and investment, employment and wealth creation, and social sustainability for local communities.
An Economic Opportunity
Developing tourism destinations for all is not only a political and social obligation - it is also a major economic opportunity. The ageing demographic is already impacting the demand for accessible holiday experiences and as numbers of older travellers increase globally, businesses must respond to these changes in order to make their offers relevant and attractive to the senior market.
Worldwide, there are over 1 billion people with some form of disability and with friends and family there are over 4 billion or almost a third of world's population directly affected by disability. The tourism industry must rise to the challenge of the changing demographic structure of the market and re-examine its product and service offerings. It is predicted that the accessible tourism market, although under-served, will account for 25% of total tourism spending by 2020. Looking forward just a few years, the proportion of people with disabilities will only continue to rise, given the general ageing of the population. The retiring Baby Boomer generation in western countries, in particular, will have a significant impact on the tourism market: they will control 50% of total tourism spending, 40% of then will have some form of disability, and by 2020, 25% of total worldwide tourism spending will be by travellers with a disability (McKinsey, 2007)3.
For the tourism sector this opens up a wide range of opportunities for creating new products and services more suited to changing market demands. Existing infrastructures and facilities must be improved and new projects in transport, buildings and the built environment should be created through the practice of universal design, ensuring that the tourists of tomorrow will enjoy an inclusive experience having the support, comfort and safety they need, rather than facing new barriers and challenges.
Despite the economic recession, the tourism sector is showing its ability to rebound, producing growth and jobs where other industries are slowing or in decline. Investing in accessibility gives destinations the opportunity of reaching a wider market and brings better prospects for communities - their businesses and citizens - both in economic terms and in a greatly improved quality of life.
The 'new frontier' for tourist destinations and companies lies in creating better services and better value for all customers. In particular, serving the active, older customer provides compelling economic incentives. Countries, regions, cities and enterprises that can fulfill the needs and aspirations of this under-serviced market will gain competitive advantage over those that stick to their old recipes. Contrary to the stereotypes, older and disabled customers have just as wide a range of tastes and interests as any others and all areas of tourism can benefit by improving access. Widening the client base to all those who require good access also has other advantages, such as softening the effect of seasonality, as many of these visitors can travel off-season, not being bound by school or industrial holidays.
At a time when economic stagnation and recession still threatens the global economy, the travel industry is showing some resilience, although positive trends are by no means present in all regions and countries. It is time for all players in the tourism industry, big and small, to address and embrace the wider market: to reach out to those 25% or so, who are still obliged to travel less, whose choices are limited, and whose experience of the world is governed by barriers which we have the ability to remove.
1 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml