All tourism businesses and institutions should aim to be universally accessible and create barrier-free tourism. This means ensuring tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. Accessible tourism aims to allow tourism destinations to be enjoyed equally by everyone.
As an entrepreneur, you have to consider accessibility of tourism and leisure spaces as a basic quality factor – but you should also see it as an opportunity for differentiation and as a way to attract new customers.
While designing, executing, operating, maintaining and communicating about your tourism business, you must ensure that it is accessible and available to everyone.
Types of accessibility
There are various types of accessibility
- physical accessibility – improving spaces and infrastructure to create an environment where citizens can move around freely
- communication accessibility – helping people with communication difficulties to get their message across via tools and trained staff
- web accessibility – making booking services and related websites easier to access (view the EU tutorial on making your website e-accessible)
How should I adapt my tourism business to be accessible?
Accessible tourism is about making it easy for everyone to enjoy tourism experiences. Making tourism more accessible is not only a social responsibility – there is also a compelling business case for improving accessibility as it can boost the competitiveness of tourism businesses.
Evidence shows that making basic adjustments to a facility, providing accurate information, and understanding the needs of disabled people can result in increased visitor numbers.
Areas that need to be adapted according to subsectors
Tourist information offices
Restaurants and cafés
For more on how to apply physical accessibility measures in your tourism company, consult information on accessible tourism.
Benefits of physical accessibility for your business
- Increase in the potential demand – according to the World Health Organisation, there are over 1 billion permanently disabled people in the world (15% of the world population) – this proportion rises to around 40% of the world population when including other categories of people who may temporarily need accessible services
- ‘Multi-client’ segment – on average, every 2 disabled guests will bring one companion
- Promotion of off-season travel – some senior citizens and disabled people can travel in low season – since these periods are less busy, travellers can often have greater accessibility to services
- Improving the company’s reputation – businesses that offer comprehensive accessibility will be seen in a better light than those that don’t, since they are taking steps to ensure their product or service can be used or enjoyed by everyone.
What is the current legislation on the topic?
Physical accessibility is regulated not only by international and European regulation, but also by national regulation. The main accessibility regulations and other instruments on an international and European level are as follows
- UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities
- The global code of ethics for tourism
- Council of Europe recommendation on ageing and disability
- Council of Europe resolution on universal design to achieve full participation
- Committee of the Ministers recommendation on the action plan to promote the rights and participation of the disabled
- Commission regulation on rights of disabled people in air travel
- visit Britain offers case studies on physical accessibility in tourism.
- watch the ‘Mind the accessibility gap’ conference video summary from June 2014.
- the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT)
- Europe For All accessible tourism directory – where you can register as a provider of accessible tourism services, evaluate your property and get in touch with customers
- learn about some good practices of accessible tourism from the European Capital of Smart Tourism competition’s compendium of best practices
Find out what information you should transmit to disabled people, when this information should be transmitted and how to do so.