This paper aims to add further knowledge on the importance of accessible tourism, what benefits it brings and its challenges for the right implementation. The main focus is placed on accessible environment for physically impaired people. The accessible tourism supply sides of Berlin and Paris are analysed.
Keywords: Accessibility, Accessible Tourism, Accessible Environment, Disability, Physical Disability.
In today’s world, a lot of people are enjoying the opportunity to travel, visit attractions, participate in different activities, nonetheless, there is a large number of people who are facing access difficulties, whether it is linked to physical or psychological conditions, and are not able to do so. They tend more often to hold themselves back from participating in activities, such as travelling, due to facing inaccessible environment. Creating accessibility for every human being is not only a social responsibility but also it brings many benefits alongside. By understanding and fulfilling the needs of people with disability, delivering precise information, adjusting facilities, destinations improve the quality of local lives as well as increase number of arrivals. In 2005, the demand for the accessibility in Europe alone was raised by 120 million people and it has been forecasted that the demand will increase beyond 160 million by 2025 (Bowtell, 2015). These numbers present the significance of accessible tourism and its extensive future growth, nonetheless, the demand for a better accessibility is often disregarded and unfulfilled despite the rapid market development. A significant number of destinations, which are still not fully barrier-free to this day, not only limits choice for travel but also causes potential loss of income for the destination. It was estimated that in 2012, more than 5 million people were wheelchair users, and the number keeps increasing mainly due to the aging population. However, the European Network for Accessible Tourism study (2015), indicated that more than 3 million tourism businesses were not capable of delivering appropriate accessibility services in Europe and only less than 10% of Europe’s tourism services have some level of establishments for travellers, who face access difficulties.
The awareness reflecting importance of accessibility has been raised more and more frequently. United Nations’ (UN) took a step further and initiated in 2011, “Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. The document was signed by all European Union (EU) members and were required to protect the rights of disabled. It has been noted that some countries-initiated addition standards and legislations for the better accessibility, for instance Germany. The country adjusted public buildings, facilities, public transport and streets in order to provide better accessibility and be barrier-free for any person who wants to enjoy the country. German National Tourist Board (GNTB) continuously made improvements and developments for services and products, which would be accessible to any person wanting to enjoy and experience Germany. Airports, train stations, subways, busses, provide the best wheelchair access for the people in need. The most of the city’s attractions are wheelchair friendly, while the others have an alternative entrance to get around the steps.
Nevertheless, not all the countries aim to contribute and maximise their ability to create the best accessibility as possible for everyone, having in mind particularly the capital of France, Paris. It is devastating for people having mobility issues to use Paris underground transport networks as only 9 stops out of 303 are fully accessible for physically impaired people. In the comparison with other major cities, Paris Metro is considered to be one of the least accessible services for mobility impaired people. In addition, not all of the attractions in Paris are generally wheelchair accessible and as the city preserves its heritage and buildings from the 19th century, most of the entrances feature one or two steps, which is a barrier for wheelchair users and limit their independency.
However, accessible tourism represents a massive challenge for destinations in order to create a full accessibility. Countries are facing certain issues, which restrict to provide full accessibility: restraining government initiatives, economic backwardness, incorrect society concepts regarding disability, lack of organised movement of disable people, over population, absence of accessibility legislations. Nonetheless, by making destinations and their attractions as accessible as possible, many benefits come in place. For instance, people with disabilities prefer not so overcrowded places, which will benefit destination on its low season, they are holding higher income and spend while travelling, also, re-visiting same place over and over again and also usually travelling not alone, but with a companion and etc.
Even though the society is more aware of the needs of disabled people in today’s world, the accessible tourism is still a complex and a niche market, which requires additional attention and services being put in place. Undoubtedly, the market will keep increasing mainly due to the aging population, however, it is essential to research this market more profoundly and raise awareness of countries contributing in order to be able to provide appropriate services and products.
Bowtell, J. (2015) Assessing the value and market attractiveness of the accessible tourism industry in Europe: a focus on major travel and leisure companies, Journal of Tourism Futures, Vol. 1 Issue: 3, 203-222.
European Network for Accessible Tourism (2015) Final Report: EU Study Mapping in Performance Check on the Supply of Accessible Tourism Services in Europe, European Network for Accessible Tourism, Brussels.
Packer, T. L., McKercher, B. and Yau, M. K. (2007) Understanding the Complex Interplay between Tourism, Disability and Environmental Context. Disability and Rehabilitation, 29, 281-292.