Tourism for all: people with disabilities, senior citizens and families travelling with small children, and sooner or later all citizens will appreciate the advantages of universal accessibility. This is why UNWTO has chosen to celebrate World Tourism Day 2016 on the theme of accessible tourism. Official celebrations are taking place today at Bangkok, Thailand. The World Tourism Day event started with an amazing performance at the Siam Kempinski Hotel. The opening included a touching rendition of blind people performing and singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
For the last quarter–century World Tourism Day, held annually on 27 September, has aimed to foster awareness of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic impact. This year’s theme is ‘Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility’. Reaching universal accessibility in tourism is a shared responsibility of everybody involved in the tourism value chain, as well as a business opportunity for companies and destinations.
“Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis. Yet 1 billion people around the world living with disability, along with young children, seniors and persons with other access requirements, still face obstacles in accessing fundamentals of travel such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate. Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments are being left behind in many tourism destinations.” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his official message.
“All of the world’s citizens have the right to experience the incredible diversity this planet has to offer. Therefore, it is highly important that all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels”, said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world’s population (1 billion people) is estimated to live with some form of disability. UNWTO is convinced that accessibility for all to tourist facilities, products, and services should be a central part of any responsible and sustainable tourist policy.
“This year’s theme, ‘Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility’, is a challenge for Thailand and the world to recognize the necessity of accessibility in tourism and to accommodate everyone anywhere they may travel to (…) We have to understand the theory of Universal Design (…) As the world of travel and tourism is an expanding industry and the number of travelers increases every year, we have to ensure that travelling the world has to is as safe and seamless as possible,” explained Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand.
During the official event, experts on accessibility and tourism are exchanging views and best practices, addressing the need to work in cooperation to advance in the ‘Tourism for All’ agenda. Creating an adequate policy framework for specific business development strategies, the need to increase awareness and capacity building targeting both decision makers and tourism professionals are some of the topics being addressed during the conference.
The conference will also address innovative strategies in the development of accessible tourism infrastructure, products and services which add value to destinations and enhance their competitiveness on the global tourism market. A number of best practices will be featured with the aim of emphasizing the value of investing in accessibility.