Inclusive Tourism Guidebooks

A man holds the hand of a small girl as they wade into the water on the beach.Guidebooks are a good way to approach a new project especially if you don’t know where to start. After all, why not use the experience of others – no need to re-invent the wheel. Here are a few selected posts on this topic for ready reference.

Accessible Tourism for All Manual – UN World Tourism Organization publication.

Inclusive Tourism: Making your business more accessible and inclusive – from Queensland

Make your business accessible – web resource from VisitBritain.

Destinations for All: A guide to creating accessible destinations – from VisitEngland.

Inclusive Tourism: Free online course  – by Local Government NSW.

Inclusive Tourism Marketing Toolkit: Create an Accessibility Guide – by Travability.

Visits4U Access Guide – this one was funded by the EU.

Universal Design: Guide for Inclusive Tourism – from Scott Rains, an early advocate for inclusive tourism.

The Great British Staycation: Growing attraction of the UK for domestic holidaymakers – produced by Barclays Bank.

There are more posts on travel and tourism for you to browse.


Tourism for All Manual

Front page of document showing a pathway between large trees.Accessible Tourism for All: An Opportunity Within our Reach gives an overview of the corresponding Manual on Accessible Tourism for All. There are five separate modules. Module 1 gives a definition and context for accessible tourism. Module 5 provides principles, tools and good practice examples. The other three modules were not found in a search of the UN World Tourism Organization website. There is a companion module, Public-Private Partnerships and Good Practices, which has a European focus. It covers sporting events, transportation, parks and gardens as well as heritage sites with lots of examples.

The 65 page Module 1 is easy to read. There is something for everyone involved in tourism, major events, heritage sites and attractions. Three infographics from the text, and shown below, tell the tourism story at a glance: 1. How Tourism for All is configured; 2. Beneficiaries of accessibility in tourism; and 3. The world’s most populous nations by 2050. 

Chart showing how accessible tourism is one of the three pillars of tourism for all.

Chart showing the various beneficiaries of accessible tourism

Chart showing global population growth 2017-2050. India then China top the list.

Airports and autism

People in warm clothes push their baggage at an airport.Airports and security procedures are stressful for most of us, but for people who are autistic it can be doubly so. Vancouver airport has introduced a simulated rehearsal program to help families with the whole pre-flight process so it becomes more predictable. People who are likely to be overwhelmed by the whole process like to know beforehand what is going to happen and how it all works. This could also include people who are new to air travel, especially now that most processes are automated.

The program includes the Vancouver Airport Resource Kit, which features a step-by-step storybook, interactive checklist, airport map and tips for travel. There is also a video series that helps travellers with autism prepare for the flight. Vancouver airport has an “Autism Access Sticker” that can be placed on boarding passes. The sticker ensures a smooth transition through screening and customs. It also communicates the specific needs of passengers to airport employees. The resource was devised in conjunction with Canucks Autism Network. See the video series below. Very well done – a good model that can be applied to all airports and people with autism.

Best and least accessible cities for tourists

A scene of a medieval part of Luxembourg showing a town square with old building surrounding it.While airlines and airports are making a big effort to be more accessible, the same cannot be said for their tourist destinations. An article on ThiisCo website reports on a new study that has evaluated Europe’s capital cities for accessibility.  Luxembourg takes top spot and Chisinau, Moldova is ranked bottom with four others.  London came in 11th place.  It would be interesting to have the same study done in Australia. The full list and more detail is in the article, Europe’s most and least accessible capital cities ranked for disabled travellers.  Here is the information on Luxembourg:

“The research highlights that the most accessible city in Europe is Luxembourg, with 18.56 percent accessible accommodation available, 33.33 percent accessible attractions, a fully accessible airport, an Access City award and an ongoing council campaign for accessibility.

The small European city had won third prize at the Access City Award 2018 after it actively raised awareness of various disabilities to reduce the stigma associated with them and coined the term “specific needs” to reframe the way people discuss disabilities.

In addition, the city overhauled its public transport system to improve accessibility for all residents and visitors.  

More wheelchair users are flying

Aerial view of a large airport showing seating and shops.Requests for wheelchair assistance grew 30% between 2016 and 2017 according to IATA. Airlines and airports know they need to improve their operations as well as consider assistance for passengers who are mobile but have difficulty getting around airports. The first industry event on this topic was held in November 2019 in Dubai . Here are some of the issues they are attempting to address: 

    • Global policy consistency needed for work on accessibility and inclusion in aviation including airline/ground processes and government regulation
    • Better understanding needed for the requirements of travellers with hidden disabilities
    • Improved and standardised processes needed to streamline handling of mobility aids as the damage rate is too high
    • The importance of training was recognised, especially for passenger-facing roles, to ensure inclusive, empathetic and human-centric service is delivered to travellers with disabilities
    • Inconsistencies in security policies across airports and states for passenger with disabilities need to be addressed

You can also see the IATA Resolution on Passengers with Disabilities.  


Tourism Tips for increased business

A distance view of an English coastal village showing a harbour wall.Holidays for All is a key section in a new research report by Barclays. It is a pity it ends up in the latter part of the report because it applies to all other sections. The tips and case studies in a pdf document cover all aspects of the hospitality and tourism business.  Although the report focuses on the UK domestic tourism market, the principles for improved business are applicable elsewhere. This is a very readable report and the section on holidays for all is worth a look, and it ends with strategies for success with key points from each of the chapters:

  • Know your demographic
  • Foster Loyalty
  • Capture early bookers
  • Add value through collaboration
  • Reap digital dividends
  • Provide options where possible
  • Take them behind the screen
  • Be accessible to all

It is not unusual to find references to accessibility and inclusion somewhere in a subheading of a research report. This is unfortunate because this is the one part that applies to all other sections. See also the economic argument from Simon Darcy.

Autistic people welcome here: A guide

Front cover of the guide shows a family of a boy, woman, man, girl. They look happy.Visit England has produced a guide for tourism venues on welcoming autistic people. A list of characteristics gives an overview of what it is like to be autistic. Having one or more members of the family with autism can make family outings difficult. But it need not be so. Giving people pre-visit information is essential for helping them cope when they arrive. Case studies highlight successful venues and experiences. The top five tips at the end of the 20 page guide are briefly:

    1. Be patient and give the person space during a meltdown
    2. Notify people of changes to services
    3. Help to alleviate social anxiety
    4. Give people plenty of processing time
    5. Take steps to reduce sensory overload  

The National Autistic Society has an annual award process to recognise businesses and venues committed to improving access to their sites and services. They look at customer information, staff understanding, physical environment, customer experience and promoting understanding.

Thrills, spills and inclusion

A brightly coloured horse on a carousel ride.Theme park rides often have rules about who can ride based on body size, health conditions and ability. But these rules are sometimes needlessly excluding. Ride manufacturers’ produce a manual for the park owners with very broad references to disability. These rules are set with the idea of protecting riders. But are these needed?  With enough information most people would self select.

A new paper reports on the accident rates for ride attractions and found that obesity, not usually mentioned in the rules, is responsible for more accidents than those for people with disability. The analysis found that restrictive criteria exclude people with disabilities broadly, while permitting other vulnerable populations to self-determine their participation. Publicly available injury data do not provide evidence to justify the extent of mandatory exclusion.

Using information from 100 amusement ride manufacturers’ manuals, the article reports on eligibility criteria and safety for people with disability, and where disability is reported in an injury. The conclusion is that people with disability are excluded more often than is warranted. “There is no clear evidence that people with disabilities are at undue risk when permitted to self-select”. However, they will need appropriate information so they can make the right decision.

The title of the paper is, Disability and participation in amusement attractions, by Kathryn Woodcock. 

The TreeTops Crazy Rider located on NSW Central Coast is accessible for just about everyone. Check it out. Plenty of thrills there!


Can AI make air travel more convenient?

Inside the cabin of an aircraft, people are queuing in the aisle to take their seats Artifical Intelligence (AI) has the potential to solve some difficult problems. One of these is the many inconveniences of air travel – the security checks, waiting at the gate, and the speed at which passengers board. An interesting article on FastCo website brings us up to date with what is emerging, and what we can expect in the future for air travel. The article covers problems with boarding processes, linking ground transport with air transport, and minimising poor passenger behaviour. How this will support inclusive travel and tourism is something still to be discussed in these articles. However, often mentioned are issues of privacy, potential for abuse, and algorithms based on prevailing societal biases, such as, racism, sexism, and ageism, among others. 

Information: A critical factor in inclusive tourism

A map of Europe with pins placed in capital cities and string lines linking them together.“The basic task of accessible tourism is to stop focusing on the features of disability and to concentrate on various social needs and adjusting the conditions of geographical (social and physical) space to them”. This quote from a new research paper sums up the situation well. The paper focuses on the information aspects of inclusive tourism, particularly online information. It reports on a case study and lists several “rules” for accessible tourist information. The author, Anna Kolodziejczak, laments the lack of consistency of language and description across the inclusive tourism platform. The conclusion sums up the issues well:

Visibility, reliability and up-to-date facts are the basic features of tourist information. An increasing number of publications and internet websites are created for tourists with disabilities. However, due to the principles of both universal design and costs of publication it is advisable to include information on the accessibility of facilities and services in all publications intended for tourists. It ought to be emphasised that tourists, as main subjects of all activities aimed at enabling them to relax in the way they dream, need information at all stages of their journey. To this end, they use various databases of tourist information which, despite having many recipients, have also many creators. Only consistent and systematic cooperation of all information providers and the ability to react quickly to the needs of tourists can make the system work efficiently and the desired
results will be achieved.”

The title of the paper is, Information as a factor of  the development of accessible tourism for people with disabilities.

See also Accessible tourism futures: the world we dream to live in and the opportunities we hope to have. This academic paper discusses the evolving field of accessible tourism. It examines the issues from the position of rights, economics, and universal design. 

For more papers and ideas on inclusive tourism, see the dedicated section on this website. Martin Heng also writes on this topic.