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.

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

Can tourism improve walkability?

brick paved footpath with planter boxes with flowers .If local and state governments aren’t listening to residents about mobility, walkability, and wheelability then perhaps they might consider visitors and tourists with money to spend locally. But are they really interested in the extra tourist dollars? Does the local Chamber of Commerce think it’s all too difficult to create greater access and inclusion? The walkability issue isn’t just about footpaths, seating and toilets – it’s about all the links in the chain to make it happen – joined up thinking. Otherwise we end up with islands of access and inclusion. And you can’t be a bit inclusive – it either is or it isn’t. That means business, community and governments need to work in unison on the design of physical environments, customer service and tourist information. And of course the reverse of the question is, “Can walkability improve tourism?”

Accessibility and Equitable Tourism Services for Travelers with Disabilities: From an Charitable to a Commercial Footing, takes a corporate and social responsibility perspective on some of these issues. You will need institutional access for a free read – published in Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility in Tourism, where there is further reading.

A research paper from Turkey, Assessment of factors influencing walkability in shopping streets of tourism cities is also worth a read. They found that “Urban planning and design should focus on how to connect people and places together, by creating cities that focus on connectivity, accessibility, crime security, traffic safety, and comfort
and use’. 

You can find some inclusive tourism guides, magazine articles and research papers in the tourism section on this website

A less lonely planet with inclusive tourism

Martin Heng is in a very busy street in India. It shows donkey carts cars and bicycles with street vendors on either side.International travel is a great experience for everyone especially when operators get on board with inclusive thinking. In his latest article, Martin Heng goes beyond the rights arguments to explain the economics of inclusive travel. With a growing market of older travellers tourism and travel businesses need to step up to take advantage. Heng also picks up the issue of terminology: “accessible” makes people think of compliance for wheelchair users. But he rightly points out that wheelchair users are a small proportion of the population that has some kind of disability or chronic health condition. That’s why we should be calling it “inclusive travel”. 

Heng goes on to list the easy, cost effective things that businesses can do. And not just thinking about the building. Easy to read fonts on menus and other information materials, TVs with captioning options, and websites that provide relevant visitor information about rooms, attractions and services. The article has several pictures showing Martin in various overseas locations. The title is What is accessible travel, and why should we be talking about it? Martin Heng works for Lonely Planet as their Accessible Travel Manager. 

Image courtesy Martin Heng from his article. 

Reaching for the coffee

Distance view of the hotel which is three storeys high.Scandic has embraced the principles of universal design throughout its hotel chain for more than ten years. This makes for an interesting case study in inclusive tourism because it goes deep into hotel operations. So it is not all about wheelchair accessible rooms – it is much more. And as always with customer service, it is the little things, such as being able to reach the coffee cups at the breakfast bar. The article on the Norwegian Inclusive Design website, is short and to the point and shows how all hotels can benefit from small but effective changes to practices. The video below shows how they took a universal design approach. The architect said it was more about use of materials than wheelchair circulation space.

The best evidence on that we are doing something right came from a guest. She told me that when she is staying at Scandic she is treated like a regular guest, not a disabled one”.  Magnus Berglund, Scandic. 

Travel magazine focuses on inclusion

Front cover of the magazine showing a family at the Vivid Sydney festival. The father is sitting in a wheelchair. His wife and two children surround him.A new magazine, Travel Without Limits, is specifically aimed at individuals and families living with disability. The first issue is 48 pages of information, personal stories of travel experiences from around the world, and of course travel advertisements. It also contains travel tips for people with specific disabilities from small children to older adults. The publisher is Travel with Special Needs which also runs a website with holiday information.

Editor’s Note: This online magazine is on the Issuu platform which, in my opinion, is not the most accessible. Even expanding the page size 200% did not help the small size or clarity of the font. I couldn’t see an option to download a PDF version. It will be interesting to see if the magazine improves matters for people with disability when they travel. My feedback about a successful trip has more to do with the quality and availability of the information about accessibility, as well as staff competence in welcoming guests with disability. Good to see this as an addition to the inclusive tourism sector. Perhaps we should have a magazine for older Australians as well?

All aboard for accessibility

In the train carriage, a woman is seated in a manual wheelchair and is sitting next to a man in a standard seat. They are looking at an in-seat screen, probably for movies.Queensland Rail has improved accessibility on the Spirit of Queensland. This journey from Brisbane to Cairns over 25 hours can accommodate most types of power wheelchairs or mobility scooters. Seating car E has three wheelchair spaces, with four additional accessible seats for people who transfer to a seat. It also has an accessible toilet and shower compartment. There is captioning on messages and selected movies as well as hearing loops. Nice contrasting of colours on seats and flooring, plus Braille and tactile signage. 

The Queensland Rail website has a lot more information about accessibility on the Spirit of Queensland and there is a factsheet. The Tilt Train from Brisbane to Rockhampton has similar facilities.Other trains have narrow doors and aisles which makes access difficult. There is no information about toilets on these trains. It will be a great day when all rolling stock is inclusive.  

Editor’s note: I found it difficult to navigate the website to find the relevant information for this post. 

Photo from Queensland Rail website. 

I just can’t find it

screnshot of expedia websiteIt’s one thing to create accessible, universally designed places and spaces, it is another to let people know they exist. Being physically accessible is not enough. People who need access information require detail – and they need to be able to find that detail. The tourism industry is gradually realising this, but restaurants and entertainment venues have yet to catch up.  A recent study examined publicly available access information and found that it varied considerably across the board. In many cases information was provided but its accuracy was not necessarily correct or complete. 

The title of the article is, “Publicly-Researchable Accessibility Information: Problems, Prospects and Recommendations for Inclusion”.

Abstract: Despite worldwide attempts to improve accessibility for consumers with disabilities, barriers still exist that exclude persons from consumer participation in daily life. Although legislation and lawsuits have addressed this issue, marketplaces designed for able-bodied persons are commonplace with minimal accessibility standards tied to costs rather than the needs of this overlooked group. The present article examines a seemingly obvious, but understudied aspect of inclusion: the provision of publicly-researchable accessibility information. Ironically, businesses and public venues may create accessible spaces, yet fail to provide the level of detail needed by consumers with disabilities when planning a shopping excursion, dinner and entertainment, or travel and overnight stays. That is, the provision of factual accessibility content has lagged and is not required by law. This article reports on an exploratory study in the United States that examined the accuracy and completeness of publicly-researchable accessibility information for restaurant and entertainment venues in a large metropolitan area in the Northeastern United States. Observations were gathered from websites and social media of specific venues, as well as travel rating services like TripAdvisor. Findings were mixed. While some venues provided full and factual accessibility information, others revealed just the opposite both in online and follow-up telephone interviews. Implications are discussed along with recommendations for future study.

Inclusive Tourism; What to do in Australia?

Front cover of the summary report. Two people are watching a sunset over the ocean. One is sitting in a wheelchair.Austrade commissioned a report into accessible tourism in Victoria and Queensland. Once again we are given the economics and the size of the tourism market. It shows Australia is missing out on both international and national tourism opportunities. Clearly economics and legal obligations aren’t sufficient to change the attitudes of tourism operators, otherwise change would have happened by now. There is much information in this document for anyone who wants to include this sector of the market in their operations. Many forget inclusive travel includes companions and family members. Nevertheless, one hotel, or one attraction alone is not enough. It needs a community-wide approach where operators of venues, accommodation, attractions and destinations work together. Having an accessible room is of no use unless there are accessible places to go to. An article in the West Australian provides an overview of the situation using the content of the report.

The title of the report is, “Accessible Tourism in Victoria and Queensland Final Report“. Or you can read the Summary Report.  

Inclusive Tourism: Global Report

Front cover of the report showing a yellow two storey building with blue doors and shutters. A man sits in a tuk tuk outside.Inclusive tourism has two outcomes: individuals and their families can benefit from participating in tourism activity, and it can help with sustainable development and the reduction of poverty. The Global Report on Inclusive Tourism Destinations is a large document by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. It has practical advice and success stories from across the globe. Good resource for anyone interested in following the Sustainable Development Goals as well as inclusive tourism in general. In developed countries the same holds true – more participation equals more customers.

“The report highlights the need to foster discussion on and examine new approaches to inclusive tourism in order to drive long-term sustainability in the sector. The Model for inclusive tourism destinations presented in this Global Report is a formula for practical and realistic public action that can be applied to different types of destinations. It is a path towards inclusion that is adaptable, modular and scalable, and facilitates the transformation of tourism models towards socially and economically inclusive models.” 

Destinations for All: A Guide

man in a powered wheelchair looking out between Roman columns and across the water in the Roman BathYet another excellent resource for the tourism and travel industry – an industry now leading the way in best practice. Importantly, the principles and learning from case studies can be applied everywhere. The business world should take note of the good advice in Destinations for All: A guide to creating accessible destinations.

Included in the guide are several case studies, some statistics on the number of people left out if the destination if it is not inclusive, engaging with other businesses, and dispelling myths. It even challenges the notion that heritage issues make it impossible by showcasing the Roman Baths project. This guide is informed by research and can be applied as much to a day out in Sydney or Melbourne as a two week holiday in Scotland.