Inclusive Tourism Language: Still taboo?

A orange-yellow sky with many coloured hot air balloons. The tourism sector continues to follow the medical model of disability where it’s the fault of the individual’s body rather than the design of the world around them. This approach affects the language used in promotional material. It also reinforces the mistaken idea that accessible “products” need to be special and separate. Stefania Gandin’s article looks at the language used in the tourism sector and the way tourism and travel is promoted. Understanding the social model of disability could help operators understand it is more than just catering to a particular physical condition. It is a matter of thinking of disability as a human characteristic and not being afraid to talk about it in promotional material and websites. Or, of developing only specialised disability-specific products as being “accessible tourism”. The underpinning principle of inclusive tourism is being able to independently enjoy holiday or leisure time without any barriers or problems. The move from the terminology of “accessible” tourism to “inclusive” tourism could also help.  

There will always be a need for specialist tourism products, particularly for people with physical disabilities who want adventure activities. But this does not take account of everyone, including people with health conditions who want to travel in groups. After all, many disabilities are invisible.

The title of the chapter is, Tourism, Promotion and Disability: Still a (Linguistic) Taboo? A Preliminary Study. The chapter is from Innovative Perspectives on Tourism Discourse and can be purchased separately. It can also be accessed via ResearchGate where you can ask the author for a copy. 

Abstract: This study illustrates the preliminary results of a corpus-based analysis aimed at discovering the main linguistic features characterising the promotion of tourism for special-needs travellers. Even if accessible tourism represents an important sector in the market, not only for its social and moral importance but also for its strong economic potential, detailed research on the linguistic properties of tourism for disabled people is still rather limited and mainly tends to focus on the problems of physical access rather than considering the ways to improve its promotional strategies. Through a comparative corpus-based analysis, this paper will investigate the relevant linguistic features of a corpus of promotional materials advertising holidays and tourist services for the disabled, and relate them to the communicative strategies of two other corpora dedicated to the standard and translational language of tourism. The aim of this research is to show how mainstream tourism discourse still considers disability as a taboo topic, mostly ignoring or vaguely mentioning it in the general promotion of tourist destinations. The study will also attempt to suggest new linguistic and social attitudes aimed at stylistically improving and further including the accessible tourism sector within the overall tourism promotion.