Getting away from it all is something we all need for our health and wellbeing. But not everyone has the means of doing this. Being excluded as a tourist goes beyond physical and other levels of capability. It extends to people without the money to have a holiday. But it goes further than that. In developed countries the concept is applied to people looking for low cost tourism. In developing countries the focus is on the visited community rather than the visitor.
An article on social tourism discusses how the concept of social tourism has changed over time. It can help both the visitor and the visited community under the banner of Tourism for All. Socially sustainable tourism, community-based tourism and volunteering tourism have also fallen under the banner of social tourism. Consequently, in the literature, social tourism is not clearly expressed as tourism for people who are disadvantaged.
Abstract: The term ‘social tourism’ has been ambiguously interpreted since its inception in the early 20th century, when the focus of tourism was mainly for the financially disadvantaged and socially excluded travellers. Such concept was indeed important to increase social participation in tourism through social and political interventions. Tourism today has transformed with several innovative business ideas, diverse stakeholder participation, new forms of tourism involving the ageing population and people with disability, decreased cost of travelling that allows the inclusion of more middle income groups in leisure trips, rapid growth of tourism in emerging economies, and the recognition of tourism as more than a luxury phenomenon. Literature rarely discusses the inclusive aspects of social tourism when new forms of tourism arise. This study attempts to describe three aspects of social tourism: (a) how social tourism is perceived in different socio-cultural and geographical settings; (b) what are the excluded elements of social tourism; and (c) change in demography of potential socially excluded groups. The study also explains the trends of special forms of tourism and its relevance to social tourism inclusion. The paper offers a wider theoretical engagement and understanding of a growing shift in patterns of social tourism and touristic experience in the present and future.
See also the book, Handbook of Social Tourism. The synopsis reads, “This thought-provoking Handbook considers the impact and challenges that social tourism has on people’s lives, integrating case studies from around the world. Showcasing the latest research on the topic and its role in tackling the challenges of tourism development, chapters explore the opportunities presented by social tourism and illustrate the social imperative of tourism as a force for good”.
Without overseas visitors we have to make the most of the domestic market. The COVID downtime is an opportunity for tourism operators to make the most of domestic travellers. One area where gains can be made is making the business more inclusive. Whether it’s accommodation, dining, parks, gardens, or attractions, there is a market ready, willing – they just need to be able. The Travability website has an article that lists some of the steps businesses can take to be more inclusive and accessible. It’s the way to increase profits.
1. Use the downtime to review the current facilities on offer that are accessible, both at individual operator and destination wide. 2. Prepared detailed accessibility guides and publish them on both operator and destination websites. Saying something is accessible means nothing – people need detail. Say what is actually there and provide good photographs and let a potential visitor make up their own mind. 3. Co-design experiences with local disability groups. Don’t assume adventure activities are out of the question. Many are not. Don’t think limitations, think how to include. 4. Look closely at community infrastructure: good footpaths, beach matting or beach wheelchairs can open a market for the whole region. 5. Look at marketing opportunities and include people with a disability in mainstream marketing material. Remember many disabilities are invisible and also think about children. So it doesn’t have to be all about wheelchairs. 6. Seek professional advice from organisations recognised as accessible tourism specialists. 7. Don’t be scared to play in the accessible tourism market. Co-design, and learn from feedback. As with all tourism activities the greatest joy comes from seeing visitors enjoying their experiences and leaving changed in some way.
Editor’s note: One area not covered in the article is working across the whole destination by joining up businesses such as accommodation with attractions. A whole place needs to be accessible. Businesses working together is also a good strategy.
Wide open vistas, mountain wilderness and crystal clear lakes attract visitors from near and afar. But the very nature of these landscapes means they aren’t easily accessible to everyone. This is a situation where assistive technology meets universal design. Providing a specialised track wheelchair or beach wheelchair, for example, cannot do the job alone. It still needs an accessible travel chain.
Having an all-terrain wheelchair is only one part of the tourism experience. Apaper reporting on a case study of specialised mobility devices shows the importance of user testing. Getting in and out of the device, operating it, and being part of a group, all need testing for convenience and useability before they become part of the service. The authors used the principles of universal design in their study and sum up with the following:
The entire customer journey must be accessible: toilets, parking, cafes, cable car, etc.
Transfers must be supervised by trained staff
Trails must be tested, marked and secured
Emergency procedures set up in case of an accident
Training courses for tourism service staff in the use of assistive technology
The devices are expensive and hiring might be a better option
Tourist destinations based on the natural environment can be inclusive if there is joined up thinking. That is, joining up service delivery and staff training with the physical environment and, at times, the addition of some assistive technologies.
The title of the articleis, Improving the Accessibility of Touristic Destinations with an Assistive Technology For Hiking – Applying Universal Design Principles Through Service Design. The article mentions the Freedom Trax device and the video below shows the device in action. Courtesy their Facebook page.
Abstract: Accessible Tourism focus on the logistical attributes being accessible to all and on the process to develop accessible products and services with all stakeholders of the touristic destination. Assistive technologies can be used to improve the accessibility of touristic destination and attraction. Some assistive technologies are designed for hiking. However, their integration on the customer journey has to be designed as a service. To this end, universal design principles and guidelines can be used to design products and services accessible to all. Universal design and accessible tourism are both rooted in the social model of disability, which states that it is the society who is disabling. The potential and the conceptualization of applying universal design principles for tourism has been widely discussed. However, little has been done to operationalize this idea. In this article, we demonstrate how to cocreate with users an accessible touristic service based on an assistive technology who enables hiking for people using wheelchairs. Our main findings illustrate the pros and the cons of using and assistive technologies and the importance of considering the whole customer journey to improve the accessibility of touristic destinations.
How difficult can designing a bus stop be? Turns out there are lots of elements to consider. Bus stops are one element of an accessible and inclusive travel chain. Each country has their own format or standards for bus stops. But this doesn’t help visitors who are unfamiliar with the design and how it works.
Accessible bus stops are more than a stop sign and perhaps a seat with a shelter. It has to fit within an accessible urban environment. Footpath materials, information and communication and street furniture all have a part to play. A bus stop outside an airport in Portugal is the subject of a case study. The researchers looked specifically at older travellers. They were able to compare bus stops back home with the one at the airport and give useful feedback and share ideas. Portugal is a favourite destination within Europe so there were many comparisons.
The results were generally consistent across the responses regardless whether the respondent had a disability. Many of the responses were fairly obvious, such as barrier-free footpaths and no obstacles around the bus stop. Shelters with seats at a suitable height and easy to read timetables rated as important. Of course, a bus stop is useless if you can’t use the bus, so low floor buses were important.
Abstract: Sustainable mobility demands an integrated approach covering all modes of transport in a built environment designed for everyone. Social inclusion strategies required the improvement of transportation for people with reduced mobility. Universal accessibility has been incorporated into urban renovation processes, settlement, housing and transportation. Assessments have been made in measuring the performance of spatial indicators and usually consider technical parameters and/or user perception. In the context of accessible tourism, infrastructures and services have been adapted to be inclusive for all. Accessible built environments are required hence urban spaces, buildings, transport vehicles, information technology & communication, and services must bear in mind the approach of Age Sensitive Design. The research project Accessibility for All in Tourism focuses on bus stops designed to be age-friendly and inclusive. A questionnaire was developed for the elderly tourist aged 60+ about their perceptions of bus stop environments in their countries. Findings indicate that elderly tourists with disabilities are more critical of the existing accessibility conditions, and have a greater perception of the inclusive characteristics of bus stops. Furthermore, although older people take barrier-free spaces into account, there is some criticism around pedestrian crossings, bench design and the lack of room for wheelchair users.
With borders opening up and people anxious for a get-away, the tourism industry is set for a boost. However, not everyone will be able to take advantage of new-found freedoms. With no international tourists likely for a while, tourism operators need to make the most of the local market. That means being more accessible and inclusive.
increase their knowledge about the market for accessible tourism
develop strategies to improve the accessibility of their operation to appeal to a wider range of visitors of all abilities and ages
understand their legal obligations in relation to inclusive and accessible tourism.
The guide also includes information to assist people with disability in planning a holiday. Local government can use this guide to: support and promote inclusive tourism across businesses, festivals, events and public spaces; and to incorporate inclusive and accessible design into their design codes and planning guidelines. Download the guide from the link on the Queensland Government website.
Travelling to work is one thing. Travelling for work is another. A recent study of Australian university staffwho travel for work revealed common difficulties. All participants reported that their disability, whether declared or not, affected their ability to undertake work-based travel. Some of their necessary compromises involved extra cost at their own expense.
There are four things that make travelling for work difficult for people with disability. They are the way the current system is designed, stigma and victimisation, self reliance and asking for help. And of course, double the effort that anyone else takes for an event-free journey. These factors also apply to the tourism sector. That’s because academics who frequently travel for work might extend their stay for a short vacation. They might take their family too.
The university travel booking service on campus often asked participants to seek additional information themselves. This was not seen as part of the service. One participant found it easier to bypass the system and do their own bookings even though they had to foot the bill. Potentially, the system isn’t smooth sailing for others either.
Another participant was told by a supervisor they couldn’t be an academic if it meant travelling overseas. Booking travel also meant revealing a previously hidden disability. This is a tricky area. Other articles have revealed the reticence to declare a disability for fear of discrimination and disbelief.
Abstract: In an ideal world, inclusive travel services would value each person, support full participation and seek to embrace the similarities, as well as the differences, to be found in society. Anecdotally at least, it seems the unspoken truth for many individuals with a disability is that efforts to engage in any form of travel are often thwarted by poor service provision, systemic bias and discrimination. Using an inductive line of inquiry, this Australian study sought to detail how staff with a disability in the higher education sector negotiated their work-related travel responsibilities. Findings revealed that many felt compromised by current systems and practices with many required to go ‘above and beyond’ that expected of their work colleagues. The results of the research project serve to inform employers about the often unvoiced challenges employees with disabilities face when meeting work-based travel expectations. The findings also contribute directly to the transformative service research agenda by offering clear insight into how the travel and hospitality industry might be more inclusive of employees travelling for work-based purposes to the benefit of all parties.
Buildings from previous centuries didn’t consider access and inclusion, so the two don’t go together well. Historic England has taken on the challenge with their updated guide, Easy Access to Historic Buildings. The guide also includes information for businesses and attractions within an historic site, such as shops and cafes. These places aren’t necessarily historic, but add to the overall visitor experience. The guide is comprehensive and replaces their 2004 edition. It can be downloaded in sections.
Historic landscapes, gardens and open spaces are there for everyone to enjoy. Historic England has produced a guide for anyone working to open up historic sites to a wider audience. This edition promotes an inclusive approach to ensure that every visitor to an historic park, garden or landscape has a meaningful experience – not just physical access. Property owners and managers designers, and planners should find the guide helpful in tackling all aspects of the visitor experience. The key elements of the Easy Access to Historic Landscapes guide are:
Who is the customer of inclusive tourism? Everyone! This is the introduction to the visits4U Access Guide for tourism operators. The Guide is from Europe. It has a project guide and a short online training course. The good part of this training course is that it comes in text and audio voice-over. A PDF transcription for each module is available for download.
Good to see an inclusive training program being inclusive. The information is to the point and easy to understand.The three training modules on Vimeo are:
Hotels and Accommodation Providers, 15 minute video.
D/deaf Awareness, 12 minute video.
Information and Wayfinding, 12 minute video.
There is a more comprehensive report from the European Concept for Accessibility, Design for All in Tourist Destinations. It includes several European case studies and there’s also one from Australia. Each one is examined for seven success factors, and drivers and obstacles.
While the current pandemic conditions prevail, this is a good time to refresh tourism businesses to make them more inclusive. After all, people often travel in groups and if it’s inaccessible for one, the whole group goes elsewhere.
There’s a growing realisation that accessibility does not equal inclusion. Getting in and out of somewhere is only the beginning. Being able to participate on an equal basis requires inclusive thinking and design. This includes the tourism sector.
Martin Heng, formerly of Lonely Planet, has an article in New Mobility that addresses this issue from a tourism perspective. He argues that the term “Accessible Tourism” is unhelpful. It has helped identify a market segment in economic terms, and some operators are on board. But it only goes so far. Change is slow and piecemeal.
Heng’s article is titled, “It’s Time to Move Beyond Access to Inclusion“. He concludes his article by saying we need to go beyond market segment ideas. We need to encourage the tourism industry to adopt an inclusive mindset.
Language and labelling is important. Choosing the right terms can make a big difference. “Accessible” is strongly linked with disability – particularly wheelchair users. “Inclusive” makes us think more broadly – families, people from diverse backgrounds, children and older people.
Medieval cities in Europe are popular with tourists, but they were not designed for a diverse population. Excluding one older person or person with disability means excluding the whole family or travelling group. Not good for maximising tourism business. Networks of pathways between heritage sites often pose barriers to access. Footpaths are either too narrow, have plantings and seats in the way, or are non existent. From Portugal comes a case study of pathway assessments and recommendations for improved accessibility. And it’s not just tourists and tourism businesses that benefits – residents benefit too.
The title of the article is, Cultural accessible pedestrian ways. The case of faro historic centre. There’s a detailed methodology that’s a bit confusing, but the second half of the paper has the discussion and the recommendations. Photos help explain and the text looks as if it has been translated from Portuguese. Faro is a municipality in the Algarve.
Abstract: In a historic city the existence of accessible pedestrian routes constitutes an essential feature to a true access to culture heritage, contributing for processes of social inclusion. It is necessary to create accessible pedestrian infrastructures network to hold a set of attributes that guarantee usability for all citizens. The creation and design of an accessible physical environment should be considered as a criterion of urban quality, which will make walking more pleasant not only for the elderly and people with disabilities but, also, for the entire resident population and tourists. In this case study it is ascertainable whether the physical characteristics of pedestrian infrastructures of cultural interest, located in the Historical Centre of Faro (Portugal), comply with the requirements of the National Law of Accessibility. There has, therefore, been created a methodology for evaluating the accessibility of pedestrian infrastructure through the construction of performance indicators. The analysis is achieved through a model of evaluation of the degree of conformity of the spaces, and presented, spatially, with appeal to a Geographical Information System, which is a tool to support the decision taking in the processes of urban rehabilitation, thus contributing to the choice of priority areas of intervention in the field of accessibility. The diagnosis confirms the existence of inaccessible pedestrian infrastructure and concludes the need to trigger processes of urban renovation.