Inclusive tourism with universal design

Research on the business opportunities in accessible and inclusive tourism is extensive. However, the intent of this research is largely staying on the shelf. A mix of attitudes towards people with disability and a sense of “not knowing where to start” are likely reasons. But you can get inclusive tourism with universal design by collaborating with tourism operators.

” Surprisingly, many cases did not meet the minimal requirements for “older people” and “people in a wheelchair.” … but this result did function as an eye-opener”.

A hotel receptionist is talking to a man and woman across a reception counter. Inclusive tourism.

A research group in Belgium has devised a method to uncover business opportunities through universal design. Collaborating with 17 accommodation providers they came up with a seven step process to integrate universal design into their business model. The process is also a way to increase knowledge and understanding of diverse guests and their experiences.

The research group documented their project in a conference paper. It begins by explaining inclusive tourism as a right, a business opportunity and a challenge. They devised a method to use the potential of universal design as a “business transformer”.

Co-designing the 7 steps

  • Step 1: We created a literature-based universal design screening based on mindset, management and infrastructure.
  • Step 2: We tested and updated the screening in each of the 17 accommodation providers.
  • Step 3: We analysed the data for each business which was given to them in a report.
  • Step 4: The results were further processed with the participant, who decided on priorities.
  • Step 5: An action plan was devised based on step 4.
  • Step 6: A concise checklist and a guide with relevant information (tools).
  • Step 7: A re-evaluation of the business to assess the actual improvement after interventions. Unfortunately the COVID pandemic impacted this research and the last step was not possible with the downturn in tourism.
Hotel bedroom with polished floors, orange and red pillows on a couch and textured wallpaper

The title of the paper is Inclusive Tourism: Co-developing a Methodology to Uncover Business Opportunities through Universal Design. Scroll past the first paper in the confrence proceedings to get to this one.

From the abstract

Despite increasing attention for inclusive tourism, implementation remains a challenge for tourist accommodation providers. We describe a 2-year project where the possibilities of universal design were explored. The purpose was to structurally uncover and address potential business opportunities.

The method was based on: inclusive customer journey, linking mindset, management and infrastructure, and diverse user needs. We collaborated with seventeen accommodation providers and developed a seven-step process. The process integrates universal design into their business model.

We discuss the results in how the method can act as a catalyst to increase knowledge and understanding, and how to address business opportunities.

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