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 co-designing 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 conference proceedings to get to this one.

From the abstract

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.

The Disabled Tourist: a book

Here is the overview from the publisher of The Disabled Tourist: Navigating an Ableist Tourism World. It’s an academic text by Brielle Gillovic, Alison McIntosh and Simon Darcy.

This book addresses a growing demand to hear the authentic voices and understand the lived tourist experiences of people with disability. The latest volume in The Tourist Experience series challenges what is arguably an exclusionary, marginalising, discriminatory, and ableist (tourism) world.

Front cover of The Disabled Tourist.

By drawing attention to the ‘dis/’ in ‘disabled’, the authors provoke the need to change binary thinking about people who live with disability so that they may be ‘able’ to assume the role of tourist.

They engage critical tourism and critical disability studies, and their respective theories, perspectives, and debates, around, for instance, models of disability that shape conceptualisations and worldviews, inclusive research and enabling language, and the ethics of care.

These are pivotal to dismantling normative structures to enable a more inclusive, equitable, and socially just tourist experience that promotes a more independent and dignified tourism world for people with disability.

Tourism and Disability: Book review

A woman in a yellow jacket is being assisted onto the tour bus by two men up a ramp.

Tourism and Disability is a new book addressing the existing  challenges and opportunities related to tourism for people with disability. The Booktopia review describes this as an underdeveloped and underestimated niche market. While there is a larger market for family group travel, there is also a market for disability-specific tourism products. 

The book examines the strategies, policies, and initiatives at regional, national, and international levels. The aim is to foster the development of accessible tourism.  It examines the different social, cultural, legal, and information/interactive barriers to inclusion. The book’s focus is on the distinctive travel demands of people with disability and how their needs differ from the preferences of travellers without disability. 

The various chapters provide a multidisciplinary approach to the topic covering management, economics, and statistical analysis. This makes it useful for academics and practitioners alike. 

The Title of the book is Tourism and Disability: An economic and managerial perspective. Published by SpringerLink you can purchase individual chapters online. The book is also available from other suppliers. The editors and most contributors are based in Europe where tourism is a key part of the European economy. 

Front cover of Tourism and Disability.

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