Social Tourism is inclusive tourism

A group of colourfully dressed children sit around the edge of the classroom. There are posters on the wall with Spanish writing.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. 

The title of the article is, Inclusions and Exclusions of Social Tourism.  Also available from ResearchGate where you can find related articles.

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”.

Call of the Wild in Inclusive Tourism

A man is walking and holding the handles of a wheelchair which is mounted on the Freedom Trax device. A child sits in the wheelchair and a woman is walking alongside.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. A paper 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 article is, 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.

visits4U Inclusive Toursim

Logo of visits 4 uWho 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:

      1. Hotels and Accommodation Providers, 15 minute video.
      2. D/deaf Awareness, 12 minute video.
      3. 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.

 

Take me there

A man and boy are wearing hats and paddling in an orange kayak..Promoting the business benefits of inclusive tourism doesn’t always hit the mark. Making places inclusive and accessible seems too daunting a task for many operators. So where do people with disability like to go and what do they want to do? A photo gallery in video form from Travability gives a really good idea. While this professional photo gallery has wheelchair users in every picture, it should be remembered that wheelchair users are a small proportion of the number of people needing more inclusive experiences. However, the pictures are excellent and provide a breadth of experiences.

Note that all people pictured are real wheelchair users in their own wheelchairs. They are not models posed in a stock wheelchair. Operators and travellers can find much more on the Travability website. See the section on this website devoted to travel and tourism.  

 

Tourism Australia: A mention of inclusion

A line pf people are boarding a coach outside a transit building.There is a cruise ship in the backgound.Tourism Australia has a web page titled Accessible Tourism. It is not a “how to” page. It gives a brief description of what accessible tourism is and Australian policies and legislation. Then it refers readers to a list of other organisations or guides listed below. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good start for tourism businesses, planners and local government.

    • Tourism Research Australia, in partnership with Tourism, Events and Visitor Economy branch of the Victorian Government, and Tourism and Events Queensland, commissioned a study into accessible tourism in Victoria, Queensland and Australia. The research was conducted between April and August 2017.
    • Accessible Tourism in Victoria and Queensland – based on research the report examines the travel experiences of domestic travellers with accessibility needs
    • PhotoAbility – Stock image library featuring individuals with disabilities in travel, leisure and lifestyle settings.
    • Push Adventures – Push Adventures is a South Australian business, founded in 2014, that offers advice to make tourism businesses inclusive and accessible by a whole range of guests.
    • Sydney for All – A visitors’ guide to Sydney using universal icons to help users decide which attractions provide the appropriate level of access.
    • Accessible Victoria – The official tourist site for Melbourne and Victoria including information on accessible accommodation, activities and attractions and the best ways to get around in Melbourne and Victoria.
    • Queensland Inclusive Tourism Guide – The Queensland Government has developed a guide for making businesses more accessible and inclusive to assist tourism operators understand their legal obligations in relation to accessibility, increase their knowledge about the market for inclusive tourism, and develop strategies to improve the accessibility of their business to appeal to a wider range of visitors of all abilities and ages.
    • TravAbility – TravAbility is dedicated to Inclusive Tourism through education, advocacy, and by providing accessibility information for the world’s best travel destinations.
    • Cangoeverywhere.com.au – A website created to help seniors, baby boomers, people with disabilities and anyone with special requirements, find accessible accommodation, restaurants, activities and more around Australia.
    • Travellers Aid Australia – An organisation that provides simple, practical travel-related support and aid to help visitors of all backgrounds travel independently and confidently.
    • Vision Australia – Vision Australia (an organisation which assists those with vision impairment) has a large range of fact sheets on issues relating to people who are blind and vision impaired. The fact sheets range from accessible design for homes to customer service tips.
    • Inclusive Tourism: Economic Opportunities – This report is part of a project that aims to enable regional tourism businesses and local governments to improve information about and the marketing of inclusive services and products. This project is led by Local Government NSW with the University of Technology Sydney, Institute for Public Policy and Governance providing research support.
    • The Good Scout An Australian accessible travel platform with the mission to ensure that travellers with access needs get the holiday they want.

Including people with disability also includes people with young children in prams, older people, and people with temporary disabilities. Accessible, or inclusive tourism is about ensuring tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. There are more guides in a previous post

More Insights and Less Afterthoughts

A bald man is standing behind a shop counter that has cheese and other deli items.Hospitality magazine has a good article on making small business accessible. It recommends thinking about access and inclusion from the start, not as an afterthought. And it isn’t all about wheelchairs. Being able to read the menu without getting out your phone flashlight to see it is a start. While Braille menus would be great, reading the standard menu to someone who is blind and sitting alone is essential, not just a courtesy. The assistance dog is not expected to read it. And this isn’t just about the law.

“While many businesses adhere to protocol, they still aren’t doing enough to truly welcome customers with a disability. A ramp might allow access to the premises, but is there enough room for diners to move around freely once seated?” However, some developers are thinking ahead.

“The Lendlease team took into account everything from footpath width and the design of entryways to countertop heights and amenities when building the King Street precinct in Brisbane.

At the end of the article, Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought, is a list of organisations that can help businesses improve their customer service and repeat business. City of Melbourne has an infographic on Good Access is Good Business. It has the key points on a page. However, infographics are not accessible to people who use screen readers. 

 

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. 

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. The 25 hour train journey from Brisbane to Cairns accommodates 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 inclusive tourism 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.