visits4u Inclusive Tourism

Logo of visits4u inclusive tourismWho 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. The visits4U inclusive tourism training modules are:

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

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.

Case Studies

Front cover of publication. Blue background with a night time scene across a city. Design for All inclusive tourism.The European Concept for Accessibility Network tourist guide is based on their Design for All (Universal Design) principles. Each chapter is a case study, and each discusses the seven success factors, and drivers and obstacles. Cities featured in the EU tourist guide are located in Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain and Australia.

Design for All in Tourist Destinations includes a section on Sydney’s “Cultural Ribbon”, which was written by Simon Darcy and Barbara Almond. Featured is the accessibility of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore precincts, Sydney Opera House, and Darling Harbour.

In the introduction it encourages a business approach rather than a compliance approach. In the past, it was expected that a person would give up their personal goals when it looked too difficult to be inclusive and accessible. But now, we have the technical and organisational means to overcome many barriers. Non-discrimination laws have helped people gain more freedom. 

Landscape view of Barangaroo Parkland showing a pedestrian, wheelchair user, cyclist and pram pusher. Mentioned in EU tourist guide.
Barangaroo Parkland on Sydney’s foreshore

Image source: http://www.barangaroo.sydney/accessibility/

Customers talk: Tourist businesses listen?

A woman in a yellow jacket is being assisted onto the tour bus by two men up a ramp.Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. So what customers talk about when they share their tourist activities is important information. But what do they talk about and how can destination businesses listen to this information? 

A study published in Current Issues in Tourism looks at customer to customer (C2C) co-creation of inclusive tourism. The study was carried out in a heritage context. The perceptions of customers with disability were interviewed and observed. The aim was to identify what was of value in terms of inclusion or exclusion. The bottom line, as is almost always the case, is to involve users in designing the visitor experience. It’s a basic tenet of universal design.

The title of the paper is, C2C co-creation of inclusive tourism experiences for customers with disability in a shared heritage context experience. You can ask the authors for a copy on ResearchGate. If you have institutional access, it is available online from Taylor & Francis.

Abstract:  This study explores customer-to-customer (C2C) social co-creation practices in tourism when customers with and without disability share a heritage service environment. Despite a growing prevalence of heritage- and disability-related research in the tourism literature, few scholars have examined the phenomena from the emergent customer-dominant logic (CDL) perspective. This study makes empirical use of the perceptions of customers with disabilities (CwD) in a recent process of co-creation of CDL within the context of heritage sites through qualitative ethnographic techniques, interviews and observation methods. A sample of 125 individuals with and without disabilities participated in the fieldwork. The objective was to identify C2C social practices that occur among CwD and their related value, leading to either inclusion or exclusion. The results reveal the importance of focusing on C2C co-creation opportunities which create a value outcome. This paper provides heritage managers with clear guidance for creating inclusive and enabling servicescapes.

Tourism promotion: representing people with disability

two people stand in front of racks of tourism brochures.Promotional material continues to under-represent the diversity of the population. We’ve been so used to seeing white faces in advertisements that to see anything other is a surprise. But is that the response marketing experts want? Then there are the stereotypical images, especially related to older people and people with disability. People with disability also like to travel, often within a family group. So how well are these, and other groups, represented in promotional material?  

A recent research project in the US critically assessed promotional materials: brochures, rack cards, websites and online booking platforms. They found that fifty per cent mentioned disability in some form. This included “disabled” and “handicapped”, “wheelchair” and “special needs”. They found that outdated language remained the norm. Indeed, some language was considered harmful for people with disability. 

The title of the article is, Beyond accessibility: exploring the representation of people with disabilities in tourism promotional materials

The article covers some important ground in the area of inclusive tourism. Promotional material gives an impression of a destination or venue. Visual and textural representations were either absent or stereotypical. Industry as a whole has been slow to respond to what is estimated to be 25% of the prospective market. Their promotional material reinforces their lack of interest in this market.

Abstract

Globally, over one billion people experience some form of disability.
The number of people with disabilities (PWDs) continues to rise due to
an ageing population, the spread of chronic diseases, and improvements in measuring disabilities. However, tourism promotional materials continue to perpetuate a homogenous gaze catering to non-disabled audiences. Thus, informed by critical disability theory, and an inclusive tourism approach, this study explores how PWDs are represented in tourism promotional materials, specifically tourism brochures, from the American Southeast. Through a content analysis of over 200 county level brochures from nine south eastern states and interviews with state level tourism marketing directors, three emergent themes were identified: ADA compliant is ‘good enough’; ‘Diversity’ means including more people of color or ‘ethnic’ groups; and Pets are welcomed but how about PWDs? The findings offer insights for inclusive tourism and breaking down the physical and psychological barriers that hinder PWD participation in travel and tourism.

Accessible holiday accommodation

A view of the cabin showing the ramped entry and the accessible parking space.Lake Macquarie City Council is taking accessible holiday accommodation seriously. Last year they began a project to install four accessible cabins in their holiday parks. Council tested the market for the new design and the feedback was integrated into the design. Some of the elements that were considered important, especially for wheelchair users and their families were: 

    • Swipe card access
    • Wheelchair access to both bedrooms
    • Larger switches
    • Swing top bins
    • Fridge above the freezer
    • Variable height clothesline 
    • Larger decks and accessible barbeque area. 

Garry Ellem from Lake Macquarie City Council is one of the speakers at the next Universal Design Conference in May next year.  His abstract gives more information about the project. More work on making the whole Park more accessible means that these cabins won’t be islands of accessibility. The cabins were completed this year and the pictures on the Council website show the result. This is also a good example of how information should be presented for wheelchair users to know just what is, and what is not, included. Saying something is “fully accessible” is of little use – it might only have a ramp and nothing else.

It should be noted that these are bespoke designs specifically for wheelchair users. However, there is no reason why non-wheelchair users can’t use them. 

A view of the deck with a barbeque and outdoor seating. The deck overlooks the Lake.

 

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.
Inclusive technology in action

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 co-create 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.

Queensland Inclusive Tourism Guide

Front cover of the guide showing a man in a red shirt with his arms outstrechedWith 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.

The introduction to the Queensland Government’s guide, Inclusive Tourism: Making your business more accessible and inclusive, begins, “This guide has been developed primarily for tourism operators, to help them:

    • 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.

See also the UTS Inclusive Tourism publication explaining the economics of inclusive tourism.

Guides for historic buildings and places

Front cover of the guide.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.

Front cover of the guide with four pictures of people in different historic locationsHistoric 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:

      1. Why access matters
      2. Planning better access
      3. Making access a reality
      4. Published sources of information
      5. Where to get advice  

Accessible? Is that Inclusive?

Martin Heng sits in a chair and there is an elephant closeby. He fist-bumps the elephant's trunk. ant using its trunk.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. Being accessible is not the same as being inclusive.

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. 

There are more articles and guidelines on inclusive tourism on this website.

Image courtesy of New Mobility showing Martin Heng interacting with an elephant.

Inclusive Towns: business, tourism and employment

A multicoloured logo of overlapping circles.The Inclusive Towns project is about increasing the participation and inclusion of people with disability. It presents the arguments heard before about missing out on potential business by ignoring this group and their fellow travellers. What makes this project different is help with employment of people with disability. The project produced a website with four key guides:

Links to many other helpful resources are included on this website including one on accessible events.

The project is a partnership between the City of Greater Bendigo, Loddon Shire & Mount Alexander Shire in Victoria. It was funded by the NDIS. 

A wheelchair user enters the frame on the left hand side. The background is a blurred out cafe setting.