10 Nov 2020
SUSTAINABLE, ACCESSIBLE AND BARRIER-FREE TOURISM.
The MICE industry continues to evolve in innovation and in the adaptation of spaces, activities and entrances.
Although uncertainty still continues and a return to normality is not immediately apparent, the sector is also taking advantage of the situation to evolve towards the creation and organisation of events adapted to the new regulations with the health and restrictive measures that are imposed. There is also a long way to go in the organisation of events to make them more sustainable, inclusive and specially adapted to people who may suffer from some kind of disability. According to the WHO-OMS (World Health Organisation), it is estimated that 15% of the world’s population (1 billion people) live with some form of disability.
For its part, the OMT-WTO (World Tourism Organization) is convinced that accessibility to all tourist facilities, products and services should be an essential component of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy.
There are three types of disabilities:
- Physical. – Reduced mobility due to the lack, deterioration or functional alteration of one or more parts of the body
- Psychic. – Difficulty affecting the intellect or perception of things
- Sensory. – Auditory or visual difficulties.
There are now many monuments, museums, natural spaces, accommodations and restaurants that offer partially or totally accessible services, environments and activities and that in recent months have adapted their visit programmes to the health needs and protocols established in each tourist destination. There are also mobility solutions specially adapted to people with difficulties in their journeys. The tourism sector is increasingly prepared in terms of accessible tourism, but there is still a lot of work to be done. In fact, an enormous effort is being made to adapt to the needs of people with disabilities through the elimination of barriers, access to cultural and natural proposals or in the creation of regulations on transport, building and town planning.
In terms of innovation, today the entire tourism sector and especially event organisers are working hard to satisfy an increasingly demanding public. The active participation of those attending requires work on all fronts to facilitate access for all and to enrich programmes and activities to ensure success.
Accessible tourism has also become one of the main lines of action. Public authorities and organisations, especially the Catalan Tourism Board, have promoted improvements in the sector and have worked intensely on the elimination of architectural barriers to convert the main areas and monuments of attraction into products without obstacles for people with some kind of disability. Work has also been done in the communication sector so that history and culture can reach people with sensitive difficulties, as well as the programmes and activities of each event..
The contribution of resources, both public and private, in the adaptation of accesses has made it possible to integrate many spaces into the “Accessible Tourism – Tourism for All” programme, while technology has been a great ally when it comes to incorporating access to information for people with medial difficulties, while at the same time allowing active participation in events and congresses.
As an example, in Catalonia, the tourism sector has more than 150 km of greenways and accessible paths. Flight companies with adapted hot air balloons, centres specialised in adventure activities and sailing schools such as La Escala on the Costa Brava have also positioned themselves in this segment. In the area of museums, there are leading references such as the La Pedrera building (Casa Milá) by the architect Antoni Gaudí and the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC).
The vast majority of facilities, transport and other tourist resources are well accessible. Progress is also being made in this regard to gradually incorporate establishments or public spaces for common use.
In spite of this, it is estimated that 56% of people with reduced mobility or some other disability give up going on leisure or holiday trips due to the lack of accessibility to any of the points on the route or in the programme, as reflected in a study by the Adecco consultancy firm.
In this sense, the tourism sector continues to work on improving and adapting access and programmes, as this could generate more employment if all the environments and services in each of the tourist destinations were adapted. The human resources consultancy firm estimates that, taking into account the number of international tourists that the whole of Spain receives, more than 90 thousand jobs related to accessible tourism could be generated. The main beneficiaries would be the transport, accommodation, catering, food and beverage service sector.s.