Inclusive tourism, also called barrier-free or accessible tourism, is a form of tourism that strives to ensure travel destinations, and things of the like, are inclusive of everyone, regardless of impairment.
Accessibility very often brings to mind physical access. Of course, this is a crucial part of inclusive tourism. The importance of ensuring that hotels and restaurants, transport services, tourist attractions and other related services and facilities are physically accessible, cannot be emphasised enough. Unfortunately, as many people with mobility impairments know, lack of access can make what was planned to be an enjoyable day out an unpleasant venture.
This is even more so for wheelchair users. For this reason, when disabled people are planning a trip, they choose with care and go for those destinations which can offer them the maximum amount of accessibility. Like every other tourist, disabled people are more likely to visit a country or destination where they know they will enjoy their trips than one where the level of accessibility and inclusion is uncertain and which may leave them disappointed with their time spent.
The United Nations estimates that there are over 10 million disabled people in the world. With advancement in medicine and health care, people are living longer. However, longer life expectancy does not necessarily mean an impairment free life, with the number of disabled people, especially among senior citizens, set to rise. There is therefore a lot of untapped potential in making travel accessible to all, even more so when one considers that most people don’t travel on their own.
Catering for a disabled tourist therefore means increasing one’s business not just by one person but also by the sum of the other persons travelling with that person. And of course, disabled tourists who are satisfied with their stay are bound to tell their friends, disabled or not, and encourage them to visit.
Beyond physical access, inclusive tourism also needs to meet the requirements of other disabled people with different impairments, such as people with sensory or intellectual impairments. Here, it is essential to note that information should be provided in accessible or alternative formats.
Besides that, staff and personnel directly or indirectly involved in providing tourists with a service need to have basic training in how to relate and conduct themselves to be able to provide their disabled clients with a good service that effectively meets their wishes and expectations. In addition, providing information on the company website about the level of accessibility of the service or facility is a useful way of attracting more clients, as disabled people are more likely to then choose that service or facility.
Providing an inclusive tourism product is therefore not just about abiding by the requirements of the Equal Opportunities Act. It is also about diversifying the tourist market, widening the type of clientele, and thus increasing profitability. Promoting inclusive tourism is becoming increasingly more possible as accessibility, in its various forms, is becoming more and more of a reality.