Tourism for All – Promoting universal accessibility

By | Category: Travel rumblings

poster from World Tourism DayUnder this headline, World Tourism Day came and went last Tuesday with barely a whimper let alone a bang.

I didn’t get one single press release about it. Nobody phoned to remind me of the day and when I asked travel agents in the nearest big town to me they looked at me with blank faces. What on earth is the point of having World Tourism Day if all it really means is the chance for a flight for a few experts to stay in a top hotel and spout about travel rather than something tangible?

This year, the official 2016 celebrations were held in Thailand’s capital Bangkok as well as the province of Khon Kaen where they end today. Whilst “celebrations” may have been held in Thailand, what happened elsewhere? Seven years ago I wrote that it meant little to people and tried to give some reasons why it should. In those intervening years, the event has still not become widely known so isn’t time to just shut up shop and save the money on something more useful than speeches?

And yet making it possible for all people to have access to tourism is a laudable aim. For those with varying levels of disability, tourism can be daunting. The success of the paralympics at the last three or so games has demonstrated what can be done. A few weeks ago an unusual press release from easyJet arrived, unusual in that it concentrated on measures for passengers who require special assistance. Usually press releases of this sort only come from specialised companies not mainstream airlines.

Ecah year the airline carries 400,000 passengers who need special assistance and the number is growing as people become more confident that they can travel. The fact that customer satisfaction amongst easyJet passengers with reduced mobility was 87.4% in the 2015 financial year, higher than for customers in general, shows that those with reduced mobility appreciate the efforts being done to enable them to travel around. It doesn’t seem that long ago that another low-cost airlines was railing against having to take wheelchair passengers at the same fares as others. The CAA says that it expects more than two and a half million passengers with a disability or reduced mobility will take flights in and out of the UK this year.

Any yet how did we celebrate travel assistance for those less mobile than others? By doing nothing.

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