|Even temporary overlays can include universally design features. Photo by Tracey Dickson at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games and provided for use to UTS Business School.|
The UN World Tourism Organisation has chosen this focus because people with disability are still poorly accommodated by the tourism industry globally, despite the World Health Organisation estimating that 1 billion people live with some form of disability.
“This makes accessible tourism not only an issue of equality and human rights but an economic one. People with disability and seniors with access needs are already making a significant economic contribution to tourism, but it has the potential to double through understanding how to accommodate and market to this group,” says Professor Simon Darcy of UTS Business School, an expert in tourism and a power wheelchair user himself.
A recent European Union study has shown that the market already accounts for a gross value added economic contribution of €150 billion annually.
Previous Australian government tourism figures identified approximately 10% of domestic overnight stays as having an access component worth some $4.8 billion to the economy.
"People with disability
are still poorly accommodated
by the tourism industry globally."
Recent research published by Professor Darcy and Spanish collaborators sought to identify the key components that contribute towards accessible tourism ‘destination competitiveness and sustainability’.
This research was only possible because national and regional data was available for both countries that provided an evidence base.
While global tourism data is available longitudinally, due to the 10% economic contribution of the sector, few nations have included disability and access modules within their data collection.
However, UNWTO has invested considerable resources in producing a set of best practice reports on improving accessible tourism experiences for people with mobility, vision, hearing and learning disabilities. Each of these groups has different access requirements to be inclusive of their access needs and embodiments.
By incorporating the access needs and embodied understandings within destination development and marketing, precincts, cities and nations are creating a competitive advantage in the attraction of tourists in a globally competitive industry.
For example, people with vision impairment experience tourism environments without the ‘tourist gaze’ and require product development to take into account their other senses.
Research on vision impairment and tourism has shown the importance for considering wayfinding, soundscapes, aroma and tactility to enhance this group’s experiences of destination environments.
"By incorporating access needs and embodied understandings
within destination development and marketing...
nations are creating a competitive advantage."
The ‘competitiveness’ of destinations such as Sydney, Barcelona, London, Hong Kong and Rio brands can be enhanced or tarnished by their approaches to these markets. Arguably, Spain with Barcelona as the prime example, has led the way with their commitment and product/service development of accessible destination experiences.
The UNWTO is ‘responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism’. While rarely discussed together, sustainability and universally accessible tourism are philosophically linked as part of sustainable development goals.
Universally accessible tourism is founded on the core elements of ‘universal design’ that is fundamental to developing both an equality of tourism experiences and the market potential of this group.
Universal design, also known as inclusive design, goes beyond accessibility and compliance with legislation to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to everyone. Universal design has been defined as:
‘...the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The intent of the universal design concept is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by more people at little or no extra cost. The universal design concept targets all people of all ages, sizes and abilities’.Applying the principles of Universal Design provides a foundation for local communities and tourism destinations to be more effective, efficient and sustainable.
In Europe it has been estimated that less than 10% of tourism suppliers offer universally designed tourism products and services.
The outcome of adopting universal design principles includes a broader market base, increased occupancy out of season, and an enhanced market brand.
In a recent keynote address to the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference, Professor Darcy identified spaces and places including the Barangaroo redevelopment, the Goods Line adjacent to the ABC and UTS Business School, and the Sydney Olympic Park as examples that include elements of universal design.
"...universal design is fundamental
to developing an equality of tourism experiences
and the market potential of this group."
What makes implementing universal design for accessible tourism purposes that much more complex is the movement of people locally, regionally, nationally and internationally so that all elements of the ‘travel chain’ link together seamlessly.
This incorporates the elements of information provision, planning, transport, accommodation, attractions and all forms of miscellaneous service provision across accessible tourism supply chain.
The UNWTO has produced a booklet for World Tourism Day highlighting aspects of the accessible tourism supply chain.
Professor Darcy's current research includes examining the outcomes of accessibility of major events and recently looked at the Paralympics and Rio’s accessibility in these articles:
'Grotesque spectacle'? Rio has a long way to go to become more accessible
‘A brief history of the Paralympic Games: from post-WWII rehabilitation to mega sport event’