1 - The potential of inclusive tourism
1.1 – 1.1 What does “inclusive tourism” mean?
The by now obsolete concepts of ‘suitable for the disabled’ or ‘suitable for wheelchairs’, although sporadically still used, is being supplanted by the holistic concept of ‘inclusion’, together with the specific concept of ‘accessibility’.
‘Inclusion’ means that any person – with or without disabilities – is placed in the position of being able to use all public space structures without limitations, external help or significant difficulties, and therefore of fully participating in social life.
1.2 – Which groups does inclusive tourism target?
The first group that the concept of inclusion calls to mind is that of people with disabilities who require accessible structures in order to be able to take part in social life. Other notable target groups for inclusive tourism, however, are the elderly due to the physical limitations linked to their age, children and their parents with prams/push chairs, persons with temporary disabilities, and service suppliers. Consequently, one could say that accessibility is essential for 10% of the population, necessary for 30%, and a quid pluris that can make life easier for 100%.
1.3 – What is intended with ‘accessibility of the entire chain of tourism services’?
The expression ‘accessibility of the entire chain of tourism services’ refers to a completely inclusive and well-structured tourism offer within a specific region. The chain of tourism services consists of three blocks: ‘before the holiday’, ‘during the holiday’ and ‘after the holiday’. If the offers proposed are inclusive for all three of these phases, guests with disabilities can enjoy an inclusive experience at any time during their stay.
1.4 – Which interest groups does inclusive tourism include?
Tourism service suppliers (hotels, tourist boards, etc.) play a leading role in the development of tourism. In creating inclusive structures, cooperation among these figures and the ‘organisations for people with disabilities’ (such as for example ÖZIV, Independent L., etc.) is of fundamental importance.
1.5 – 1.5 How should this cooperation be structured?
Cooperation towards developing inclusive tourism mainly stands on four pillars:
- Coordination and control: the various interest groups should be aware of the great potential inherent to inclusive tourism. Each interest group, therefore, should actively commit within its own area of competence to boost inclusive tourism projects. To this end, it is important to plan sufficient resources (personnel, capital, etc.).
- Communication: to this regard, one often observes excellent cooperation at regional level. To guarantee uniform development of inclusive tourism, however, cooperation must function at state level, too. In general, communication must also be accessible (Inclusive Web Accessibility) so as to provide everyone with easier access to the information supplied.
- Role clarity: each interest group should have its own role in developing inclusive tourism. Although it may seem obvious, it is truly fundamental to achieve concertation, especially among the major interest groups, so as to learn from the other groups’ experience and eliminate ‘duplicates’ (different platforms with different interfaces and different evaluation criteria for the same tourist destinations).
- Cooperation and integration: stemming from the cooperation among all of the interest groups described, the parties concerned exchange experiences, thereby providing sustainable development of inclusive tourism that is rid of ‘island solutions’, incompatible with one another, and instead featuring the creation of a unified set of inclusive structures.
1.6 – I would like my region to become ‘accessible’. How do I go about it?
In the course of the GATE Project, a manual was drafted with the aim of providing first orientation to interested regions. Readers approaching this topic should proceed as follows:
- Read the manual
- 2. Read the document “Guidelines” (Italian ver. | German ver.)
- Read the document “Multisensory Signs”
- View the educational videos
- Train their employees
- Contact experts (e.g.: “ÖZIV Bundesverband”, “independent L”, etc.).
1.7 – What is the economic potential of inclusive tourism?
Approximately 15% of the global population consists of people with disabilities or elderly people. In Europe, about 20% of the population has reached the age of 65 or over, and this group is increasingly suffering from the disabilities linked to ageing. Because of demographic changes, this group is expected to grow by 140% within 2030. Various studies claim that the potential of the inclusive tourist market in Europe stands at about 352 billion euros. For further information, consult the following literature:
Eurostat (2015): Disability statistics introduced
Eurostat (2016). Tourism trends and ageing (November 2016)
Eurostat (2019a). Seasonality in tourism demand (May 2019)
Eurostat (2019b). Population structure and ageing (July 2019)
Eurostat (2019c). Tourism statistics – participation in tourism (September 2019)
1.8 – What competitive advantages does inclusive tourism offer?
Inclusive tourism can offer the following competitive advantages:
- Escorts: guests with disabilities usually do not travel alone. On average, one can count on the presence of two escorts.
- Regular clients: people with disabilities tend more than others to return to the region chosen for their holiday if their stay was comfortable.
- Low season: thanks to the considerable added value for the elderly, they are more likely to travel in spring and in autumn.
- Word of mouth: people with disabilities form a well-connected network. For this reason, positive experiences are quickly and widely shared within the community.
1.9 – How much does it cost to make a region accessible?
The cost for implementing an inclusive type of tourism within a region depends on the measures implemented. Within the sphere of the GATE Project, the most diverse actions have been put in place to create better inclusion. (more info).
The adaptations required to guarantee better accessibility can often be achieved with very small financial means, as for example in the case of installation of ramps or lifts, in any case always envisaged by the construction specifications for new buildings. For this reason, when planning new tourism-oriented structures, such as excursion trails, panoramic platforms, parks, museums, etc. their accessibility should be considered and implemented where and as far as possible.
2 - People with disabilities
2.1 – What are the various types of disabilities?
People with disabilities can be divided into the following categories:
- People with walking and hand disabilities
- People using wheelchairs
- Hard of hearing people
- Deaf people
- Sight-impaired people
- Blind people
- People with learning disabilities
- People with special dietary requirements
2.2 – What are the needs of people with disabilities?
People with disabilities have quite diverse needs according to the type and severity of the disability in question. In our webinars, we have systematically illustrated the needs of the various categories from the points of view of the people directly involved.
2.3 – How much travelling are people with disabilities willing to engage in?
Per se, people with disabilities love to travel. To ensure a trip without encountering difficulties or generating worries, however, a key factor is the accessibility offered by the structures. Guests with disabilities need complete and detailed information regarding the destination they choose. Lack of inclusion inevitably leads to the frustration of the expectations of people with disabilities.
3 - Types of inclusive tourism
3.1 – What is the background to developing inclusive tourism?
Planning the accessibility of a region entails a rather complex procedure, that starts off with the raising of awareness among employees and finds its fulfilment in a well-thought out chain of services. In cooperation with “ÖZIV Bundesverband für Menschen mit Behinderungen” (Federal Association for People with Disabilities) and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, a ‘Barrier Check’ has been created in order to check the presence or absence of barriers within one’s structures. (www.barriere-check.at).
3.2 – Is there funding for inclusive tourism?
In Austria, one can obtain information from the respective “Fachbereiche für Behindertenhilfe” (Departments specialised in help for the disabled) in the various Länder.
3.3 – I would like to train my employees. Where is it possible to do that?
Within the GATE Project, complete webinars for tourist facility employees have been created. You can find them here.
3.4 – 3.4 What should my employees look out for when working with people with disabilities?
In general, employees should pay greater attention to guests with disabilities so as to spot difficulties as quickly as possible and come to their aid (but only after consulting with them first. For example, a person in a wheelchair would not be happy if someone pushed them without warning).
3.5 – 3.5 Where can I find information regarding excursion trail features?
The width and slope of excursion trails in Austria, Italy and Germany are governed by specific regulations (e.g.: Önorm 1600 in Austria; Province President’s Decree no. 54 dated 9 November 2009 “Regulations for the elimination and overcoming of architectural barriers” in South Tyrol).
The regulations are not harmonised across the countries and therefore are different. The organizations for people with disabilities can be contacted to provide information.
3.6 – How can I advertise inclusive structures?
Especially as regards inclusive tourism, digital media offer a wide range of opportunities for detailed communication of information. Information should also satisfy all of the features of digital accessibility for everyone (Web Accessibility).
Within the GATE Project, various applications have been developed and then made available to the bodies concerned within the geographical areas involved in the program:
- GATE IT-Tool – to view points of interest (POI) for people with disabilities on one’s own homepage (WordPress);
- accessible web app for the presentation of information points along theme routes (QR codes)
- chatbot model (FB messaging service) to provide visitors with information
All information regarding available applications can be viewed on the project page gateproject.dolomitiunesco.info
3.7 – How can I inform people with disabilities?
People with disabilities keep in close contact with each other. Consequently, the report of their experience by people with disabilities that have visited a given structure plays a fundamental role in informing this target group. Should they be unable to get information through this channel, people with disabilities prefer the phone as a means for getting information.
3.8 – How is the accessibility of inclusive structures assessed?
3.9 – What symbols can be used to indicate accessibility?
A still highly popular method for indicating accessibility is the renowned wheelchair sign, but this does not allow people with hearing or seeing disabilities to learn whether a structure can meet their accessibility needs, too. The same is true for people with learning disabilities. The purpose of the document “Multisensory signs” is precisely to offer a wider range of symbols that can be used to indicate accessibility.
3.10 – What must be considered when signposting inclusive excursion trails?
Considering the needs of people with disabilities, it can be said that information panels and the signposting of excursion trails often do not meet those needs. Consequently, within the GATE Project a set of so-called “Multisensory Signs” has been created containing best practice examples referring to digital and analogic signs intended for people with disabilities.
3.11 – 3.11 I have more questions. Whom can I contact?
In Austria, the largest representation of these interests is assigned to “ÖZIV Bundesverband – für Menschen mit Behinderungen”. In South Tyrol, Italy, a competent local mediator is “independent L.”.In Germany, the “Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für die Belange von Menschen mit Behinderungen” (Federal Government appointee for the interests of people with disabilities) provides a complete overview of the bodies of reference and of the associations operating in the various federal Länder.
4 - The GATE Project
4.1 – What is the GATE Project?
GATE (Granting Accessible Tourism for Everyone) is a cross-border cooperation project implemented by Italian and Austrian partners for the development of inclusive tourism offers intended for the entire population of the Alpine and Pre-Alpine region, with the aim of making natural and cultural attractions more accessible: gateproject.dolomitiunesco.info
4.2 – What has been implemented within the framework of the GATE Project?
Within the GATE Project, pilot projects have been launched in four different regions. Within the project’s context, these pilot regions are implementing technical measures for people with disabilities. The pilot regions are: