Towards the Universal Design of Tourism Services
Tourism is a multi-facetted phenomenon. It is a significant driver of the global and European economy; a way of making a living for multitudes of businesses across many sectors; a longed-for pleasure; an ‘escape’ to another dimension for many people whose lives are tied to the working week; an opportunity for inter-cultural exchanges; a chance to make discoveries about the world we live in and perhaps even learn a little more about ourselves and our place in the world. Yet for many people, being able to travel and stay as a tourist is an unreachable dream.
Travel is a pastime and a pleasure that is often denied to those who have a disability, older aged citizens and those with long-term health conditions. People with disabilities and others with specific access requirements are frequently not included – simply left out of the equation – when it comes to tourism offerings because, all too often, tourist information, facilities, transport and services are not designed with these customers in mind.
Against this background, this presentation examines, with the help of successful examples, how applying Universal Design (UD) principles to the design and delivery of tourism services can lead to benefits for businesses, tourist destinations and to visitors of all ages and abilities.
Achieving the goal of inclusive, accessible tourism for all requires that tourism suppliers must get closer to their customers in order to understand their requirements more deeply and, accordingly, deliver higher standards of welcome and service. As tourism business owners and managers seek to cater for changing markets at competitive prices, those designers who can introduce and apply the UD approach in this sector may hold the key to revolutionising tourism services along the whole value chain. Notably, by making tourism accessible and inclusive for all tourists, the communities that host the visitors will themselves be more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
It is time for all tourist destinations to follow the examples of venues, regions and cities that have started to redress the imbalances that have been weighed against people with disabilities in the area of tourism and leisure. In a world where over 1 billion people travel to other countries each year, achieving tourism accessibility for all is simply a must.
Mr. Ivor Ambrose is the Managing Director and co-founder of ENAT, the European Network for Accessible Tourism. He holds a Masters degree in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey, UK and has worked as a researcher, project manager, lecturer and policy advisor in the fields of building design and evaluation, accessibility and assistive technologies for disabled and elderly people, housing, information systems and tourism management. He has previously held positions at the European Commission DG Information Society in Belgium, the Danish Building Research Institute and the University of Surrey, UK. In addition to managing ENAT, he provides international research services and consultancy on accessible tourism development for public authorities, regions, destinations and enterprises. He is a member of the UN World Tourism Organisation’s Panel of Experts and Co-Chair of the World Summit on Destinations for All, 2014 in Montreal, Canada. He lives in Athens, Greece.
Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director
ENAT – European Network for Accessible Tourism
ENAT Secretariat, Jean Moreas 66,
GR-15231 Halandri, Athens, Greece.
Tel. (0030) 210 614 8380