World Tourism Day 2016: Promoting Universal Accessibility

World Tourism Day 2016 will be officially celebrated in Bangkok Thailand today, 27th September. For the last quarter–century World Tourism Day, promoted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), has aimed to foster awareness of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic impact. The theme for this year promotes universal accessibility – the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis.

Image Source: Amphibia Magazine

The theme recognises that people with disabilities, senior citizens and families travelling with small children, and all citizens will eventually need and appreciate the advantages of universal accessibility.


“Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis. Yet 1 billion people around the world living with disability, along with young children, seniors and persons with other access requirements, still face obstacles in accessing fundamentals of travel such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate.  Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments are being left behind in many tourism destinations. Accessibility is both an important market opportunity and central to responsible and sustainable tourism policies and business development strategies,” said Un Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.


“We must not forget that for many, travelling can be quite a difficult process,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “We thus urge all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, to promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels.”


Reaching universal accessibility in tourism is a shared responsibility of all parties involved in the tourism value chain, as well as a business opportunity for companies and destinations.


Below is a ‘tourism for all” checklist developed by UNWTO to help promote universal accessibility

  • Apply accessibility standards and guidelines throughout the tourism sector Promote employment opportunities in tourism for persons with disabilities
  • Apply Universal Design and sustainability principles in construction or renovation of buildings, public spaces and services
  • Establish Destination Management functions with the public sector and civil society to foster accessible and inclusive tourism
  • Apply Universal Design principles to visitor information, tourism websites, booking engines, transport, facilities and services
  • Invest in raising awareness and building capacity towards fully accessible tourism supply chains
  • Foster innovation in tourism to achieve quality, safety and comfort for all, including people with disabilities
  • Enable customers to assess whether accessible tourism facilities, products and services meet their individual needs
  • Urge stakeholders to work together to mainstream accessibility standards in all tourism products and services
  • Involve organizations of people with disabilities and specific access requirements in all accessible tourism-related developments

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