On Friday 6th June 2024, the European Commission and the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) organised a conference on Accessible Tourism. It was called 'Mind the Accessibility gap' and was held in Brussels. It followed the completion of 3 European wide studies on:
1) the economic impact and opportunity of accessible tourism
2) the successes and the needs from the supply side
3) the requirements and plans from a policy perspective
The day was full of interesting talks about the problems, solutions, best practices, case studies and general progress of tourism for disabled and older people. For me it was surprising how many disabled people want travel in their lives, how the tourism industry wants to cater for this, and how the European Commission are keen to facilitate this. I really liked meeting other stakeholders and seeing progress in action.
Unfortunately the day also showed me that we have a lot to do. Just my trip alone from Spain to Brussels highlighted many problems with our airports, airlines, buses, trains, expensive taxis, inaccessible restaurants and other supply side provisions. I felt awkward explaining this in my talk, but I felt the EU headquarters should understand these issues occur close to home too.
My specific talk was about the customer perspective. I gave the view of our higher expenses, ridiculous processes for boarding a plane, the attitudes of some transport drivers, the general lack of accessible amenities, and the need fot information on the good accessibility providers.
You can view my whole speech here:
Despite how negative this sounds, we have made great progress. Please do look at the 3 study presentations and the general talks given in Brussels here. You will see a wealth of positive information, successes and passionate planning.
As a disabled community we need to start defining our needs, propose these solutions, appreciate the challenges of the Accessible Tourism industry and national/EU governments, prioritise our aims, push for progress, and ultimately never compromise on our equal rights.
If you have any personal or professional insights on Accessible Tourism please tweet @martynsibley or @Dhorizons. We want to get your voice heard where it matters.
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