With the objective of highlighting the best accessibility practices that the private sector has implemented, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) organized, in cooperation with the ONCE Foundation, an event on “Accessible Tourism as an Effective Business Strategy” held in the context of FITUR (Madrid, 22 January 2016).
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In addition to underlining the need to involve businesses in promoting projects that improve accessibility, the event demonstrated the benefits that the private sector can achieve through a commitment in this direction, considering that there are one billion persons with disabilities worldwide, and some 90 million in the European Union. Improved accessibility also facilitates the tourism experience of persons with impaired mobility, seniors and families.
As UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, who inaugurated the event, pointed out: “Tourism is a right, and access for all should be ensured. In this regard, the role of enterprises is essential, as it will not be possible to advance if tour operators do not create the appropriate infrastructure, products and services.”
Most of the statements and presentations at the event addressed the business opportunities that accessibility represents, as well as the boost that diversification and authenticity can provide to destinations. In this regard, José Luis Martínez Donoso, Director General of the ONCE Foundation stated: “Accessibility is not just a matter of rights, it also improves the competitiveness, the quality of service, and the profitability of enterprises or destinations that commit to this approach.”
Also participating at the event were Óscar Olivier, co-founder and Sales Manager of Accessible Madrid; David Miguel Pérez, Councillor for Tourism Promotion of the Municipality of Arona in Tenerife; Beatriz Celia Ruíz, Social Responsibility Officer of the Spanish Hotel and Restaurant Federation (FEHR); Juan Jesús García Sánchez, Adviser on Industry Relations of the Amadeus Group; and Faustino Cuadrado, CEO of Mass Factory, all of whom underscored the advances achieved in corporate and institutional commitment to the implementation of concrete measures in the field of accessibility.
This event on “Accessible Tourism as an Effective Business Strategy” was a result of joint efforts between the UNWTO and the ONCE Foundation, which have also worked together in the preparation of a series of manuals on accessibility strategies and good practices.
The UNWTO’s efforts to achieve greater accessibility in the sector will receive a substantial boost from the forthcoming World Tourism Day (WTD). Observed every year on 27 September, WTD will be celebrated in 2016 under the theme “Accessible Tourism for All”. This international celebration constitutes a unique opportunity to raise awareness in the global tourism sector regarding universal accessibility and its numerous benefits.