Ever since its inception, World Tourism Day is celebrated on September 27 to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political, and economic value. As the official day set aside in the United Nations Calendar, the celebration seeks to highlight tourism’s potential to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing some of the most pressing challenges society is faced with today.
Accessible tourism for all is about the creation of environments that can cater to the needs of all of us, whether traveling or staying at home due to a disability, even temporary, or to families with small children, or the ageing population, at some point in our lives, sooner or later, we all benefit from universal accessibility in tourism.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) strongly encourages nations to make all tourist facilities, products, and services accessible for everyone. This accessibility is crucial to attain sustainable tourist policies. The combined effort marks the celebration of World Tourism Day 2016 under the theme “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility.”
Washington DC-based International Development Institute in collaboration with the Soarway Foundation, Operation Namaste, and Four Season Travel and Tours in Kathmandu, Nepal, has put together an Explore Himalayas 2016 program in September 2016. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world’s population (1 billion people) is estimated to live with some form of disability.
The inclusive tourism movement in Nepal is pleased that the “Wounded Heroes Trek of Hope to Nepal” program is on the list of events by UNWTO, celebrating World Tourism Day. The trek is the only such project to be recognized in Nepal – and one of only three throughout South Asia. This gives much-needed hope and a moral boost to all involved in turning accessible tourism into a reality in Nepal. The Wounded Heroes Trek of Hope to Nepal hopes to provide international attention to the country to boost tourism, thereby positively moving the country forward economically.
The program takes a team of 19 wounded heroes, which includes a team of medical professionals and a team of writers, as well as journalists to Nepal with the hope of inspiring 500,000 people with disabilities in Nepal by creating awareness for social responsibility and making Nepal accessible for people with disabilities during the rebuilding of Nepal after the 2015 earthquake. The program will take this team to Kathmandu, Nagarkot, Pokhara, the Poonhill trek, and Chitwan.
Scott DeLisi, former US ambassador to Nepal, who is now Executive Director of the Soarway Foundation, said: “It’s about inclusive tourism. By making Nepal an accessible tourism location we can build an economy. We can help them build a future that they can face with confidence rather than fear.”