Opportunities for Innovation in Accessible Tourism for All
Published on: 27.07.2022
For many tourists, travelling is all about what new things they can see while neglecting most of the other senses? Only a small percentage of travelers rely on sound, smell, touch, etc. Thus, one can ask: What are we missing in travel and leisure?
How do people with visual impairment enjoy traveling and exploring new places? Can they and other persons with disabilities enjoy tourism as much as people who are not physically challenged?
It’s difficult to find an activity that celebrates diversity and inclusivity more than travel. Yet, the majority of travel agencies and tour operators use the term inclusively, only when referring to the types of packages they offer. Such packages might be all-inclusive in terms of services offered per said value of money, but what about accessibility?
How much do people with disabilities fall into the profile of the average tourist that enjoys basking in the sun on a coastal resort, going to the mountains on a ski vacation, attending major events, exploring local culture, or engaging in outdoor adventure activities? Is it easy for them to find travel packages that offer accessible and equal participation?
And if they don’t, what new approaches to inclusive tourism are innovative startups proposing to them?
Accessible Tourism, a Rising Market and Opportunity for Innovation
About seven to eight percent of foreign tourists in the world tourism market have a disability. However, the profit from this market is often underestimated. The question arises, are conventional companies in the tourism and recreation industry looking at the bigger picture? About 15 percent of the world population experiences some sort of disability. 15 percent means one billion people. Moreover, accessibility in tourism is for everyone and not only certain groups. Travelers might need accessible services because of old age, illness, pregnancy, etc. At the same time, such services would affect not only tourists and visitors but also local people.
It is expected that by 2050 people over the age of 60, senior citizens, who will have more money and time to spend on leisure activities, will account for 22 percent of the world population. That means endless business opportunities in the tourism industry that cater to the needs of this groupage.
A recent survey found that this is already happening and senior customers are ready to spend more on truly inclusive travel experiences.
There’s room for a lot of innovation, improvement, and creativity in the industry, especially concerning travelers with disabilities. They love to travel as much as anyone else. Hence, they need unique travel experiences that are tailored to their specific needs.
Innovative and unique experiences for all travelers
People with disabilities have the right to access services, at least in every country that has ratified the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Moreover, many apps and technologies assist them with transportation, accommodation, recreational facilities, traveling with animals, etc.
However, what is some unique travel experiences that they enjoy to the fullest?
Seeing nature with the ‘ears’
Sometimes they are the same activities all tourists do, only the senses involved differ. For example, visually impaired people enjoy bird listening, while others go for bird watching. The same applies to forest and wildlife listening.
A pioneering initiative on bird routes, with a special focus on blind people, was launched in rural Cali in Colombia by River Cali Association. Visitors can be part of a unique sensory experience that allows them to reconnect with nature and at the same time learn how to identify the different types of birds living in the tour areas. This is the first birdwatching route for people with visual impairment in South America. Colombia is the country with the greatest diversity of birds in the world, with about 1,900 species.
The bird routes promote and support the maintenance of biodiversity and local communities, the sustainable use of local resources, and equitable participation for everyone.
Moreover, those interested in sound tourism can use this travel guide by Trevor Cox, professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford. It includes locations all over the world that can be helpful to those fascinated by sound experiences. One can learn about the singing dunes of Chile, the amazing acoustics of Gol Gumbaz Mausoleum or the Pisa Baptistery, the sea organ in Zadar, Croatia, and the superb Lyrebird in Australia, the whispering arch at St. Louis Union Station, and many other natural and man-made places.
Meanwhile, Deaf Travel does the same, but for hearing impaired travelers. They have a map of locations worldwide and videos explaining details in sign language about the places.
Making memories and making them last
Another novelty related to blind travelers focuses on helping them to keep memories from their adventures. Fully blind people have difficulties recalling certain moments. Others lose their visual memories a few years after going blind. 3D printing companies come to help. They print 3d items or photography from people’s travelers and vacations to help them keep their memories alive simply by touching the 3D print. The technology has been used by different museums that print paintings in 3D thus, the visually impaired visitors can appreciate art through the sense of touch.
Cooking, a recipe for empowerment and independence
People with disabilities can engage in a wide range of activities from cooking, pottery making, and meditation, to paragliding, zip lining, white water rafting, and skydiving. Blind people can even do guided skiing.
Cooking classes are an exciting activity to engage in while traveling for people with disabilities. They not only help disabled visitors enjoy the process in their way, but it also paves the way to support inclusive businesses run by local people with disabilities. One example is Blind Bake, a café run by visually impaired women in New Delhi. It would be an amazing experience to try delicious local food made by blind women. The project goal is to teach women financial independence through cooking skills and later to help them become entrepreneurs in the long run.
Feel the thrill of adventure
Planet Abled takes the travel experience for people with disabilities to the next level. Launched by Neha Arora, a young Indian woman, whose parents suffered physical challenges, the initiative offers wheelchair users, visually and hearing impaired people, amputees, and those with intellectual and cognitive disabilities the opportunity to explore India and Southeastern Asia to the fullest. People enjoy cultural splendor, nature, cuisine, the desert, spiritual destinations, and adventure equally.
A huge opportunity for innovation
There’s a gap in the travel and tourism market accessibility that needs to be filled to boost sustainable, responsible, and accessible travel. Innovative solutions from local entrepreneurs can help fill it. How could you implement such a business idea to promote sustainable tourism in your area while supporting local communities? Do you have an idea or project that contributes to sustainable development?
Submit it to the Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition #CEC22 before September 15th.
You still have time to take our free entrepreneurship training that can help develop a business concept into a real product or service. Everyone can bring the desired change in society, and entrepreneurship can be your path to do that.