By Hasnain Noorani
For most of us, tourism is quite accessible and we tend to take our ability to embark on a vacation anytime for granted.
It is disappointing, to say the least, that huge strides have not been made in the direction of accessibility of tourism, especially as there are around 1 billion people (15% of the world’s population) living with some form of disability across the globe according to estimates by the World Health Organization. There is as well more than 2 billion people, such as spouses, children and caregivers of persons with disabilities, representing almost a third of the world’s population, are directly affected by disability.
While this indicates a huge possible market for tourism and hospitality industry, it still remains immensely underserved due to inaccessible travel and tourism facilities and services, as well as discriminatory policies and practices.
Holiday peak season is beckoning, it’s high time that hospitality industry players appreciate the potential people living with disabilities have in boosting tourism numbers. There is need to recognize that easing accessibility to everyone and particularly those with disabilities is more than just erecting a ramp at the entrance to a hotel or reserving a parking slot for the disabled.
Airports, hotels, and other tourism facilities must cater to meet the needs of people living with disabilities. Part of this is ensuring that venues have sanitary facilities for the disabled, handrails in bathrooms, braille in lifts, providing hydraulic lifts in big tour buses and even lowering reception desks so that the receptionists are eye to eye with their disabled wheelchair bound guests.
Hospitality venues have gradually been implementing changes to cater for the disabled. Local brands for instance PrideInn have made tremendous moves in positioning the country as a universally accessible tourism destination, they are offering products that are adapting to the needs of people with disabilities by implementing best practices and systems, ensuring accessible restaurants thus protecting an individual’s rights to travel with dignity. The hotel chain has adapted hotel rooms for the disabled.
The Declaration on Universal Accessibility in Tourism which Kenya is a state party to, agreed that everyone needed equal access to attractions and facilities and that it was the right thing to do. Universal accessibility would also enhance Kenya’s global tourism competitiveness.
Statistics prove that apart from being a basic human right, universal accessibility can boost tourism numbers to a destination too.
With some 15% of people in the world, the sector is worth billions of shillings every year.
The disabled and the ageing generally travel with family, friends or care takers, so there is a multiplying ripple effect. It is a sector that cannot and should not be ignored.
The potential market for universal accessible tourism in Kenya is said to be about 30% of the population and a portion of those have disposable income and can afford to travel and that is a market that the industry should be tapping into.
It is important to note that accessible tourism is not an obligation for a country, but an opportunity. It benefits everyone, leading to a more vibrant economy, richer experiences, greatly increased revenues and happier citizens. The accessible travel market presents tremendous opportunities for businesses that are ready to make the required efforts. People with disabilities travel more frequently during the low season, usually travel in groups and tend to return to a place they feel comfortable in making it profitable for destinations to especially cater to them.
Hasnain Noorani is the founder and Managing Director for PrideInn Group of Hotels