Nepal to host accessible tourism meet in MarchA conference on accessible tourism, the first in Nepal and scheduled to be held on March 29, will seek to promote accessible holidays for the differently-abled and people with physical limitations who remain vastly underserved due to inaccessible travel and tourism facilities and services.
A conference on accessible tourism, the first in Nepal and scheduled to be held on March 29, will seek to promote accessible holidays for the differently-abled and people with physical limitations who remain vastly underserved due to inaccessible travel and tourism facilities and services.
More than 200 delegates, including representatives from global communities of the disabled, will take part in the conference. The three-day meet will be held in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Accessible tourism is an ongoing endeavour to ensure that tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. There are over a billion people with disabilities worldwide. According to Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide publisher, 50 percent of people with disabilities would travel more if suitable facilities were available to them wherever they travelled. Studies show that around 88 percent of people with a disability take a holiday each year. In the US, the Open Doors Organisation estimates that $17.3 billion is spent by adults with disabilities on travel each year. In Australia, around $8 billion a year is spent by travellers with disabilities. Around 12 percent of the European market is dedicated to people with disabilities. The market for accessible tourism is large and continues to grow. “It’s a huge market that has remained untapped,” said Deepak Raj Joshi, chief executive officer of the Nepal Tourism Board. “The objective of the conference is to spread the message that Nepal is accessible to all people, regardless of physical limitations, disabilities or age.”
Joshi added that Nepal needed proper infrastructure to tap into this market.
“We are also inviting the mayors of key metropolitan cities and municipalities to the conference,” he said, adding that they were the key players who could actually assure accessibility.
“It’s difficult to find a place in Nepal for differently-abled people as the tourism industry here has not realised the potential. There are a large number of hotels in Nepal, but only a few have wheelchair ramps. Nepal lacks basic needs such as toilets. When ordinary people do not have proper access to toilets in public places, building toilets for the differently-abled is a long way off. However, things can be changed if the potential of accessible tourism is realised,” said double amputee Hari Budha Magar, one of the key speakers at the conference. “
Generally, tourists with disabilities rely on word-of-mouth publicity, and they tend to stay longer than the average length of stay. If persons with disabilities are told that the tourist destination is friendly to them, they have the tendency and eagerness to visit that place.
According to the Division for Social Policy and Development under the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, the impact of accessible tourism goes beyond the tourist beneficiaries to the wider society, engraining accessibility into the social and economic values of society.
Accessible tourism enables all people to participate in and enjoy tourism experiences. More people have access needs, whether or not related to a physical condition. For example, older and less mobile people have access needs, which can become a huge obstacle when travelling or touring. The conference is organised by US-based International Development Institute.