Accessible tourism: an opportunity of growth

A Public Hearing around the theme “Tourism for all: a challenge to win” took place on the 9th February at the European Parliament. Accessibility of destinations, accommodation and information within the EU’s new tourism strategy were discussed.

The Conference was opened by Carlo Fidanza MEP who underlined the need to invest in accessible tourism to give to 80 millions of people with disabilities in Europe the possibility to travel and move without restriction. This does not only represent the protection of a right but also an investment in a very strategic area of the economy.

The audience was then addressed by Antonio Tajani, VP of the European Commission, who underlined that an accessible tourism policy in Europe will benefit not only disabled people but all EU citizens. He added that the development of a future “European Tourism Quality Label” will include accessibility as quality criteria to apply to tourism products and destinations.

The European policies on accessible tourism develops around four priorities:

  1. Map the demand of accessible tourism: the EU has now just fragmented data
  2. Map the supply of accessible tourism: lack of information represents a loss of potential travelers
  3. Improve skills: staff has to understand needs of tourists with disabilities
  4. Foster awareness on tourism operators on the importance of accessibility as a source of economic growth

The Hearing was also an occasion to present best practices in the sector: the project of IBIS Hotel in Hungary that created special rooms for deaf people; the Italian experience of Village for All, that developed a quality brand to be applied to accessible tourism destinations; Artklikk, an Hungarian project aimed at providing ICT accessibility solutions to the deaf and hard of hearing; the Spanish NGO Fundacion Handisport that promotes sport and recreational activities for tourists with disabilities in Mallorca.

European networks on disabilities were also present at the conference: the European Disability Forum and the European Network for Accessible Tourism. Both representatives underlined the importance to involve disabled people in the definition of tourism strategies and policies on accessibility. As highlighted by Adam Kosa MEP “ It is high time not to decide from behind the desk how one can make tourism accessible for people with disabilities. Today we have heard about a lot of good practices which were successful because they departed from a practical point of view and were created with the involvement of parties concerned”.


  1. It is extremely heartening to see this growing awareness and demand for accessible tourism. I have just completed the ‘Harmonization of the Accommodation Grading Standards’ across 15 countries of the southern Africa. These new set of standards include 50 specific universal accessibility standards as a necessary requirement for being graded. Furthermore these standards [which also include the basic quality assurance standards as well as approximately 70 responsible tourism standards] have been validated by all 15 Ministers of Tourism and/or the responsible tourism authority. The full program will be launched in early 2014 enabling accommodation suppliers approximately 2 years to upgrade their facilities. At least 1/25 rooms per property must be appropriately equipped. The initial reaction of accommodation suppliers has been very positive and countries like Mozambique, which are currently upgrading their standards, will now automatically include accessibility standards. This has the full support of the private sector. however much remains to be done. For the most part hotel managers and owners, while sensitive to the issue, have little idea of what needs to be done. As with other technical requirements, there is a need for manuals or guidelines that can assist any operator to integrate these new standards into the current or future properties.
    For a recent PowerPoint presentation on accessible tourism standards, please contact me through my e-mail address.
    James MacGregor

  2. Federica Dallan

    Dear James MacGregor,
    thank you for sharing this information.
    Firstly, we would like to know if this new set of standards can be transferred in Europe. We think that there are opportunities in this context as well.
    Secondly, we think it is crucial to share your research with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism (GPST), a task force promoted by UNEP with the mission to transform tourism around the world by making it more sustainable. The Partnership includes 84 partners in total located in 46 countries on 5 continents including 29 in emerging and developing countries. This is the link to the GPST website:
    JLag is member of the Partnership. If you are interested, we are pleased to introduce you to the Partnership.
    Lastly, regarding the need to have manuals and guidelines to support operators in the field of tourism to integrate standards, one of the most relevant initiative in Europe is ‘Train to Ecolabel”. This project, financed by the European Commission, aimed to develop an online training system which helps employees and managers from the tourism sector to implement the European Ecolabel for tourist accommodation services and camp sites. If you are interested in this project, you can find more information at:

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