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:
- Map the demand of accessible tourism: the EU has now just fragmented data
- Map the supply of accessible tourism: lack of information represents a loss of potential travelers
- Improve skills: staff has to understand needs of tourists with disabilities
- 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”.