During World Tourism Day 2016 celebrations in Bangkok, I had the opportunity to share how we are working to promote social innovation, inclusive development programmes, and other initiatives that can make universal accessibility to tourism possible.
Current legislation in markets like the U.S. and the EU oblige companies to implement certain accessibility criteria when providing access to information for people with accessibility needs. One in seven people has at least one disability, more than 1,000,000,000 people globally.
According to the European Network for Accessible Tourism, 46% of disabled people in the EU, don’t travel at all, and our own research indicates that 86% of those who do would wish to travel more if travel was made more accessible for them. Add to this the needs of a steadily aging population with increasing accessibility requirements, and you see the potential of accessible travel and tourism. With these numbers in mind, we want to raise awareness within the travel industry about the potential value of accessible travel and tourism, and of its potential as a key to inclusive and sustainable growth.
A top down, universal approach is needed in the travel and tourism industry to improve accessibility, and meet the needs and rights of travellers with accessibility needs. Public and private partners need to find synergies, and international partnerships between cities and countries could accelerate the implementation of truly accessible “corridors” that can serve as role models and benchmarks for others.
Developing accessible travel solutions
As a leading global provider of technology solutions for the travel industry, we have a major role to play in helping the travel industry to develop accessible travel solutions that enable travellers with disabilities to access a complete and satisfactory travel experience. We also have an obligation to improve how the travel and tourism industry becomes increasingly inclusive as employers, and how we give work opportunities to people with disabilities.
We develop solutions that can enable the integration of more accurate and relevant content on accessible tourism. Technology can act as an enabler and as a catalyst for change in the way all travel providers are connected.
Emphasising accessibility through design improves the overall user experience: Amadeus e-Retail, one of our major booking engines for airlines, has been made accessible to –AA level (WCAG 2.0 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), and 38 airlines have already implemented the new, accessible solution. Other travel players need to be aware of this increasing need and opportunity and join forces with us to create a better and more inclusive future for all.
We are currently working in collaboration with the UNWTO, the ONCE Foundation in Spain and with the European Disability Forum to fully understand what accessibility may entail for our customers, and to anticipate their future needs and opportunities in this area. We encourage other travel industry partners and public bodies to join us in this exciting adventure.