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17 Oct, 2007

Travel For The Disabled Gaining Momentum

An International Conference on Accessible Tourism (ICAT 2007) for people with disabilities is to be held in Bangkok between November 22-24 to highlight the need for improved facilities and services for a growing but still largely neglected market segment.

In this dispatch:

1. TRAVEL FOR THE DISABLED GAINING MOMENTUM: An International Conference on Accessible Tourism (ICAT 2007) for people with disabilities is to be held in Bangkok between November 22-24 to highlight the need for improved facilities and services for a growing but still largely neglected market segment.

2. HANDBOOK ISSUED ON RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES: A handbook has been launched to help the world’s parliamentarians ratify and implement the newly adopted UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The handbook will also help the travel & tourism industry cater to this significant customer group of 650 million people.

3. CLIMATE CHANGE: THE INTERNAL & EXTERNAL CHALLENGES FACING THE INDUSTRY: German travel giant TUI AG handles 30 million passengers a year who leave a significant carbon footprint. Dr. Wolf Michael Iwand, head of TUI AG’s Group Corporate Environmental Management/Sustainable Development unit outlines the environmental management challenges faced by both the company and the industry.

4. ORGANIC FOOD BEST FOR ALLEVIATING POVERTY & PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT: In a statement released on Oct 16, World Food Day, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements says the principles of organic agriculture are ideal to promote ecologically, socially and economically sound food consumption. The travel & tourism industry can do a lot to help.



An International Conference on Accessible Tourism (ICAT 2007) for people with disabilities is to be held in Bangkok between November 22-24 to highlight the need for improved facilities and services for a growing but still largely neglected market segment. Says Scott Rains, one of the conference organisers and publisher of the Rolling Rains Report, a newsletter on travel for people with disabilities, “With a generation of permanently disabled people having experienced increasing degrees of employment, education, and leisure, those of us with the means to travel belong to a consumer group that is only starting to be noticed.”

The conference is being backed by Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sport, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, UNESCAP and Disabled Peoples’ International Asia Pacific (DPI-AP). It will be held at the UNESCAP convention centre.

There is no registration fee for participants with disability but they have to take care of their own personal expenses as well as of their personal assistant. Accessible bus will be provided for airport pick up and send off. Facilities such as accessible toilets, accessible water fountains, and accessible lifts are available in the convention center.

Essential sessions of the conference programme will be translated into Braille. A large-print programme will be prepared. English will be the official language, accompanied by a sign language interpreter during the conference.

Mr Rains says the conference will contribute to processes of change and development lines of tourism businesses to ensure a favorable environment for attracting tourists and travelers with disabilities and retired, ageing people, including access to built environments and public transport as well as training and employment.

Says Mr Rains, “Travel the world today and you will find that there is a hunger for community and solidarity among people with disabilities. Wherever you go you will find unique opportunities to learn from and contribute to local manifestations of disability culture. When we travel we represent more than ourselves because we are part of a community. The very fact that you have a disability and travel suggests something about your economic condition. It indicates that you have credit, savings, education, maybe a profession that requires travel, but most importantly the ability to make decisions about the course of your life for yourself. That combination of means and dignity are potent means of social transformation.”

He adds, “Leisure travel means moving beyond mere survival mode. A small but growing percentage of us have made the transition to economic stability but we are not equally distributed around the world. Travel spreads us around which is to say that it spreads around living examples of an alternate lifestyle; ambassadors of choices still out of reach for some. How we chose to spend those resources – even through our leisure activities – has profound impact.”

Mr Rains cited research showing American adults with disabilities or reduced mobility currently spend an average of US$ 13.6 billion a year on tourism. In 2002, these individuals made 32 million trips and spent US$ 4.2 billion on hotels, US$ 3.3 billion on airline tickets, US$ 2.7 billion on food and beverages, and US$ 3.4 billion on trade, transportation, and other activities.

Out of a total of 21 million persons, 69% had traveled at least once in the previous two years, including 3.9 million business trips, 20 million tourist trips, and 4.4 million business/tourist trips. In the previous 2 years, out of a total of 2 million adults with disabilities or reduced mobility, 7% had spent more than US$ 1,600 outside the continental United States. In addition, 20% had travelled at least 6 times every 2 years.

A study by the Open Doors Organization estimated that in the year 2003, persons with disabilities or reduced mobility spent US$ 35 billion in restaurants. According to the same study, more than 75% of these people eat out at restaurants at least once a week. The United States Department of Labor reported that a large and growing market of Americans with disabilities or reduced mobility have US$ 175 billion in purchasing/consumer power.

In the United Kingdom, the Employers’ Forum on Disability estimated 10 million adults with disabilities or reduced mobility in the UK, with an annual purchasing power of 80 billion pounds sterling. The Canadian Conference Board reported that in 2001, the combined annual disposable income of economically active Canadians with disabilities or reduced mobility was 25 billion Canadian dollars. A UN survey also found that by year 2050, the numbers of ageing population will rise to 2,000 million and 54 percent of them live in Asia region.

The conference is supported by Pattaya City, Asia Pacific Disability Forum, The Redemtorist Foundation for People with Disabilities and the Council of Disabled People of Thailand. The conference website:http://www.dpiap.org



Geneva, 8 October 2007 — The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) today launched a handbook on the newly adopted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, aimed at raising the awareness of this new legal instrument among parliamentarians. The handbook will particularly enable legislators to become more familiar with the Convention and provide them with the tools to facilitate its ratification and subsequent implementation.

Persons with disabilities – some 650 million worldwide – remain amongst the most marginalized in every society. While the international human rights framework has changed lives everywhere, persons with disabilities have not reaped the same benefits. To fill this gap, the United Nations General Assembly adopted in December 2006 the new Convention and its accompanying Optional Protocol.

“Parliaments and parliamentarians have a key role to play in promoting and protecting human rights. This Handbook is our contribution to help bring down barriers, remove prejudices, and outlaw discrimination in the area of disability. We stand behind the new Convention as an important tool to help persons with disabilities achieve the transition from exclusion to equality”, said the IPU Secretary General, Mr. Anders B. Johnsson.

“The Convention, the first human rights treaty of the new century, marks a historic step in ensuring that disabled persons enjoy full participation in society and can contribute to the community to their full potential. I hope that the Handbook, in addition to raising awareness, will foster the speedy ratification of the Convention so to end the protection vacuum that has, in practice, affected persons with disabilities”, said Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“The Convention has enormous potential to advance the great goals of human rights and development for all. It provides a framework where all stakeholders can work together to create policy and practices that lead to societies where persons with disabilities are fully appreciated, acknowledged, and encouraged to flourish. Parliamentarians have a crucial role to perform in this effort, hence the launch of this Handbook”, added Mr. Sha Zukang, UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The English version of the Handbook was launched today before some 600 legislators attending the 117th IPU Assembly in Geneva. French, Spanish and Arabic translations will follow. The Handbook will also be available online on the websites of IPU, OHCHR and UNDESA. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will enter into force after twenty ratifications are received. As of today, 117 countries have signed the Convention to date and 7 have ratified it.

Contacts : IPU: Ms. Luisa Ballin, Tel.: +41 22 919 41 16, e-mail: lb@mail.ipu.org or cbl@mail.ipu.org. IPU website: www.ipu.org. OHCHR: Mr. Yvon Edoumou. Tel. +41 22 917 9383; e-mail: yedoumou@ohchr.org. OHCHR website: www.ohchr.org



[The following is an edited version of the speech by Dr. Wolf Michael Iwand, head of TUI AG’s Group Corporate Environmental Management/Sustainable Development unit at the recent UNWTO-Conference on “Climate Change and Tourism” in Davos.]

It is the industry’s civic function to present to you how a tourism business, how TUI responds to climate change and particularly what we do about mitigation. TUI is not only a “Tour Operator”, but a multitude of operators, travel agents, air transport and cruiselines, incoming agencies and resort hotels. TUI is a vertical integrated touristic corporation “along the tourism value chain”, listed at the London and Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Under the umbrella brand “TUI Travel PLC” we now serve approx. 30 million of customers, in 20 source markets and in 200 destinations with a tourism turnover of more than 18 Mrd. (billion) Euro (in 2006).

You may imagine that TUI’s carbon footprint is significant. No doubt! With our fleet of 156 charter aircraft only and the respective GHG-emissions, the financial market evaluates our carbon risk as “High”, and our climate risk within destinations and leisure hotels as “Medium”. Because of this the financial market pushes permanently our “Energy and Carbon Efficiency Program” to the maximum.

We have implemented an “Integrated Corporate Carbon Strategy” which embraces Mitigation, Adaptation, International Collaboration, Research & Development and Carbon Reporting. We are disclosing systematically all relevant emissions data and we are a continuous participant of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP).

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI World), the global financial index for socially responsible investment, ranks TUI’s performance – in 2007 as in 2006 – as benchmark in climate strategy, biodiversity and ecotourism in the Travel & Tourism Sector. To give you only one KPI: The current average fuel consumption of the whole charter airline fleet of TUI is at 3.0 liters / per 100 passenger-kilometers (compared to 3.95 litres of Air France). Some of our charter airlines are well below. We are using our “economies of scale” to achieve “economies of scope”.

We are continuing to make steady progress in our efforts at emissions reduction! We are very close to decoupling GHG-emissions and traffic growth. Nevertheless I am rather hesitant with the word “Carbon Neutral”. We prefer Low Emissions and clearly not ZERO Emissions.

If you ask for challenges, I would focus on internal & external challenges. The internal challenges are: 1) the “short-term” horizon of the financial market; 2) Cost vs. Profitability; and 3) the sustainable management of additional growth. The external challenges are: 1) the EU-Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) and its Carbon Caps, starting 01.01.2011, for which we systematically prepare; 2) the Consumer’s willingness to pay or to stay (at home); 3) the respective consequences for the Receiving Countries; and 4) The consequences for our competitiveness in international markets in terms of level-playing field.

In this context we clearly believe in the broad potential of Technology & Innovation (achievable by Private Public Partnerships) and less in Regulation, Invention!

And we believe in Competition (thanks to Air France, BA, LH, Easyjet, Virgin) – we have to, in order to defend our position as Global Tourism Market Leader. Nevertheless – once again I am very reluctant – to claim “Leadership”. We do our job responsibly and consistently! The climate change tourism issue is far too complex and the consequences are shaded. Our core vision is to making climate protection an economic success. Can we achieve this?

Carbon Mitigation in particular, Climate Strategy in general is TUI’s environmental objective No. 1: Hi-Tech at “Least Cost”. We invest and we deliver. This has become routine operational work “in progress”, measured against targets and standards. TUI’s approach is very “down to earth”: it’s not about “we are saving the planet”, but it’s about Environmental and Social Governance, Compliance and Precautionary Risk Management.

For the last 50 years, charters have played a major role in destination development. Today, this global success story is at stake. Today Aviation and Tourism are said to be the climate killer No. 1. The Tourism-Transport-Dilemma is a fact. But the way the public climate change debate on Tourism & Aviation is driven, is a nasty noisy Rocky Horror Picture Show, creating uncertainties 1) in business for investments and contracting; 2) amongst the Consumers to book their holidays in (long-haul) destinations and 3) within the local populations. Is this something to be proud of?

If I understand Tourism’s responsibility rightly, within the context of fundamental global structural changes, then my imperative is: We must travel more to bring value to the destinations, to benefit societies and local communities. We are – as UNWTO claims “committed to Tourism, Travel and the Millennium Development Goals” – and Poverty Reduction in particular.

TUI is sending every year many millions of holidaymakers into Developed and Developing Countries, into Less and Least Developed Countries. Approximately 50% of the Least DCs are TUI destinations in their early stages, all of them hoping to increase volume and to improve basic needs requirements of their local populations. What will happen to them when aviation and long-haul tourism is attacked and is to be stopped?

I gave an extended analysis on climate change and tourism in Djerba 2003, and I think it is still relevant. You may find everything in this respect on our website: www.tui-environment.com. During the 1st WTO-conference on climate change and tourism in Djerba I proposed UNWTO to be the “clearinghouse” for all actors, for all aspects of tourism & climate change. Since then UNWTO is doing an extremely professional job. This conference in Davos literally is “at the highest level”. Today on our way to the UN-Climate Conference in Bali (December 2007) we need to integrate the principles of the DAVOS Declaration with ICAO’s climate change-work and ICAO-Guidelines for emissions reduction. Because ICAO reflects the air transport needs of its Member States.

And this is my other imperative: Air Transport is an indispensable part of tourism development. “It’s the economy, stupid!” I am absolutely convinced that we can achieve our common objectives in Mitigation AND Adaptation. Not tomorrow, but within the appropriate time frame.



[Editor’s Note: The following statement was issued on Oct 16, World Food Day, by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. An umbrella grouping of organic agriculture movements worldwide, IFOAM’s goal is the worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture.]

Bonn, Germany, October 16 2007 — On this World Food Day 2007, with the theme of the Right to Food, which was recognized as a universal human right in 1948 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, over 850 million people around the world, particularly in least developed countries, suffer from hunger and malnutrition. For IFOAM, the Right to Food is the right of every person to have regular access to sufficient, nutritionally adequate and culturally acceptable food for an active, healthy life. It is the right to feed oneself in dignity and to produce healthy and culturally appropriate food through ecologically, socially and economically sound methods, defining one’s own food systems, rather than the right to be fed. This counts for each and every individual, as well as for communities and regions.

Currently global trade relations and rules, international and national policies, structural adjustments and trade concentration affect food security in a number of ways. The inequitable competition between producers in industrial countries and those in developing countries severely constrain production in developing countries. The most direct effects are caused by developed countries dumping their agricultural surpluses in developing countries and creating unfair competition resulting from perverse subsidies. When sold on the world market at less than the cost of production, these surpluses depress local prices, thereby lowering production and peoples’ direct access to food, although they may officially have a ‘Right to Food’ in their own countries.

>From IFOAM’s perspective, the Right to Food also means that life cannot be patented. Patents on life support the monopoly control of genetic resources by few, thereby extensively undermining peoples’ right and access to food. IFOAM believes that the Earth’s gene pool cannot be claimed as commercially negotiable genetic information or intellectual property by governments, commercial enterprises, other institutions or individuals. The intentional use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which is banned in organic production, epitomizes abhorrence of the Right to Food. GMO’s and patents on life substantially contribute to the current deplorable world food situation.

Organic farming systems prioritize local and national economies and markets and empower peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, food production, distribution and consumption based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture, which ensure environmental, social and economic sustainability. Through its traceable systems, whether through third-party organic certification or through Participatory Guarantee Systems and the involvement of the community, organic production guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of citizens to choose their food and nutrition patterns. Organic production is the systematic approach that helps ensure the rights of people to control their destiny, and as a result, to beat hunger and malnutrition. Organic farming offers the tools and techniques necessary to ensure the Right to Food for subsistence farmers and local communities, and offers sustainable models for regional development and international trade.

The reality of what Organic Agriculture can and is doing for food security and in securing the Right to Food is being proven by intergovernmental agencies and independent universities. At the conference Organic Agriculture and Food Security in May 2007 at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the findings were that Organic Agriculture empowers social systems to control their own food supply and organic labels enforce the right to choose food, and that in sub-Saharan Africa, a conversion of up to 50 percent would likely increase food availability and decrease food import dependency. (ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/meeting/012/j9918e.pdf)

Reputable studies by major universities are finding organic agriculture can feed the world as well. A recent study by the University of Michigan showed that organic farming can yield up to three times as much food on individual farms in developing countries, and that in developed countries, yields were almost equal on organic and conventional farms. (http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=5936) A 22-year study by Cornell University concluded that organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides. (http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/organic.farm.vs.other.ssl.html)

Angela B. Caudle, IFOAM Executive Director stresses “since food is directly connected to communities and cultures, the Right to Food is also connected to community and rural development. There needs to be space for development that is not created by donating chemical fertilizers, but rather supports the regeneration and improvement of indigenous and local knowledge.”

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