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17 Jun, 2014

UNWTO to hold milestone conference on accessible tourism in November

Madrid, 16 June 2014 – The 1st UNWTO Conference on Accessible Tourism in Europe is scheduled to take place in San Marino on 19-20 November 2014.  Even though this Conference has its primary focus placed on concrete achievements in terms of universal accessibility in travel & tourism in European countries, the UNWTO is encouraging tourism representatives from other regions to attend this milestone event and draw inspiration from a series of good practices which will be featured therein.

The official languages of the Conference will be English and Italian.

UNWTO is convinced that the facilitation of tourist travel by persons with disabilities is a vital element of any responsible and sustainable tourism development policy. In this spirit of mainstreaming disability issues, the Organization’s General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/492(XVI) in 2005, entitled “Accessible Tourism for All”.


Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil has been reporting for years on the importance of accessible tourism. Click on the links below for previous dispatches:

Singapore hotel wins first Asia-Pacific award for dedication to Persons with Disabilities

UN Declares 2013-2022 as “Asia-Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities”

Free Report Can Help Boost Travel for People With Disabilities

The Thrill of Learning a New Language — Sign Language

Featuring a series of recommendations to the sector, it highlighted the necessity of providing clear information on the accessibility of tourism facilities, the availability of support services in destinations for persons with disabilities, and the training of employees on the special needs of these individuals. The document, prepared with the help of experts provided to the Organization by the Spanish ONCE Foundation, updated the 1991 resolution A/RES/284(IX), “Creating Tourism Opportunities for Handicapped People in the Nineties.”

In October 2009, UNWTO again underscored the importance of accessibility with the Declaration on the Facilitation of Tourist Travel, approved by its General Assembly in Astana, Kazakhstan. Of a purely recommendatory nature, it advises that “great efforts should be made to ensure that tourism policies and practices are inclusive of persons with disabilities.” The declaration calls upon states to ensure the accessibility of tourism establishments, the availability of special facilities for persons with disabilities at no additional cost, the publication of detailed information on the availability of such services and the special training of tourism staff. It further endorses the general principles enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and invites all States to implement them.

In 2011, UNWTO established an action plan to carry out several activities with external partners in the field of accessibility, including the development of guidelines, indicators, benchmarking and training to make tourism destinations accessible for persons with disabilities (1 billion people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, 2011).

On the 16 September 2011, a trilateral framework agreement was signed between UNWTO, ONCE and ENAT (the European Network for Accessible Tourism), involving building on the resolution on accessible tourism for all, providing advice on policy-making, awareness-raising, producing guidelines, and embarking on training and capacity building projects, especially via the UNWTO.Themis Foundation, as well as the labour insertion of persons with disabilities into UNWTO.

2011 Memorandum of Understanding signed between the ONCE Foundation, UNWTO and ENAT. From left to right: Alberto Duran López, Executive Vice President of the ONCE Foundation, Taleb Rifai, UNWTO Secretary-General, and Lilian Müller, President of ENAT.

In context of this trilateral agreement, an update of 2005 UNWTO Recommendations on “Accessible Tourism for All” has been approved by the UNWTO General Assembly at its 20th session in August 2013.

Recommendations on Accesible Tourism for All NEW!

Adopted by UNWTO General Assembly Resolution A/RES/637(XX) of August 2013, updating the 2005 UNWTO Recommendations

Manual on Accessible Tourism for All 

One of the most significant outcomes of a major collaboration framework between UNWTO and disabled people’s organizations (DPOs), particularly the Spanish ONCE Foundation for the Cooperation and Social Inclusion of People with Disabilities, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), and the Spanish ACS Foundation, are the Manuals on Accessible Tourism for All. They are meant to assist tourism stakeholders in improving the accessibility of tourism destinations, facilities and services worldwide.

One of the Manuals has been already released in partnership with the ACS Foundation. In the following links, you can download both the Executive Summary and the full text of the Manual.

The Manual on Accessible Tourism for All: Public-Private Partnerships and Good Practices, is the first tangible outcome of a fruitful collaboration between the UNWTO and the ACS Foundation.

It features the inclusion of both cultural and natural heritage assets into the accessible tourism value chain as well as the technical knowledge necessary for making tourism infrastructures and attractions accessible to all.

This publication is currently available in Spanish only, in a digital accessible version. It has been laid-out following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0  (level AA)

The Manual on Accessible Tourism for All: Principles, Tools and Good Practices, which is being co-produced with the Spanish ONCE Foundation and ENAT will be published soon. For the time being, you can download the Executive Summary of the Manual by clicking on the links below:

Resolutions on Accessibility

See Resolutions on Tourism Accessibility

Relevant Articles and Reports on Tourism and Accessibility

Empowering All People Through Tourism (2011)

FITUR 2013: “Accessibility: A Competitive Advantage for Tourism Destinations” (Final Report – Spanish)