Promoting Inclusive Tourism in Malta

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Promoting Inclusive Tourism in Malta

  1. 1. The (untapped) potential of inclusive tourism Words: Anne-Marie Callus and Gordon C. Cardona Inclusive tourism, also termed ‘barrierfree’ or ‘accessible’ tourism, is a form of tourism that aspires to ensure holiday destinations, and related products and services, are inclusive of everybody regardless of impairment. Accessibility very often brings to mind physical access. Of course, this is a crucial part of inclusive tourism. The importance of ensuring that hotels and restaurants, transport services, tourist attractions and other related services and facilities are physically accessible, cannot be emphasised enough. Unfortunately, as many people with mobility impairments know, lack of access can make what was planned to be an enjoyable day out an unpleasant venture. This is even more so for wheelchair users. For this reason, when disabled people are planning a holiday, they choose with care and go for those destinations which can offer them the maximum amount of accessibility. Like every other tourist, disabled people are more likely to visit a country or destination where they know they will enjoy their holidays than one where the level of accessibility and inclusion is 62 Special Edition 2013 uncertain and which may leave them disappointed with their holiday. The United Nations estimates that there are over 10 million disabled people in the world. With advancement in medicine and health care, people are living longer. However, longer life expectancy does not necessarily mean an impairmentfree life, with the number of disabled people, especially among senior citizens, set to rise. There is therefore a lot of untapped potential in making holidays accessible to all, even more so when one considers that most people don’t holiday on their own. Catering for a disabled tourist therefore means increasing one’s business not just by one person but also by the sum of the other persons travelling with that person. And of course, disabled tourists who are satisfied with their stay in Malta are bound to tell their friends, disabled or not, and encourage them to visit. Beyond physical access, inclusive tourism also needs to meet the requirements of other disabled people with different impairments, such as people with sensory or intellectual impairments. Here, it is essential to note that information should be provided in accessible or alternative formats. Besides that, staff and personnel directly or indirectly involved in providing tourists with a service need to have basic training in how to relate and conduct themselves to be able to provide their disabled clients with a good service that effectively meets their wishes and expectations. In addition, providing information on the company website about the level of accessibility of the service or facility is a useful way of attracting more clients, as disabled people are more likely to then choose that service or facility. Providing an inclusive tourism product is therefore not just about abiding by the requirements of the Equal Opportunities Act, which has been in effect in Malta since 2000. Or only about following the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Malta ratified in 2012. It is also about diversifying the tourist market, widening the type of clientele, and thus increasing profitability. INSIDER
  2. 2. Promoting inclusive tourism in Malta is becoming increasingly more possible as accessibility, in its various forms, is becoming more and more of a reality. The public transport service is much more physically accessible than it ever was and is also much more user-friendly for people with sensory impairments. The ferry service is also accessible, and there are also physically accessible taxi cabs. Heritage sites and tourist attractions are also becoming more accessible, as are hotels, restaurants, beaches, and other services and amenities which are essential to the tourism industry. Given that Malta’s economy remains dependent on tourism, those involved in hospitality simply cannot afford to neglect the great positive impact that inclusive tourism can have on this sector. In order to achieve the goals set out by inclusive tourism, those working in the field need to support efforts to make Malta more accessible to all. Besides historic and cultural sites which need to provide disabled people with equal access to sites and to information, it is equally important that disabled tourists have a pleasant experience when they use public INSIDER transport and when they go shopping or to the beach. The Malta Tourism Authority, in conjunction with the National Commission Persons with Disability, recently concluded an EU-funded project ‘Accessible Culture for All’. As a direct result of this project, a new website http://www. accessibletourismmalta.eu/ has been launched. The aim of this website is to provide operators with an opportunity to provide information about the level of accessibility of their services and facilities, thus also advertising them. Providing this information in one website will enable disabled tourists to make informed decisions. The more inclusive Malta’s tourism product is, the more attractive it will be for disabled persons and their families and friends, and the more profitable for operators in the tourism industry - a virtuous cycle from which we all stand to gain. Those working in the field need to support efforts to make Malta more accessible to all Anne-Marie Callus and Gordon C. Cardona, National Commission, Persons with Disability Special Edition 2013 63

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