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The Purpose of a Conference on Inclusive Tourism: 
Of MICE and Mainstreaming 
Scott Rains, srains@oco.net 
The purpose of ...
A conference on Inclusive Tourism exists to promote the universal human rights affirmed in 
the United Nations Convention ...
The stakes are significant. Few destinations have so far demonstrated a strategic grasp of 
this market with the sophistic...
a Canadian non­profit 
organization focused on disability and travel. Following this in San 
Marino was the first internat...
suggesting that each such gathering offers a unique opportunity to collect the sort of 
statistically valid data upon whic...
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The Purpose of a Conference on Inclusive Tourism

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The Purpose of a Conference on Inclusive Tourism

  1. 1. The Purpose of a Conference on Inclusive Tourism: Of MICE and Mainstreaming Scott Rains, srains@oco.net The purpose of any conference is to bring persons, products, ideas and a specific physical location together to facilitate unique forms of interaction that are not so easily accomplished virtually. Within the profession of tourism discussions of events such as conferences are often grouped with meetings, incentives, and exhibitions. This subset of the tourism industry is collectively referred to as MICE or sometimes as Incentive Tourism. A conference on Inclusive Tourism is a professional MICE activity. As such, it has the double responsibility to apply the highest standard of MICE best practices and ethics while it simultaneously models to the industry how these are to be applied or modified so that conferences normalize full participation by the “the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design.” Those who organize or contract to conduct 1 a conference on Inclusive Tourism must be culturally competent as MICE practitioners. The goal of Inclusive Tourism is to achieve a business culture within the tourism and hospitality industry and a supporting policy structure across stakeholder groups that facilitates tourism for all. Inclusive Tourism results from the application to tourism of the human­centered design process known as Universal Design. Universal Design “is a framework for the design of places, things, information, communication and policy to be usable by the widest range of people operating in the widest range of situations without special or separate design.” Beyond the straightforward principle of full and equal physical accommodation of participants with mobility impairments lay a series of logistical considerations involving sensory, language, or intellectual difference among participants. This includes adjustment of lighting technologies for those who require illumination. Inclusion also requires video captioning and audio description of images presented to assure the inclusion of those who do not process information visually. It includes sign language interpretation (in multiple sign languages in parity to providing multiple languages to those conference participants limited to oral language). In brief, a conference on Inclusive Tourism is both an instance of showcasing the best practices of MICE in the area of inclusion of all participants and is a privileged venue for improving such practices in a context where the high concentration of persons with disabilities provides direct access to the breadth of expectations of groups (cultures) of those with differing functional abilities. Travel as a Human Right 1 http://www.humancentereddesign.org/universal­design
  2. 2. A conference on Inclusive Tourism exists to promote the universal human rights affirmed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities (CRPD) most specifically in Article 30 which affirms the right of all, regardless of ability, to full cultural participation. As an example of MICE a well­executed Inclusive Tourism conference will justifiably be evaluated as a case study of up­to­date best practices in the inclusion of participants of all levels of ability. This is currently often done using broad traditional categories with a medicalized tone such as: ● Sensory diversity: Auditory (Deaf/ HoH) and Visual (Blind/Visually Impaired) ● Mobility impairment: Wheelchair­user, Slow Walker, Amputee ● Neurodiversity or Cognitive impairment: Various cognitive processing diversity such as Autism, Traumatic Brain Injury It remain unclear at this stage in the study of travelers with disabilities whether the same categories used in the medical field (above) will provide segmentation of customer behavior that is of practical value in tourism. Further research may reveal more relevant ways to segment this demographic for the purposes of developing travel products and services. In the meantime, it is important to recognize that such blurring between professional domains is highly problematic from the perspective of many persons with disabilities. Adoption of a Medical Model (caretaker; cure approach) by the industry would signal to many persons with disabilities their continued rejection as consumers and a failure of the industry to adopt the preferred Social Model of Disability (social justice; inclusion approach). Failure to heed this warning will result in consumer backlash against even well­intentioned industry efforts. A Point of Initial Collaboration In pragmatic terms any conference on tourism requires input from the three major stakeholder groups of the industry ­policymakers, businesses and consumers. To a great degree, due to historic global practice in hiring persons with disabilities or retaining employees who age into disability, persons with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the third stakeholder group ­consumers. To compensate to some degree to this marginalization and disenfranchisement, groups representing those with disabilities have historically focused on shaping the policy framework of the industry to the neglect of educating and negotiating with the industry on needs, standards and travel behaviors of their constituent groups. In fact, representative groups may be completely lacking in valid data on the travel preferences and behaviors of their constituency. A correlate need to the lack of cultural competency related to disabilities on the part of the general MICE community is a lack of competence communicating the needs, preferences and cultural norms of various disability communities to the travel and hospitality industry. Filling this mutual gap in reliable information provides an initial point of collaboration and inquiry between industry and disability groups.
  3. 3. The stakes are significant. Few destinations have so far demonstrated a strategic grasp of this market with the sophistication of Australia as presented in the report, Setting a Research Agenda for Accessible Tourism. High­level studies established the market 2 size and desire to travel by persons with disabilities. In 2014 the world population of those with some sort of disability was calculated at 1 billion or 15%. Trends lead to estimates that by 2020 fully 20% of those traveling will have disabilities. Open questions related to travel behavior by those with disabilities also involve measurements on a smaller scale: ● Does the venue collect data on the number and satisfaction level of travelers with a disabilities? ● Within a given type of travel, region, or destination what percentage of travelers have disabilities? ● Does the type of disability impact the type of travel, region, or destination visited by a traveler with a disability or are observed differences the result of differences in the degree of preparedness of suppliers of the type of travel and/or the destination? ● Does the venue or supply chain have a reliable procedure to assure continuous improvement in the number and satisfaction level of travelers with a disabilities? Specific questions relevant to MICE also offer opportunities for collaboration and research: ● Do existing MICE policies, procedures and best practices conform to the seven principles and goals of Universal Design 3 ? ● In what ways can MICE benefit from theory, findings and best practices in Universal Design for Learning 4 ? ● Have conference organizers, staff and volunteers been made culturally competent to deal with the full range of abilities of participants? Measuring the Turning Point The year 2014 marked a turning point in the scope and frequency of conferences promoting Inclusive Tourism. In Montreal, Canada the first World Summit on Destinations for All was co­organized by the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) together with Keroul, 2 Setting a Research Agenda for Accessible Tourism, http://crctourism.com.au/wms/upload/images/disc%20of%20images%20and%20pdfs/for%20b ookshop/documents/darcy_accessibletourism.pd 3 The Seven Principles of Universal Design, http://humancentereddesign.org/universal­design/ principles­universal­design 4 Universal Design for Learning, http://www.cast.org/udl/
  4. 4. a Canadian non­profit organization focused on disability and travel. Following this in San Marino was the first international conference hosted by the United Nation’s World Tourism Office (WTO) and in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia the 5th Pan­Asian International Conference on Inclusive Tourism (ICAT 2014) was organized by the Asia­Pacific Network for Accessible Tourism (APNAT.) At the Summit ENAT was tasked with forming a new global organization forming an umbrella entity gathering regional entities such as ENAT and APNAT. At the same Summit the declaration A World for Everyone was published to provide 5 guidance to destinations. The need for rapid, effective sharing of conference best practices grows proportionally with this increase in pace and geographic distribution of conferences on Inclusive Tourism around the globe. The history behind on of the seminal works in this field, Anxiety to Access: Tourism Patterns and Experiences of People with a Physical Disability, 6 suggests one partial solution to this need. The study Anxiety to Access took advantage of the captive audience that was over 2,700 persons with disabilities traveling to the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2000. The study’s close analysis of the travel behavior and experiences of this group provided a benchmark from which to begin a constant cycle of improvement in the area of inclusion in tourism. The timing of this study calls to mind that gatherings such as the Paralympics or Conferences on Inclusive Tourism bring together a large sample of travelers with disabilities 5 A World for Everyone, http://www.accessibletourism.org/?i=enat.en.reports.1656 6 Anxiety to Access: Tourism Patterns and Experiences of People with a Physical Disability, https://www.academia.edu/1370792/Anxiety_to_Access_Tourism_patterns_and_experiences _people_with_a_physical_disability Appendix: A Resource List of Some Existing Guidance on Event Accessibility The CWST Accessible Event Handbook http://cwst.icchp.org/node/63 The European Union Portal on Accessible Events http://hub.eaccessplus.eu/wiki/Accessible_Events Service and Inlusion.org http://www.serviceandinclusion.org/index.php?page=access Inclusive Events.org http://inclusiveevents.org/
  5. 5. suggesting that each such gathering offers a unique opportunity to collect the sort of statistically valid data upon which to base best practices. To take full advantage of these unique opportunities for the evolution of MICE best practices each planning committee for a conference on Inclusive Tourism should move beyond the current conference­planning practice of inclusion of a group tasked with developing the scientific content to be presented at the conference. The planning committee should include a group responsible for scientific capture and analysis of the travel and conference experience of attendees and presenters the results of which serves as a quality­check on the conference and then becomes presentation content for the next conference on Inclusive Tourism to occur.

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