For many people, the idea of going traveling is one that fills us with excitement and wonder – the chance to see new things, feel new emotions and learn from other cultures. Traveling truly is one of the most rewarding activities that a human can indulge in.
However, for others, travel can be synonymous with difficulty, exclusion and fear, particularly for travelers with disabilities who often find themselves overlooked by the industry – with their exclusion being highlighted as one of the key arguments against the development of vaccine passports. This week, the WTTC launched its new guidelines for inclusion and accessibility in the travel and tourism sector – here’s a look at what those guidelines are.
The WTTC’s New Guidelines – What Travelers Should Know
In their report, the WTTC described accessible travel as a social imperative, highlighting the fact that more than 1 billion people around the world live with disabilities that are as diverse as they are. As a result, the WTC created these guidelines for Travel & Tourism businesses to follow, to ensure that travelers would be better catered for going forward.
The WTTC divided their guidelines into four pillars – Developing an Inclusive & Accessible System, Creating Safe Spaces, Designing an Engaging & Relevant System and Exemplifying Inclusion & Accessibility.
Developing an Inclusive & Accessible System
According to the WTTC, this pillar refers to systemic support of accessibility needs. Key suggestions that the WTTC says businesses in the travel and tourism sector should adhere to include:
- Consider the creation of a specific role for an accessibility expert
- Collaborate with other businesses in areas where there are gaps in accessibility knowledge, experience and services
- Consider conducting meaningful research with travelers with disabilities whenever possible
- Offer travel products, services and facilities without accessibility barriers for those with physical, cognitive, intellectual or sensory needs
- Avoid making assumptions about a traveler’s disability or their needs
- Provide clear, detailed and accurate information for travelers with disabilities and share the information in a consistent manner across the business
- Provide training to staff on disability awareness and how to support travelers with disabilities, including how to counter unconscious bias or stereotypes
Creating Safe Spaces
This pillar refers to the creation of a travel ecosystem that is safe and welcoming for those with disabilities, where they can enjoy their travel experience like anybody else. It says that travel and tourism businesses should:
- Foster a respectful environment at all locations and for all activities
- Provide clear signage throughout the traveler’s journey for varying physical, cognitive, intellectual and sensory abilities
- Make accessibility decisions using feedback and information obtained from travelers with those disabilities, empowering them to share honest feedback
Designing an Engaging & Relevant System
This pillar refers to the need for businesses to adapt as needs evolve and more accessible products become available. It is recommended that businesses:
- Regularly and proactively engage travelers with disabilities in the creation of accessible products and services and obtain their feedback
- Include accessibility features in the booking process
- Consider flexible itineraries for those with disabilities
Exemplifying Inclusion & Accessibility
The fourth pillar is centered around how businesses offer inclusive and accessible travel. It is recommended that they:
- Engage with stakeholders, which should include disabled travelers
- Champion accessibility within the sector
- Have inclusive and accessible customer-facing processes
- Develop inclusive marketing, media and communication standards to dignify representations of all people and authentically represent them
Several organizations collaborated with the WTTC on the creation of these guidelines, including industry heavyweights such as Airbnb, Expedia Group and Hilton. Whilst people of the world await the resumption of international travel, these guidelines will give hope to many that travel becomes more accessible and inclusive in the near future.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories