PM touts ‘universal design’ policy
THAILAND is set to transform itself into the Southeast Asian hub of “universal design” tourism, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
“Thailand is aiming for fully universal-design tourism through our heritage and cultural attractions,” Prayut said at the celebrating of World Tourism Day.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) also called for more investment and improved management for disabled tourists globally.
Prayut said that by 2060, the number of people aged 60 and over would increase to 20 per cent of the world’s population, with one-fifth of this group living to be over 80 years old.
Elderly and disabled tourists can be a huge opportunity for Thailand’s tourism industry. To achieve that goal, the government needs cooperation from the private sector, community networks, civil society, policymakers and tourism stakeholders.
David Scowsill, president and chief executive officer of the WTTC, said the travel and tourism industries had to offer more accessibility for disabled tourists with three priorities.
First, they have to understand the market’s dynamics and opportunities so that operators can prioritise actions accordingly. They have to look at what the leading players are providing and learn from them, as often some simple adaptations or a mere awareness of the needs of people with a disability can make a big difference.
And third, they have to partner with organisations that have experience in working in accessibility to ensure that what operators can provide are appropriate and communicated effectively.
He argued for catering to people with disabilities far beyond those travellers restricted to wheelchairs, such as all forms of mobility restrictions, hearing or visual impairments, learning disabilities and mental-health issues.
This encompasses the needs of an ageing population around the world
“Travel and tourism [industry] needs to take accessibility requirements seriously. The imperative is not only moral, but it also makes good business sense,” he said.
The global Sustainable Development Goals provide a road map for a more equitable and sustainable future. If the industry is going to be truly inclusive in its growth, it must ensure that it is accessible to everyone, Scowsill said.
Nearly 15 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability. As populations get older, the number of people with special needs is going to increase.
“Many tourism businesses can be deterred from making themselves more accessible. Sometimes they have financial concerns about the investment necessary to alter or refit their facilities, and at other times they are concerned about offending people.
“That is why days such as the World Tourism Day are so important. We need to raise awareness of the opportunities of accessibility and the mechanisms by which it can be achieved,” he said.