Thursday, 26 September 2013

Barrier-free tourism for all: the need for know-how

The economic significance of barrier-free tourism is on the increase however the awareness of the needs of elderly and disable people is frequently lacking. The potential market represented by travellers whose mobility is restricted has, in the past, been seriously neglected.

The German National Coordination Office for Tourism for All (NatKo) was created in 1999 to combine and coordinate the activities of a variety of self-help organisations working towards this end and thus help to improve travel facilities for disable people. NatKo is the central representative body for barrier-free tourism in Germany.

In 2003 the Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour (BMWA) in Germany made a study to check the importance of training to be able to meet the needs and wishes of this target group. This study showed that the potential market of disable people must be fast considerable. In Germany there are 6.7 million people who are registered as severely disable, representing more exactly 8.1% of the population. Half of them are over 65 years of age and the proportion of elderly people is on the rise, doing that in a few years the overall proportion people with restricted mobility will become between 30 and 35%.

The results of the study on travel and tourism showed clearly that the market offers hugest lacks on the services to people whose mobility is restricted:
(a) the proportion of such people travelling is lower than in the case of those mobility is not restricted – 54.3% against 75.3%;
(b) travel is largely undertaken regardless of season;
(c) the proportion of tours within Germany is high at 41.2% compared with 30.5% outside Germany;
(d) 37% of those questioned has already abandoned plans to travel because of a lack of barrier-free facilities;
(e) 48% would travel more often if the available offers were more plentiful.
(f) This study also made various recommendations – one important was the creation of a nation-wide training programme for those working in travel and tourism.

Currently net sales of holidays in this target group has real potential for growth of EUR 620 to EUR 1930 million, that, according to the BMWA, could mean up to 90 000 new full-time jobs.

One of the chief areas of NatKo was ensure that employees in a barrier-free tourism industry are professionally qualified. For this it has designed a training programme with training material prepared between people who work in tourism and representatives of organisations of disable people. This training material, highly practice-related with no essential aspects omitted, is focus on four groups of people with restricted mobility:
(a) people with walking difficulties and those who are confined to wheelchairs;
(b) the blind and visually handicapped;
(c) the deaf and those with impaired hearing;
(d) people with understanding difficulties.

Elderly people often come into these categories with difficulties in walking, seeing, hearing or understanding and therefore also need the benefits of barrier-free tourism.

A considerable amount of training on barrier-free tourism is being carried out in Germany. A number of tourism organizations run training courses:
· Lower Saxony has run a whole series in its various regions;
· Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has made the subject part of a training campaign;
· Rhine Hesse is actively working towards barrier-free tourism, offers training to all those employed in tourism in the region;
· The State of Brandenburg has a comprehensive programme of training.

All those taking part have understood that know-how is one key to success in barrier-free tourism for all.