Accessible tourism: a precious and untapped market – The Himalayan Times – Nepal’s No. 1 English Daily Newspaper
KATMANDU, AUGUST 25
Investing in disability-friendly infrastructure and services can help hoteliers and entrepreneurs tap into the accessible tourism market in Nepal, a growing segment in the world, while boosting economic growth and accelerating recovery, according to a report. new study.
The report – Open to All: A Survey of Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Nepalese Hotels – covered 90 star hotels in major cities. While 95 percent of participating hoteliers were aware of accessible tourism as a concept, the study found that they had not invested in the necessary measures to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.
With existing facilities limited to ramps and elevators in most hotels, only 17% of hotels surveyed installed signs to help visually impaired guests and 74% had no Braille signage on door signs and directories. rooms, according to the survey. .
In addition, only about nine percent of hotels had staff trained or with basic knowledge of sign language, while only 33 percent of participating hotels had additional wheelchairs for guests.
The low numbers were attributed to a range of factors, including old structures, remote locations and fewer disabled guests. Many of the hotels surveyed also cited the additional costs as a major barrier to building ramps, purchasing wheelchairs or providing other accessible infrastructure and services.
âGlobally, the concept of accessible or inclusive tourism has gained ground in recent times. Accessibility in tourist destinations is the key to responsible and sustainable tourism to ensure that everyone can be a part of the tourism experience, regardless of physical limitations, disabilities or age. said Wendy Werner, International Finance Corporation (IFC) country manager for Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. âAccessible tourism is not only a human right, it also makes good business sense.
According to the World Health Organization, around one billion people around the world are affected by some form of disability.
According to disability rights experts in Nepal, as more people with physical limitations and disabilities travel the world, the focus on accessible infrastructure in hotels as well as tourist destinations may increase. the number of foreign tourists in the country.
âCurrently, around 2,000 disabled tourists visit Nepal every year,â said Mitra Lal Sharma, president of the National Federation of Disabled People of Nepal. “But, with improved facilities and more suitable conditions for people with disabilities, the number could easily reach over 10,000 tourists a year.”
âAlthough accessible tourism is relatively new to Nepal, we are confident that with the right support we can strive to explore and attract this growing segment of tourists to our country,â said Shreejana Rana, President of Hotel Association Nepal. She said a second round of discussion should take place with hoteliers and they can correct the concept and behavior towards people with disabilities.
Dhananjay Regmi, Director General of Nepal Tourism Board, highlighted the collective efforts to explore opportunities for accessible tourism in Nepal. He said Nepal could seize the opportunity with strong collaboration between government ministries, hoteliers and other stakeholders.
Likewise, Bernerd Cocco, Deputy Residential Representative of the United Nations Development Program, appreciated the initiative taken in favor of accessible tourism.
âThe survey report will certainly enrich knowledge and help make Nepalese tourism sector more accessible,â he said. Cocco also said that Nepal has enormous potential for growth if favorable infrastructure can be created to promote accessible tourism.
The study recommended that government, the private sector and donor agencies work together to create an enabling environment by incorporating universal accessibility practices into relevant legal and policy provisions, with the participation of people with disabilities.
The study was conducted by the Society of Economic Journalists-Nepal, in collaboration with the National Federation of People with Disabilities-Nepal, with financial and technical assistance from IFC.
A version of this article appears in print August 26, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.