'Make tourist attractions accessible'

HARARE - Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) says the country’s tourism industry must become fully adapted to catering for people with disabilities.

“This also widens the focus to include people who are excluded from such exposure because of financial limitations, and part of our opening out to the widest possible number of people is the provision of accessibility to people with limited income,” ZCT president Francis Ngwenya said.

He noted that while it was inevitable that people with no or little income are more focused on daily survival, the travel and tourism sector should incorporate this large number of people in its area of focus, so that greater numbers of Zimbabweans can have access to the attractions in their very own country.

“We are not prescribing methods for doing this, but my appeal to the sector is this — let’s do what we can to make our attractions more accessible to greater numbers of disadvantaged people, such as folk with disabilities or of lower income, and in so doing ensure that travel and tourism is not simply the domain of wealthier people.

“By working together, the entire community can facilitate such a positive development, which will have benefits for all,” Ngwenya added.

This comes as calls have been getting louder for the tourism industry to urgently provide accessible airport transfers, wheelchair-adapted vehicles and appropriately designed streets and pavements to accommodate people with disabilities.

Economic analysts say hotel rooms, restaurants and other facilities must cater for the needs of the blind, the deaf and people with physical disabilities.

In his message on World Tourism Day, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urged policy-makers, travel planners and companies that work with persons with disabilities to work together to make travel more accessible.

“Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis.

“Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments are being left behind in many tourism destinations,” Ki-moon said.

According to the message, while almost 1,2 billion people are travelling aboard each year, close to one billion persons with disability, along with young children, older persons and persons with other access requirements, still face obstacles in accessing the most basic travel needs such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate.

“Tourism has become a powerful economic sector, a passport to prosperity and peace, and a transformative force improving millions of lives,” Ki-moon said underlining that benefits of accessible tourism will not only provide an important market opportunity, it will help ensure that all people are able to participate in tourism and enjoy unforgettable travel experiences.

The theme for this year’s World Tourism Day is Tourism for All — Promoting Universal Accessibility.

In a separate message, Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organisation, the specialised UN agency that works for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, highlighted that travelling has become a major part in many lives and said that with the world’s population ageing, everyone sooner or later will benefit from universal accessibility in tourism.

“As we celebrate World Tourism Day, let us recall that all of the world’s citizens have the right to experience the incredible diversity this planet has to offer,” he said, urging all countries and destinations, as well as the tourism industry, to promote accessibility for all.

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