By Ms. Marina Diotallevi, Head Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility Department, UNWTO
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
It is my great pleasure and an honour to join you for the second time on the occasion of the 2nd World Summit on Accessible Tourism.
On behalf of the World Tourism Organization, the UN specialized agency for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, I would like to commend our Affiliate Member COLLECTIF ACCESSIBILITÉ WALLONIE-BRUXELLES – CaWab, and their partner Keroul, for organizing this important global forum.
I also wish to thank the Minister of Tourism of Wallonie for his warm welcome yesterday and for hosting us here, today, at this wonderful complex The Egg.
I am particularly delighted to be here in Belgium, as it brings back good old memories of my 6 years as a university student; 4 of which spent in Louvain-la-Neuve and 2 in Brussels.
Global tourism trends and sustainability
Tourism, as we have witnessed throughout the last decade, is one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors of the world economy.
In 2017, the UNWTO has registered a new record of more than 1.3 billion tourists crossing international borders. In 2030, this figure is expected to reach 1.8 billion. If we include domestic tourism, we would have to multiply these figures by five.
These may be excellent news for the global economy and job creation.
However, without concerns for sustainability and inclusion, tourism can develop in ways that damage the environment, disrupt social structures, put high pressure on infrastructure, and ignore the plight of people with disabilities and specific access requirements for accessible environments, products and services.
Tourism has an important role to play in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities. We have gathered here today to demonstrate that universal accessibility indeed benefits everybody, and not only persons with disabilities.
Code of Ethics and Ethics Convention
Our Organization believes that Tourism constitutes a human right which should be equally enjoyed by all segments of society.
This conviction is at the heart of UNWTO’s core policy document, the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, a voluntary instrument adopted in 1999 by the UNWTO General Assembly and acknowledged two years later by the United Nations GA.
The Code of Ethics advocates, inter alia, for the removal of obstacles that hinder the right of direct and personal access to tourism and call for facilitating accessible tourism for all.
To reinforce the effectiveness of the Code, UNWTO Member States will cast their final vote at our next General Assembly in 2019 to convert this voluntary instrument into a legally binding treaty, the Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics.
The adoption and subsequent ratifications of the future UNWTO Convention will also enhance the observance of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) among our Member States and prompt tourism administrations and destinations to address accessibility in a more systematic manner.
My colleague Daniela Bas in charge of inclusive social development at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, diligently monitors with her team the implementation of this major international human rights treaty.
Mainstreaming Accessibility in Tourism
UNWTO is promoting Accessible Tourism not only as a human right and a matter of social equality, but also as an economic opportunity for tourism destinations and companies to enhance their overall competitiveness.
We strongly advocate with our Member States for accessibility to be a central part of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy and business strategy. We also urge our partners to integrate the accessibility component into the entire tourism value chain.
UNWTO has been working since 1980 to mainstream universal accessibility across our tourism sector, in collaboration with civil society organizations of the disability community, public administrations and the tourism industry.
Together with our partners (and I would like to make a special mention here to ENAT and its Director Ivor Ambrose who is present today) we have issued a series of awareness-raising and guidance tools, notably two sets of Recommendations on Accessible Tourism for All, adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly in 2013 and 2015.
The first set of UNWTO Recommendations serves as a general mainstreaming framework for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to the built environment, the transportation system, information and communications channels, cultural and sport activities, natural settings and a wide range of public facilities and services.
These Recommendations incorporate relevant principles of the CRPD Convention and of Universal Design, while underlining the importance of adequate staff training as a basis of good access and equal treatment of customers.
The second set of UNWTO Recommendations provides a detailed guidance on making information and communication channels in tourism more accessible, including signage, printed, digital and audio-visual content, websites, Apps, mobile devices and interface terminals.
These Recommendations also insist on enabling all customers -with or without disabilities- to book directly and independently their whole travel itinerary in real time, based on accurate and regularly updated information made available in accessible formats.
Besides these instruments, UNWTO has also published technical manuals and compilations of good practices targeting destinations and service suppliers.
While these manuals provide know-how, systematic guidance and accessibility solutions, good practice examples demonstrate that accessibility pays off and that barriers can be successfully removed.
The awareness raised through these actions among our Member States was instrumental in organizing the milestone celebration of the World Tourism Day in 2016 dedicated to Accessible Tourism for All, for the first time in the history of our sector.
With Ecuador, our Member State and its government, we are presently working to jointly organize the first UNWTO International Conference on Accessible Tourism which will take place in Quito, in February 2019.
Other UNWTO initiatives
Throughout these years, UNWTO along with its partners from the public and private sector have identified the need for a harmonized set of international standards so as to enable different countries to develop accessible tourism for all on common grounds.
In 2016, UNWTO, the ONCE Foundation and the Spanish Standardization Agency have launched together an initiative to develop an international standard on accessible tourism within the ISO framework, in particular the Technical Committee on Tourism and related Services (ISO/TC228).
This future comprehensive standard will provide information on the key aspects of policy-making, strategic planning, design of infrastructure, products and services and will be addressed to all stakeholders involved in the tourism supply chain. (Marnie Peters from Canada, one of the experts participating in the working group on this international standard, will elaborate more on it tomorrow).
UNWTO is also about to embark on initiatives to promote labour inclusion of people with disabilities; both internally- in its capacity of a UN agency embracing diversity and equality at a work place-, and externally- within our sector.
Alongside the necessary standards and training, the need to advance labour inclusion is probably one of the most pressing issues in the tourism sector which we need to tackle in collaboration with DPOs and service providers.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we wish to ensure the sustainability of the tourism sector, maintain and develop service quality and competitiveness, and enable all travellers enjoy leisure and tourism, we must advance universal accessibility.
National policy-makers, urban planners, destination managers, businesses and individuals must join efforts to further remove attitudinal, social and physical barriers that still abound.
Above all, we must come to appreciate that accessible tourism benefits us all. It benefits our destinations, our local communities, our cultural heritage and our environment. It benefits both hosts and their visitors.
From our end, UNWTO will keep supporting initiatives like this global forum championed by CaWab and Keroul, which not only raises awareness, but also instigates political decision-makers and inspires businesses to work together towards a more inclusive tourism sector.
I would like to conclude by inviting all delegates to share their good practices with UNWTO through our Tourism for Sustainable Goals Platform in order to inspire more stakeholders to work in the same direction.