Accessibility and inclusive tourism in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

On 18 October, I organized a hybrid seminar on Accessibility and Inclusive Tourism in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Invited presenters talked about their research and professional involvement in this field. After the presentations, the seminar reflected on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both the practice and understanding of accessible and inclusive tourism.

The seminar addressed a wide variety of questions: How do people with disabilities experience the rapid digitalization of transportation systems? What challenges lie ahead for companies to make nature-based tourism truly accessible for all? What approaches are needed to create inclusive tourism infrastructure that allows for accessible tourism beyond mainstream tourism trails?

The presenters and their presentations included:

Digitalization and Inclusion in Transportation

by Mònica Cerdán Chiscano

The literature on digitalization and accessibility changes to public transport in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is limited. To better understand this topic, we reported on the “urban public transport measures against Covid-19” launched by a Spanish transportation operator (TMB) to ensure safe journeys (Metro ride experience) where digitalization services have been intensified. This study responds to the current climate in which transport operators are quicky digitalizing their transportation services as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The digitalization experience can be stressful for people with disabilities (PwD) when navigating the transportation system. This perspective article highlights various urban digital and non-digital transportation-related experiences in encounters with PwD as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study is to explore the digital and non-digital urban transportation experience of PwD using the value co-creation process approach, so as to assist transportation managers in designing improved experiences for this specific passenger segment.


The Challenges of the Air Travel post COVID-19 for People with Disability

by Simon Darcy

Prof Darcy’s presentation will examine the challenges to the domestic and international air travel recovery post COVID-19 as it relates to people with disability. The presentation draws on the embodied air travel experiences of people with disability through policy documents, media reports, disability advocacy organisations, airline management information systems and critical incident methods. The presentation is theoretically framed from a social relational model of disability and human rights approach that underpins the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (2006). The evidence gathered suggests that post COVID-19 there has been systemic and ad hoc failure of airport and airline service systems for people with disability that has been brought about through a loss of corporate knowledge, industrial relations changes and lack of regulatory oversight that has led to much higher levels of distress, loss of dignity and humiliation of people with disability in air travel. While some may argue that this has affected nondisabled people in the same way, we argue that this has been far more acute with much greater consequences for the disability community.


Nature for all: Accessible nature-based tourism

by Kristin Godtman Kling and Dimitri Ioannides

Nature-based tourism businesses can play a major role in making tourism accessible for people with disabilities and offer opportunities to take part of health-promoting activities in the outdoors, but the familiarity with this consumer segment is in general very low. Although many nature-based tourism businesses have a strong will to develop their products to cater to the accessible tourism market, companies lack knowledge about how to reach the consumers, the wants and needs of the target group, what investments are required etc. This lack of knowledge inhibits the development of accessible tourism products and needs to be addressed to promote inclusiveness in nature-based tourism activities.


Accessible tourism in light of New Urban Tourism

by Veroniek Maat

10 years of experience developing accessible tourist experiences in European urban environments unfolds the insight that a transdisciplinary approach is required to create inclusive tourism infrastructures and systems. New Urban Tourism can loosely be described as ‘tourism for the everyday urban life’ in neighbourhoods or areas that are not (yet) on mainstream tourism trail (Koens, 2021). While accessible tourist experiences often take place on the mainstream tourism trails, it requires reinventing systems in order to make mainstream and future (tourism) trails inclusive for all. In order to design inclusive tourist experiences, a range of systems become intertwined and stakeholders are forced to change normalized thinking patterns.