Accessible tourism has a long way to go in India
Asia-Pacific, Tourism, September 29 2016
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As Kerala joins the rest of the world to celebrate World Tourism Day with the theme ‘Tourism for All — Promoting Universal Accessibility’ on Tuesday, the State is nowhere near the UNWTO goal of ‘Tourism for All’ agenda and in the development of accessible tourism infrastructure, products and services.
Even after earning a name in the world tourism map, the needs of those with vision, hearing, mobility or cognitive disabilities have not been addressed in the tourism destinations in the State. Properties with three-star grade and above have basic facilities for the disabled to get the classification tag of Tourism Ministry. Houseboats have started providing easy access to those arriving in wheel-chairs.
But the destinations lack facilities for the leisure and recreation needs of people with disabilities. Kovalam, which fetched Kerala a name in the tourism map, is yet to have even a ramp. Lack of toilets for people with reduced mobility, unhygienic condition of the available ones, absence of public utilities such as telephone, water tap, etc., at convenient places, lack of access to stairs/lifts, slippery or coarse tracks also hampers the movement of the disabled.
The planners have also failed to realise the potential of tourists with reduced mobility. “We have a great distance to go. We have not given due importance to access tourism. Some products such as houseboats have started adapting to the needs of people with disabilities” admits Principal Secretary, Tourism, V. Venu.
“Rudimentary work had been done in museums and monuments. Building a ramp is not a solution. Access audit is needed to address the problem. Our resolve is to work on it,” he said.
This year’s official celebrations of World Tourism Day will be held under the UNWTO at Bangkok. Kerala Tourism and the stake-holders of the industry have organised various programs to observe the day.