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UAE aims to be best tourist friendly destination for people with disabilities

by Staff
  • Ahmed bin Saeed: “The UAE is moving forward to become the best tourist destination in the world.” 
  • IATA: “The conference provides sustainable solutions for travelers with disabilities
  • Call on stakeholders to work together to remove barriers to smooth mobility and inclusive tourism 
  • 50 million people with special needs in the region are eager to visit friendly tourist destinations 
  • 142 billion euros in lost opportunities in the global tourism and travel sector annually 
  • IATA organizes a workshop to shed light on its efforts to improve air carrier services for passengers with disabilities 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: The UAE is aiming to be the most-friendly tourist destinations for people with disabilities with effective strategic initiatives taken by the leadership to consolidate the country’s achievements in accessible tourism. 

This was proclaimed at the 4th Accessible Travel and Tourism International Conference opened in Dubai today at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Business Bay held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports and Chairman of Emirates Airline and Group. 

His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, patron of the conference, said: “The UAE is a pioneering country in which people of determination receive special priority. The UAE is on the path to becoming the best destination in the world for tourism services, and I call for concerted international efforts to ensure the provision of accessible tourism for more than a billion people around the world.” 

“Dubai continues its efforts and initiatives to bring together decision-makers and experts in the field of facilitated tourism under one roof to share minds, learn about best practices, inform the world of its exceptional efforts to support this large segment of the local and international community, and highlight its achievements,” he added. 

The conference highlighted the need for making cities more comprehensive and inclusive of people with special needs, under the title “Let’s make all cities friendly to tourists of special needs, and how to strengthen legislation, policies, infrastructure and services, especially in the areas of air, land and sea transport, in addition to accommodation and hospitality services in a way that meets their needs, aspirations and rights to discover the world easily and conveniently. 

In partnership with the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, dnata, Istanbul Airport, British Airways, and PRM assist, IATA will host a workshop on mobility assistance. Although the aviation industry has made progress in enhancing the travel experience for individuals with disabilities, the task of providing fully accessible air travel remains complex due to varying needs and regulations across different regions. As more travelers and tourists request special assistance, the aviation industry must find ways to meet their needs. This is especially crucial as the demand for special assistance is expected to grow due to aging populations in many markets.

“Travelers may need help navigating busy airports, have difficulty with stairs, or be visually impaired. It is critical to provide the right options and assistance that meet the specific requirements of each traveler, but at present, wheelchair services are often provided by default, and this may not be the ideal solution for the traveler. The IATA workshop in Dubai aims to address these issues by finding sustainable solutions to meet the diverse needs of travelers,” said Linda Ristagno, IATA’s Assistant Director for External Affairs.

The two-day Conference with a wider global participation is aimed at helping to make all cities friendly to People of Determination and tap the huge tourism potential. 

According to WHO, the percentage of persons with disabilities worldwide ranges between 15 and 16%, which translates to roughly 1.2 billion to 1.3 billion people, 50 million of whom live in the Middle East and travel as residents, visitors, or tourists around the world’s cities. 

Approximately 15% of persons with disabilities want to travel and see the world. Added to this big number is the large number of senior citizens who are potential tourists. 

Tourists and visitors of people of determination constitute a large tourist segment that spends billions of dollars annually, and they look forward to visiting cities that are more friendly and meet their needs while traveling, staying, moving, and visiting tourist destinations in these cities. The 50 million people of determination living in the Middle East represent a promising opportunity to enhance the tourism sector in the countries of the region and provide thousands of new job opportunities. 

Accessible Travel and Tourism International Conference is organized annually by Nadd Al Shiba PR & Event Management in Dubai. 

His Excellency Majid Abdullah Al Usaimi, Member, Higher Committee for the People of the Rights of Persons with Disability at Dubai Executive Council and President of the Asian Paralympic Committee, said in his keynote address:  “We must invest in this sector to attract people with all categories of disabilities and make Dubai the main and first destination for them due to the availability of world class infrastructure and services safe for them and their families.” 

Air travel for People with Disabilities is full of inconveniences. The disabled community often endure very challenging experiences.  Infrastructural facilities in many cities fall short of meeting accessibility needs. For them travelling is still far away from being accessible and reliable due to a lack of implementation of their rights. 

“We stress the need for concerted efforts of all governmental, semi-governmental and private sectors to work together to meet all requirements of people of determination during their travel, starting from travel planning stage and providing applications and smart search options that are compatible with various categories of disability. We should also facilitate their smooth movements at airports, hotels, shopping centers, public facilities, and communications, in addition to engaging qualified personnel to supervise and deal with people of determination during the various stages of travel and stay until they return to their homeland safely. It is important to learn about the best international and advanced practices and experiences and adopt them in the local environment in line with the laws and legislation in force in the country to raise the efficiency of services provided to tourists and visitors of people of determination,” he added.  

His Royal Highness Prince Mired Raad bin Zeid Al-Hussein, President of the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Jordan, delivered a virtual Keynote Address:  

“Tourism industry must widen its scope and target persons with disabilities and the elderly as potential customers as tourists. 

“Inclusive tourism is an amazing area to invest in. Most people with disabilities and the elderly are tech-savvy and they use their smart phones to search for hotels, restaurants and other utilities that offer special service and provide facilities for the people with disabilities. Businesses willing to make changes and promote businesses will benefit.” 

He further said: “Countries that depend heavily on tourism should extend their reach, think innovatively to make facilities friendly to people of determination. 

“Children with disabilities should receive education on par with others so that they can work in all spheres and in all arenas and all levels in both the private and public sectors.” 

“The 50 million people of determination who live in the Middle East represent a promising opportunity to strengthen the tourism industry in the countries of the region and provide thousands of new job opportunities,” he said. 

All businesses be made accessible to people with disabilities. Business or service be made fully accessible. 

There must be ramps at the entrance; Bathrooms have to be made accessible as well as elevators. 

Walkways must accommodate the blind and for that Braille must be on the door signs; Transportation must be accessible for wheelchair users and interpretation services be made available for the hearing impaired. 

All people working within the industry must be sensitised and made to understand that persons with disabilities and the elderly have a right to travel and be treated with utmost respect and dignity as paying customers. 

Businesses or service must be able to accommodate all persons with different types of disabilities. 

Universal design be adopted whereby everything is designed in a manner that accommodates everyone. 

It has enabled persons with disabilities in these countries to enjoy financial independence and to travel the world as tourists. 

“As we become more and more engaging society, there were approximately 800 million people aged 65 years and older globally, accounting for almost 10% of world population. This segment has been growing at an increasing rate and is expected to hit 16% in 2050. 

Countries that are quick to understand this new reality will benefit the most. 

Persons with disabilities and the elderly make up a massive potential lucrative market. 

“I believe that one of the greatest benefits of inclusive tourism is that the more persons with disabilities have eye sights and are seen to be enjoying themselves travelling this little blue planet of ours whenever they want and wherever they want. This will have a very far-reaching effect on communities or individuals who still have archaic perceptions of persons with disabilities once they see for themselves persons with disabilities coming from all over the world who are businesspeople, lawyers, professors, politicians, doctors, engineers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. 

HE Jamal Al Hai, Deputy CEO of Dubai Airports, honoured the sponsors,  supporters and strategic partners and speakers, including  Emirates Airline, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Dubai Duty Free, IATA, ACI, Dubai Municipality, UNWTO, UNESCO, Italian Civil Aviation Authority, British Airways, and Sanad Village. 

The conference is sponsored and supported by Emirates Airlines as the Official Airline, Dubai Economy and Tourism as the Destination Partner and Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) as a Strategic Partner, Dubai Duty Free as Silver Sponsor and JW Marriott Marquis Hotel as the Official Host. Several senior officials and experts from local government agencies like the Dubai Municipality, Roads and Transport Authority, and the Dubai Economy and Tourism, along with international organizations like the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), UNESCO, and Airports Council International (ACI-World). 

Ghassan Suleiman, Secretary-General of the Conference, said: “The tourism sector needs more than ever to adopt the concept of comprehensive tourism that meets the aspirations of millions of people with special needs, from the moment they think about embarking on a tourist trip until the moment they reach the intended destination and return home. This is based on the application of a series of relevant legislation, smart solutions and applications, and distinguished services in the transportation, hospitality, and communications sectors, and qualified human competencies, in order to continue growth and double the size of this sector in the coming years.” 

He added: “Stakeholders in the travel and tourism chain need to work together to remove obstacles to travel, especially in light of international support for the rights of this segment to smooth movement.” 

According to estimates by the European Accessible Tourism Network, the amount of lost opportunities in the global tourism sector amounts to about 142 billion euros (AED750 billion) annually, in addition to the provision of millions of new job opportunities, due to tens of millions refraining from movement and travel due to the lack of appropriate services for this wide segment of tourists who have the right to travel. They enjoy a vacation free of hassles, and they have enormous financial capabilities that they look forward to spending to enjoy the joys of life. 

Eng. Meera Al Ameri, Head of Research and Building Systems Section, Dubai Municipality, made a presentation on Dubai Universal Building Code that defines how the built environment and transportation systems in Dubai be designed, constructed and managed to enable them to be accessible to people with disabilities. 

Mr. Evan Hall, Chairman of the Tourism Industry Council of Western Australia, Mr. Salah Khaled, Director of the UNESCO Office for the Gulf States and Yemen in Doha, Daniela Bas (former Director of the Division for Comprehensive Social Development, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) and other senior officials and experts  discussed the best practices in stimulating accessible tourism, friendly infrastructure, and various facilities and services in sectors such as hospitality, transportation, health, insurance, and communication, which take into account the requirements of different segments of people with needs. In addition to addressing the most prominent challenges facing this category of tourists around the world, and revealing the solutions, legislation, and type of services they need from the moment they decide to travel, arriving at their intended destination, spending their vacations, and until they return to their country, making their travel experience a pleasant, hassle-free memory. 

Jean-Sebastien Pard, Senior Manager Facilitation, Passenger Services and Operations, Airports Council International (ACI World) Canada, said: 

“Despite airports and their aviation partners strive to make air travel accessible, several challenges still remain to make air travel accessible for all.” 

Eric Lipp, Executive Director, Open Doors Organization, USA, made a presentation on how Universal Design helping destinations become accessible to all. 

The first day closed with a workshop organized by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in the presence of officials and stakeholders from airlines, airports, and baggage shipping departments, to inform them of the latest requirements and approved standards for providing services directed to people with special needs during travel. 

For More Information, please contact: 
Ghassan Suleiman 
Secretary-General, Accessible Travel and Tourism International Conference 
Email: [email protected]  

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