In the aftermath of recent earthquakes, it is a right time for Nepal to make cultural heritage/tourist sites accessible to disabled person while rebuilding, rehabilitating and restoring those sites. Legislators, policy makers, civil society, disability rights advocates, human rights activists media and corporate houses will have to be engaged to bring awareness and desired momentum to make Nepal is accessible to all forms of disability. IDI in collaboration with Operations Namaste and Four Seasons Travels proposes a comprehensive program to make Nepal a preferred destination for individuals with disability around the world.
Recognizing “Inclusive Tourism” is a $13b industry, it is not only a good business to be in but also right to be in this business. It is a good humanitarian endeavor to attempt to provide the tourism related services to all persons irrespective of their physical condition. It is responsibility of service providers to accommodate persons with disabilities. Whereas it is also responsibility of a government to enact relevant laws and codes so that all the service providers comply with accessibility codes.
Efforts are being made to seek corporate sponsorships from various equipment makers and business houses for travel/tourism, health care facilities, academicians and legal experts to lobby and make Nepal a destination for inclusive tourism regardless of age, race, gender, disability and sexual orientation. Celebrities of different walks of life will be invited and sponsored as brand-ambassadors to promote Nepal as ready for “Accessible Tourism”
Inclusive tourism will develop new products, services, and policies of the tourism industry at all stages of their lifecycle. It will also add human dignity to those who couldn’t enjoy Nepal due to lack of appropriate services, products and facilities. Accessibility and Inclusivity are compliance issue not a market issue. People with a disability are often regarded as problems and part of a risk management solution, not as a valued customer. A disability would not be a disability if the barriers of the society in which we live did not exist. The paradigm however relied on a social conscious to implement the necessary structural changes to remove the barriers. The shortcomings of the social model are that the change has been driven as a rights issue and one of compliance that has been seen as a cost that society demands of a business. The implications are that it is all about access and not the person. It is driven by social expectations and translated by rule makers.
A number of studies and report successfully demonstrate how disabled population is a major part of a group of international tourist. “American adults with disabilities or reduced mobility currently spend an average of $13. 6 billion a year on travel. Creating accessible cruise ships, accessible ship terminals, accessible ground transportation, and accessible tourist destinations is not charity. It is just good business.” (Dr Scott Rains. a US expert on disability issues )
A study by McKinssey & Company on retiring baby boomers showed that almost 60 percent of net U.S. wealth and 40 percent of spending. In many categories, like travel, boomers will represent over 50 percent of consumption. The impact on the Inclusive Travel sector is significant as over 40% of them will be retiring with some form of disability, raising the total value of direct expenditure to the Inclusive Tourism sector to over 25% of the market by 2020.
An Australian study shows, almost 88% of people with disability take a holiday each year that accounted for some 8.2 million overnight trip. The total tourism expenditure attributable to the group is $8bn per year or 11% of overall tourism expenditure. There were no data available on accessible tourism in Nepal. However, our research and outreach did not show any significant efforts made to promote inclusive tourism in Nepal. We see a great potential in promoting this sector in Nepal.
The tourism sector has been an important sector for many and a source of revenue generation in Nepal’s economy. Tourism itself presents with huge potentials for creativity, investment and development of Nepal. Nepal is not just a destination for high mountains, trekking and hiking. Nepal attracts a very large number of religious and spiritual tourists to its ancient Hindu temples, palaces and Buddhist pilgrims. Nepal has an international airport with a poor infrastructure located in Kathmandu, which has 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites making Kathmandu a main port of entry for International Travellers.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) advanced a resolution in 2005 supporting ‘accessible tourism for all’, which is recognized as a key reference document for guiding the development of the tourism sector along the path of greater accessibility. Also of importance for equal access to tourism is the UNWTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (1999), which sets a frame of reference for the responsible and sustainable development of tourism.
Many country-governments and international agencies such as UNWTO, UNESCAP and European Union have already acknowledged the legal mandate as well as development opportunities. Regardless of these initiatives at the international level, Nepal faces major inhibiting factors such as, finance, mobility, ignorance, access constraints at different stages of travel process and societal taboo and perception. As a result, Nepal is missing a tremendous opportunity to develop accessible tourism.
Five Quadrants suggests over 1.3 billion people with disabilities around the world. The disability market represents an annual disposable income of $1 trillion—and $544 billion in the US alone. When you include friends and family, this adds another 2.3 billion people who control an incremental $6.9 trillion in annual disposable income. Americans with disabilities spent over 13.6 billion a year in tourism.