With an estimated 1,3 billion people worldwide having a significant disability, UNWTO has once again teamed up with key partners to further make tourism more accessible for all.
The UNWTO conference on accessible tourism was held for the second time in San Marino (November 16-17) with the support of the Italian Ministry of Tourism and in partnership with the European Accessibility Resource Center - AccessibleEU, a leading initiative of the European Commission.
This resulted in the document San Marino Agenda, an action plan for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in every segment of the tourism sector.
Since San Marino first hosted the conference in 2014, many destinations and companies have made great strides in improving accessibility, bringing tourism closer to everyone.
At this year's two-day event, more than 200 delegates discussed the progress of policies such as the international standard ISO 21902, which serves both host and visiting communities and covers the entire value chain.
The event included a ministerial round table that brought together San Marino, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Uzbekistan, the Czech Republic and Israel, to discuss the role of governments in advancing accessibility through policies, strategies and standards.
One of the key topics was innovation in accessible tourism. Speakers presented new solutions in access to transport, leisure, MICE and tourist services.
These include SEATRAC helping wheelchair users to bathe in Greece, Braille touch points across cities and the first certified guides for the blind in Cape Town and a fully accessible waterfront in Rimini.
The conference strengthened international networks and presented San Marino as an inclusive destination, a point of reference for accessible tourism and the only UNWTO member state to host two international conferences on accessible tourism.
However, not all destinations are still seeing accessibility as a game changer - despite a market of 1,3 billion people with a significant disability in 2023.
In addition, it is expected that 1 in 6 people will reach the age of 2050 by 65. In Europe alone, baby boomers already make up more than one third of the EU population, and 70 percent of the Union's citizens with disabilities have sufficient financial means for travel.
Experts in the field discussed how best to meet this growing market and offer tourism experiences in the spirit of Universal Design, so that they can be enjoyed by all people, with or without disabilities.
Discussions also focused on the importance of social inclusion and accessibility for sustainable tourism and the huge economic benefits the sector can achieve by introducing better access measures.
San Marino 2030 Action Plan
The action agenda is considered a milestone for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and the contribution of tourism to the goals of sustainable development, with the commitment of those participating in the conference to achieve concrete results. It includes measures to improve training, develop measurement systems and increase industry awareness of the benefits of a diverse workplace.
Stakeholders will align their marketing and commercial strategies and use digital solutions to help accessible experiences reach all customers and incorporate accessibility into their product development and decision-making processes.
As part of the legacy of the conference, in 2024 UNWTO, in collaboration with AccessibleEU and ENAT, will publish a Compendium of Best Practices presented in San Marino.
Further research on accessibility in culture and nature-based tourism, digital solutions and other good practices will also be completed over the coming years.