February 29, 2024
Travel UAE

UAE aims to lead in accessible tourism

Dubai conference focuses on special needs tourists

The United Arab Emirates is positioning itself as a trailblazer in accessible tourism, pledging to become the friendliest destination for people with disabilities.

The commitment was announced on January 11, 2024, at the 4th Accessible Travel and Tourism International Conference at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai City.

The event, held under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chair of Dubai Airports, and Chair of Emirates Airline and Group, brought together global stakeholders to address challenges and solutions in making travel more inclusive.

Global status

According to the European Accessible Tourism Network, the global tourism sector faces annual losses of approximately 142 billion euros (AED750 billion) due to missed opportunities for the estimated 1.2 to 1.3 billion people worldwide with disabilities. These individuals, representing 15-16% of the global population, have the potential to contribute significantly to the tourism economy if appropriate services are made available.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum emphasised the UAE’s commitment to prioritising people of determination, stating, “The UAE is on the path to becoming the best destination in the world for tourism services.”

He also called for concerted international efforts to ensure accessible tourism for over a billion people globally.

The conference, themed ‘Let’s make all cities friendly to tourists of special needs,’ highlighted the importance of comprehensive and inclusive city planning.

The event featured a workshop on mobility assistance hosted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in partnership with the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, dnata, Istanbul Airport, British Airways, and PRM Assist. The workshop addressed the complexities of providing fully accessible air travel, considering different regions’ varying needs and regulations.

Linda Ristagno, IATA’s Assistant Director for External Affairs, stressed the need for sustainable solutions to meet diverse traveller needs, especially as the demand for special assistance is expected to grow due to ageing populations.

With approximately 50 million people of determination residing in the Middle East, the region represents a significant opportunity to enhance the tourism sector and create thousands of job opportunities.

Majid Abdullah Al Usaimi, Member of the Higher Committee for the Rights of Persons with Disability at Dubai Executive Council, highlighted the need for comprehensive efforts across government, semi-government, and private sectors to ensure a smooth travel experience for people of determination.

Potential customers

In a virtual keynote address, Prince Mired Raad bin Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan urged the tourism industry to target persons with disabilities and older people as potential customers. He emphasised the benefits of inclusive tourism, stating, “Persons with disabilities and the elderly make up a massive potential lucrative market.”

The conference also addressed the importance of making businesses fully accessible to people with disabilities, with calls for ramps, accessible bathrooms, elevators, and accommodations for various disabilities. The adoption of universal design principles was highlighted to ensure inclusivity.

Despite progress, challenges remain in making air travel fully accessible, as outlined by Jean-Sebastien Pard of Airports Council International and Eric Lipp of Open Doors Organization.

The two-day conference, organised by Nadd Al Shiba PR & Event Management, aimed to foster collaboration and innovation to make tourism more inclusive, aligning with the global goal of ensuring the right to travel for all individuals, regardless of their abilities.

The event concluded with discussions on stimulating accessible tourism, infrastructure, and services, with international experts sharing best practices and solutions.

Featured image: People with disabilities represent 15-16% of the global population. Image: Jon Tyson

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247 delivers trending business and lifestyle news and essential infotainment for, and from the Middle East region, with key focus on the GCC nations: United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.
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