The UAE revealed, at a key conference in Dubai, its aim to be one of the most-friendly tourist destinations for differently-abled people with strategic initiatives that will consolidate its achievements in accessible tourism.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, patron of the 4th Accessible Travel and Tourism International 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 took place from January 11-12 at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Business Bay, was 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.
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”. It explored ways to strengthen legislation, policies, infrastructure and services, especially in the areas of air, land and sea transport, in addition to accommodation and hospitality services, to help the differently-abled 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.
“Travellers 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 traveller, but at present, wheelchair services are often provided by default, and this may not be the ideal solution for the traveller,” said Linda Ristagno, IATA’s Assistant Director for External Affairs.
According to WHO, the percentage of persons with disabilities worldwide ranges between 15 percent and 16 percent, 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 percent 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.
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.
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.”
His Royal Highness Prince Mired Raad bin Zeid Al-Hussein, President of the Higher Council for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Jordan, in his virtual Keynote Address, said: “Tourism industry must widen its scope and target persons with disabilities and the elderly as potential customers 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 percent of world population. This segment has been growing at an increasing rate and is expected to hit 16 percent in 2050.”
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.
“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.”
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.
Evan Hall, Chairman of the Tourism Industry Council of Western Australia, 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,.
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. Accessible Travel and Tourism International Conference is organised annually by Nadd Al Shiba PR & Event Management in Dubai.