World Tourism Day 2016: Tourism leaders commit to advance Universal Accessibility

UNWTO - 28 Sep 2016

About 500 delegates from 60 countries have convened in Bangkok, Thailand, to take part in the Official Celebrations of the World Tourism Day this year dedicated to the theme ‘Tourism for all: Promoting Universal Accessibility.’ Policy frameworks, capacity building, business strategies and awareness raising have been some of the areas tackled during the week of events that commenced on the 26th September with a ‘Tourism and the Media’ Session.

During two days participants from 60 countries exchanged best practices and experiences on accessible tourism and have committed to advance universal accessibility in all components of the tourism value chain to ensure all citizens enjoy the benefits of travel, whatever their abilities may be.

“As one billion people across the globe have some kind of disability, accessibility becomes and will continue to be a major concern for us all” said Gen. Prayut Chan-o-Cha, Prime Minister of Thailand who presided over the Official Celebrations on 27 September. “We need to create more accessibility, for all including the ageing groups. We need to provide better services for all. This is also part of our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals” he added.

 “We should not leave anyone behind. We believe we have to do more, understand better the needs of these groups. The World Tourism Day celebrations in Thailand have acted as a platform to sensitize us all about the importance of adapting the sector to the needs of all citizens and we should work in closer cooperation now to meet the demands of travelers worldwide” said Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand.

“People with disabilities, aged citizens, families with children and many more find obstacles when they travel. As tourism is a human right, the sector should advance to ensure that all citizens enjoy seamless travel in an equal manner,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai in his message.

“Products and services aiming to increase the accessibility of travel add value to destinations and constitute an immense opportunity for the business sector” emphasized David Scowsill, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).

“All of us have somebody who finds difficulties when travelling: family members, friends and colleagues, so we all are affected and can benefit from accessible travel measures” emphasized Mario Hardy, CEO at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).  

A human right and a business opportunity

The first event of the week, the ‘Tourism and the Media’ workshop, held in cooperation with the  Chulalongkorn University, served as a platform to discuss the role of the media in supporting Accessible Tourism.

“Journalists, editors, photographers, documentary producers…can do a lot in sensitizing the general public about Accessibility and by pushing their respective governments towards the necessary regulatory frameworks towards Universal Design in the tourism sector,” explained Xu Jing, Regional Director of Asia and the Pacific at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Together with the commitment of governments and the need to develop regulatory frameworks linked to accessibility-related measures, the World Tourism Day celebrations have served to emphasize the immense business opportunities that Universal Design can bring to the tourism sector.: “Sooner or later all of us will suffer circumstances that impede us moving freely and independently, so adapting Universal Accessibility principles will benefit us all” underlined Ivor Ambrose, Director of ENAT, the European Network of Accessible Tourism. He added that by 2050, as much as 22% of the world population will be over 60 years old and thus have specific access needs.

The first round table included the participation of the Secretary General of Thai Disabled Development Foundation, and former Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, Weerasak Kowsurat, Monthien Boontan, Member of the Thai Senate and of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Dissabilites, Benito C. Bengzon, Undersecretary of the Department of Tourism in the Philippines, Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism of the Cambodia, Mr. Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr. Guy Didier Hypollite, Minister of Tourism and Creative Industries of Haiti and Mr. Dato Sri Mohamed Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia. Moderated by Andrew Steven, CNN anchor, the Session discussed the application of policy and regulatory frameworks aimed at achieving ‘Tourism for All.’

The second debate, moderated by Anita Mendiratta, CNN Task Group, Lead Consultant, addressed the relevance of innovative strategies to foster accessible tourism infrastructure, products and services to enhance destination competitiveness. A number of best practices were featured by speakers such as Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager at Lonely Planet, Natthadej Suyadej, from Wheelchair Holidays Thailand, Hideto Kijima, President at the Japan Accessible Tourism Center, Svend Leirvaag, VP Industry Affairs at Amadeus IT Group and Sergio Guerreiro, Knowledge Management and Corporate Affairs at Turismo de Portugal. 

Bangkok Declaration on Tourism for All 

On the occasion of World Tourism Day 2016 participants adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Tourism For All, a document resulting from a consultation process involving governments, the private sector, civil society organizations and accessibility experts.

The Declaration calls upon all stakeholders to advance policies and business actions that promote universal accessibility, including training, awareness raising as well as considering Universal Design in all new tourism infrastructure and services and while adapting existing ones.

The celebrations of World Tourism Day 2016 were held in collaboration with CNN, UNWTO media partner.

World Tourism Day 2017 will be held in Qatar as decides by the 21st UNWTO General Assembly held in 2015 and will address the theme ‘Sustainable Tourism – a Tool for Development’, in line with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.


The Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, authorities of the Member States of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), representatives of the tourism sector, disabled people’s organizations and related civil society bodies, international organizations, and media outlets met in Bangkok, Thailand, on 26/27 September 2016 on the occasion of the World Tourism Day to celebrate the theme “Tourism for All: Promoting Universal Accessibility”;

Recalling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in which disability is referenced in Goals 4, 8, 10, 11 and 17 and in which tourism is included specifically in Goals 8, 12 and 14;

Considering the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2006 as the global action framework in the sphere of universal accessibility, whose Article 30 recognizes the legitimate right of access to sports, cultural, leisure and tourism activities by persons with disabilities;

Whereas the mandate of the UNWTO is “the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism”;

Inspired by the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly in 1999, and acknowledged by the United Nations General Assembly in 2001, whose Article 7 underlines that “...a direct and personal access to the discovery and enjoyment of the planet’s resources constitutes a right equally open to all the world’s inhabitants” and explicitly recommends that “tourism for persons with disabilities should be encouraged and facilitated”;

Referring to the Recommendations on Accessible Tourism for All and the Recommendations on Accessible Information in Tourism, adopted by the UNWTO General Assembly at its 20th and 21st sessions as reference documents for tourism stakeholders for making their infrastructure, products and services accessible to all people;

Considering the UNWTO Manuals on Accessible Tourism for All co-produced with civil society and private sector organizations – the ONCE Foundation, the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) and the ACS Foundation, as a source of technical knowhow for destinations;

Recognizing the wide scope of the multi-stakeholder recommendations emanating from the Declaration from the World Summit Destinations for All, held in Montreal, Canada, in October 2014;

Taking into account the Bangkok Recommendations on Accessible Tourism of 2007 and Takayama Declaration on the Development of Communities-for-All in Asia and the Pacific, adopted in 2009;

Commending the efforts of the Government of Thailand, the tourism sector and civil society stakeholders in making tourism destinations across the country ever more accessible;



1. Convinced that measures implemented to bring about Tourism for All benefit not only persons with disabilities and specific access requirements but all people, while entailing major socio- economic opportunities for tourism destinations and businesses;

2. Conscious of the gradual improvements regarding universal accessibility in tourism, but also of many serious and enduring challenges that people with disabilities across the globe are still facing;

3. Mindful of the importance of solid policy frameworks and strategic actions in making full access to and enjoyment of tourism destinations and activities by all truly possible;

4. Aware of the challenges in providing adequate information on the accessibility of tourism facilities, services and products, and the opportunities for promoting those that actually meet the needs of a greater diversity of customers;

5. Committed to multi-stakeholder partnerships between the policy makers, local authorities, the private sector, disabled people’s organizations and local communities in making tourism destinations accessible for all;

1. To ensure that the right to enjoy tourism by all becomes a reality and that the commitment of

governments and companies to improve access for all is sustained by concrete actions;

2. To engage in awareness-raising and training so as to reduce both physical and attitudinal barriers within the sector and to be able to embrace the undoubted competitive advantages of investing in Tourism for All;

3. To implement the principles of Universal Design/Design for All when developing new tourism infrastructure, products and services and improving the existing ones;

4. To promote the provision of objective and accurate information on the accessibility of all products and services, and in accessible formats, with the aim to enable travelers to accurately assess whether their own needs will be met during the whole travel process;

5. To mainstream accessibility in tourism policy and throughout the tourism supply chain with the aim to ensure that there are no broken links and that everyone can fully enjoy a seamless tourism experience; and

6. To encourage multi-stakeholder cooperation at all levels that enables development of consistent and up-to-date policies and business practices in the sphere of accessible tourism. 

About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

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For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.


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