Thailand launches nine new routes to promote universal accessibility and tourism for all

Image: Mrs. Somrak Kumputch, TAT Deputy Governor for Administration, presents the Tourism for All guidebook to Mr, Krisana Lalai, President of Friendly Design for All Foundation, a human rights worker and a famous journalist and TV host in Thailand


Bangkok, 18 September, 2017 – The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is launching new pilot routes in nine popular provinces to promote universal accessibility and ‘Tourism for All‘ concepts aimed at encouraging universal design catering to disabled travellers at facilities and tourism attractions across Thailand.

The initiative is a direct result of last year’s highly successful 36th World Tourism Day, which was held in Bangkok on 27 September, 2016, with a range of events under the banner of ‘Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility’. During the event a number of speakers emphasised that the concept begins with universal design infrastructure that allows individuals with disabilities access to key tourism destinations and attractions.

Mrs. Somrak Kumputch, TAT Deputy Governor for Administration said, “TAT recognises the importance of promoting equal access to Thailand’s many attractions, and we have always been a keen advocate of this concept over the past several years. The nine provinces selected have the necessary universally designed infrastructure to launch the promotion.”

The initial promotion targets Thai domestic travellers with disabilities and represents a concerted effort by key public sectors, the private sector, community networks and tourism stakeholders.

TAT has launched a dedicated Tourism For All website and published a 116-page Thai-language guidebook – with braille letters and a DVD – to help raise awareness and extend the range of universally accessible attractions around the Kingdom. The guidebook, available at TAT offices in the nine pilot provinces, can be downloaded or read online. Meanwhile, video clips of the nine routes, in Thai with English subtitles and Sign Language, are available on the website.

The pilot routes in nine provinces are Stylish Capital: Bangkok, Exotic Lanna: Chiang Mai, Nature & Art: Ratchaburi, Wonderful Town: Pattaya, Remaining Memories: Kanchanaburi, Andaman Pearl: Phuket, Northeast Spicy Isan: Khon Kaen, Precious Treasure: Ayutthaya, and Fertile Land: Nakhon Ratchasima.

During last year’s World Tourism Day in Bangkok the Thai government stated it would “transform Thailand into the hub of universal design in ASEAN” which would, in turn, help the country develop into an ideal ‘accessible tourism’ country while preserving its invaluable architecture and history. It also announced plans to launch the pilot route project while concentrating on upgrading existing facilities.

This year’s World Tourism Day event is again scheduled on 27 September and celebrates the 37th consecutive session since its launch in 1980. It is a World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) initiative dedicated to promoting accessible, sustainable and responsible tourism.

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Hong Kong and China

by Ron and Leiza Richmond

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Dubai to Cambodia

A great new video from master film maker Mitch St Pierre.

Both Dubai and Cambodia are unique and accessible destinations.


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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:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through PhotoAbility
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties

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


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Angkor Wat in a Wheelchair

Centuries ago in an ancient world, kings were building magnificent temple complexes. King Suryavarman II wasn’t exactly thinking about wheelchair accessibility when he built Angkor Wat, the largest temple complex in the world. Although Angkor Wat can be difficult to climb even for an able bodied person, it didn’t stop these adventurers from Belgium using their wheelchairs!

Cambodia is a beautiful country. It's incredible landscape is covered with unspoiled natural beauty, splendid rice fields, palm trees, countryside with mountains in the back ground, empty beaches, bustling markets, vibrant cities and ancient temples forming a harmonious whole. Above all this, its people, their charm and warm-hearted hospitality make Cambodia an attractive place to visit.

The group of 7 guests using wheelchairs arrived at the Lotus Lodge hotel in Siem Reap and were greeted by Mitch St.Pierre. Mitch is the owner of Lotus Lodge and also happens to be in a wheelchair. Mitch arrived in Cambodia after a career in politics and filming a documentary for CBC television in Canada. After showing the hotel grounds and around to the guests from Belgium, it was time to enjoy some cold drinks by the swimming pool. Cambodia can be quite hot and humid being that it is technically a jungle.




The group in front of Lotus Lodge 

The Lotus Lodge hotel has made many efforts in making the hotel as wheelchair accessible as possible. The Lotus Lodge is one of the very few hotels in Siem Reap that is on the ground level in it's entirety. There is a ramp that was built to get from the lobby to the rooms, and there is also another ramp to climb the few steps to access the restaurant & lounge area. Mitch went on to show them the common method of transportation in Cambodia, a Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is basically a trailer being pulled by a moto-bike. It may seem difficult to get into for someone using a wheelchair but everyone in Cambodia is more than helpful. With the help of two people can easily help one into a Tuk Tuk. Fold up the wheelchair, store it securely inside and away you go! 

Although Cambodia has a very dark recent past, things are quickly changing. Hotels and tourist facilities are popping up everywhere. It's a place for adventurers, backpackers, families, and archaeologists to name a few. You can spend days exploring ancient temple sites, take it to the sky in a Microlight Aircraft, trek through jungles to watch unique wildlife species, travel by boat through remote floating villages and flooded forests, off road in the countryside in old vintage military jeeps, swim at the waterfalls of Kulen Mountain, a conservation center, butterfly center, zip-lining and so much more. 

The group of 7 from Belgium were true adventurers at heart. Although challenging, a tour through the floating villages was arranged. With the help of Tuk Tuk drivers and the always friendly locals, the group went down the bank to the rickety wooden boats on the water that would take them through a beautiful scenic ride through to a village on the Tonle Sap Lake, home to families who eke out a living on one of the most abundant inland fisheries in the world and way of life. The flooded forest here is also fascinating, submerged for half the year, the trees have learned to adapt and are an invaluable part of the ecosystem.




Although Cambodia is home to the most disabled people per capita, facilities and resources for the disabled are almost non existent and only provided by NGO's. The sad reality is that many disabled people in Cambodia do not have the proper resources needed for rehabilitation. Overall, the guests from Belgium had a wonderful experience. It was an experience like no other and in the end the guests were able to give back by donating a Quickie wheelchair for a Cambodian in need. 
For more information visit & 


About Mitch St. Pierre

Mitch is a film-maker, community leader, world traveler, public speaker and Candidate for National Membership Secretary for the Liberal Party of Canada. 

Traveling to over 40 countries in his wheelchair has given him a broad view of the world. From the jungles of Colombia to the megacities of Asia, Mitch has experienced it all. 

Mitch's first film aired nation wide on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and Current TV in the United States. Mitch has filmed in the most remote regions of the world, typically focusing on human rights issues. 

Mitch has also been a strong advocate for conflict regions which is what inspired him to get involved in politics. Politics has allowed Mitch to meet prime ministers, presidents and many influential policy makers.




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