1The facilities and hotels which are built to cater to international tourists can also be enjoyed by the local People With Disabilities
A talk program to mark “International Day of Persons with Disabilities” (December 3, 2015) was organized by the Embassy of United States of America and International Development Institute (IDI), USA in partnership with Four Season Travel & Tours. The event was put together to generate awareness about accessible issues for travelers and to promote inclusive tourism in Nepal.
The program, “Accessibility Matters: Opportunities for Inclusive Tourism in Nepal” was convened on December 1, 2015 at Rara Hall at the Hotel Radisson. There were 45 participants from the tourism industry, Nepal Tourism Board, NGOs working in the field of disability, a development agency, people with disabilities, and entrepreneurs.
Speaking at the event was Mr. William Holton from the US Embassy who delivered the welcome speech highlighting the rights of disabled people was rational and valid in this context. Mr. Mukesh Kumar Singh, IDI Associate from Ohio-USA: ADA (American Disability Act) spoke about baseline documents for introducing or revisiting Nepal’s laws, acts, and policies.
Mr. Sagar Prasai, NFD-N, shared his experience as a traveler in the US and his inability to explore Nepal because of physical barriers. He urged the tourism operating sectors to tap the business opportunity that persons with disabilities would offer globally, saying it is right time to create awareness among the market players (service providers) on this matter. Moderating the program was Pankaj Pradhananga from Four Season Travel & Tours (P) Ltd.
During the Q&A round, participants put forward a few observations about a number of relevant issues for inclusive tourism in Nepal from the perspective of accessibility, from barriers in policy and acts, as well as infrastructural related, and attitudinal.
What is inclusive tourism?
Inclusive tourism is a relatively new term for Nepal. Though the effort of opening Nepal up for accessible and inclusive tourism has already begun, it is still in the infancy stage. In the western world, inclusive tourism is a mainstream market segment. As per data, US outbound spending by travelers with disabilities is worth $17.3 billion. With the growing number in life expectancy worldwide, the tourism industry will get more elderly travelers with less mobility. Hence promoting inclusive tourism would attract a larger segment of travelers to Nepal.
It is a challenging time for Nepal to successfully reposition itself as a destination after the April earthquake, and it is the right time to focus on inclusive tourism in the process of rebuilding the monuments and tourist facilities, making it more accessible.
Normally, tourists with disabilities travel on word-of-mouth basis, and they tend to stay longer than the average length of stay. Similarly, they would travel with companions or in a small group, and this would reward the destination with greater revenue. In the context of Nepal, it is expected that inclusive tourism promotion would also enable local DPOs (Disabled People’s Organizations) to get connected with international travelers with disabilities, and it will enable them to share, learn, and earn in more dignified manner from this smokeless industry.
Needless to say, the facilities and hotels which are built to cater to international tourists can also be enjoyed by the local PWD (People With Disabilities), making the initiatives to promote inclusive tourism a win-win approach for the overall development of Nepal in general and the tourism industry in particular.
A short documentary was made about a trip that visually-impaired Italian traveler Marco made which took place in July and August 2015, after the earthquake. He successfully trekked to Ghorepani in the Annapurna region, helping to create and spread a message that tourists with disabilities can come and enjoy their trips in Nepal.