You are here: : Inclusive Tourism

Inclusive Tourism


Dr Scott Rains, who first coined the term ‘inclusive tourism’ clarifies the definition for us by saying:

“….when I talk about Inclusive Tourism I am referring to social inclusion.   When I first used the expression ‘inclusive tourism’ I was aware that I would confuse some people in the tourism industry who refer to ‘all-inclusive packages.’ I really mean social inclusion and the social movement supporting that inclusion. I wanted to signal that meaning to consumers and those inside the travel industry who possessed a political orientation toward cultural inclusion and diversity. That way it would be easier to weave related concepts together in people’s minds.” 


What is inclusive tourism?

 For some people, it makes them think of accessible tourism - which it is, but it is more than that. Inclusive tourism/ travel embraces the whole community of travelers, this is ‘cultural inclusion and diversity’.  It means access on the level, that the access should be seamless, not noticeable - it works for everybody and when families, friends, relatives go on holiday together. It means disabled and non disabled, slow walkers, people with crutches, children on holiday together with grandparents, it means classmates enjoying school trips together. No exclusion because of ‘special needs’. It means that if a family would like to go to London, for example, they would be able to go to a hotel where the facilities would include everybody, they would be able to take public transport and have a good time visiting tourist spots. There is no need for stigmatization, no separation.

Is this a dream? No we are getting there. The trick as Scott Rains say is to seek out those places which make this possible now so that designers and architects get the message that is not a question of whether they should apply universal design as a good gesture, for legislative compliance even but that it is good strategy for building infrastructure for the future and that it makes economic sense.

Inclusive design is also known by the term, universal design. Inclusive/universal design is so important now we are more diverse now in ability and age than ever before. China is incorporating accessibility as a result of Beijing Olympics 2008 (look at the Time Out information on access in Beijing) and there is an increased awareness about accessible tourism in India .

These are the six Principles of Universal /Inclusive Design

  1. Equitable Use: The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple, Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably, and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and Space for Approach & Use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.

(The Principles are copyrighted to the Center for Universal Design, School of Design, State University of North Carolina at Raleigh [USA]

 How does inclusive tourism involve me?

You might ask how does inclusive tourism involve me if I am non disabled?

I remember my lecturer on Information Architecture and Usability Studies, Randolph Bias, from the University of Texas at Austin School of Information, often used the term, the ‘ temporarily able bodied’ for the non disabled people. It is, obviously, to remind us that we can all join the disabled community, it is not like gender, race or sexual orientation where we are born into the community. Some of us get there as we get older and our faculties and physical strength gets worn out, some of us by sickness, some by accidents.and some of us from birth.

Apart of the human and social considerations, there is also the economic costs. Why spend money to design alternative access when you can incorporate inclusive design to fit all? But as James L. Mueller, president, J. L. Mueller Inc, chair of Special Interest Section on Universal Design of the Industrial Designers Society of America, says we might not be able to pinpoint directly how inclusive design makes us more money, we can be sure that as we all age, universal design will gather momentum and touch each and every one of us who lives long enough. The earlier and more proactively we can prepare, the more enjoyable our lives, and the lives of those close to us, will be.

I had a conversation with a woman whose best friend had cancer. They wanted to go on holiday and she did not know how to get around with her friend who now uses a wheelchair. She had never needed to consider the barriers before. There are so many permutations of this kind of story with the many relationships we have with family and friends.

Of course, spending money on universal design or risking one’s business reputation on it without a clear return on investment requires a deep-rooted sense of the importance of this design approach. Business managers are people: When they have an experience that sensitizes them to elders and people with disabilities, they look for ways to integrate it into their business. In this business environment, the case studies may be most useful as resources for those already converted to universal design, rather than as incentives for making new converts. In short, business managers don’t adopt universal design—it adopts them. James L. Mueller

In the case of tourism, can business managers afford not to adopt inclusive design in these days where travel is no longer just for the young backpacker but more and more the baby boomers who has the time, the disposable income and a longer life to travel? Not to mention disabled people who subscribe to independent living who has aspirations to travel and develop an appetite for adventure and travel just like everybody else.