Friday the 18th of March 2016, the first international conference about accessible tourism took place at Impacthub in Amsterdam; the ACCESSTOUR Conference & Exhibition.
The conference took place at Impacthub Amsterdam and welcomed over 50 guests. The guests included people from the field of accessible tourism in the Netherlands and Europe, such as Accessible Poland Tours, Accessible Portugal, INTER and Landstede Buitengewoon Reizen. There were also many guests who learned about accessible tourism for the first time.
Summary of the day
The conference kicked off with a welcoming word by Veroniek Maat from Accessible Travel Netherlands. She introduced project coordinator Massimo Canalicchio, who presented the goal and results of the European ACCESSTOUR project. A presentation by Mieke Broeders, director of INTER in Belgium followed. She outlined the potential of accessible tourism for countries in Europe and explained about the extensive accessible tourism policy by Tourism Flanders. She also highlighted the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) which companies and people working on accessible tourism in Europe can become a member of. One of ENAT's works is the website Pantou, which is the European Accessible Tourism Directory.
After lunch, three workshops took place which all addressed different topics, namely;
Accessible tour guiding
Accessible tourism policies
Accessible heritage sites
The first workshop included a theoretical introduction and a practical part where the participants went outside to experience accessibility needs personally, using a wheelchair and being blind folded and walking with a stick. The second workshop was a group discussion that addressed examples of accessible tourism policies of DMO's in Europe. The goal of this workshop was to come up with ideas to best address accessible tourism in the Netherlands. The third workshop challenged the participants to think about heritage sites and museums and how to make them accessible for all.
After the workshops a panel discussion followed with Massimo Canalicchio, Mieke Broeders, Wouter Schelvis and Walter Jonker. The outcomes of the workshops were discussed as well as the future of accessible tourism in the Netherlands.
Some results and suggestions from the panel discussion included:
The Netherlands should become better prepared to cater for customers with accessibility needs;
Gathering information about accessible tourism opportunities in the Netherlands on national level should become a priority. Several parties are already working on this and collaboration is key;
Training is needed to prepare the tourism industry for customers with accessibility needs;
Sites of interest and heritage sites such as castles, churches and old fortified towns that are open for the public should work on accessibility for all. Apart from access improvements with regards to physical, visual and hearing impairments, a solution can be Virtual Reality and robots.