Enhancing accessible tourism to improve offer for 650 million of tourists

Allowing everyone to enjoy a unique tourism experience is the aim of accessible tourism. It is both a social responsibility and a competitive opportunity for the tourism destinations and for enterprises.

According to the UN estimates, about 650 million disabled people live on this planet. Considering their relatives too, it is estimated that about 2 billion people – almost one third of the global population, are directly affected by this problem regarding disability.

Moreover, many people have problems with accessibility, regardless of they are disabled or not. For example, elderly people who have reduced movement ability or have deambulation aids, have accessibility needs that can turn into serious limitations while on holiday.

According to the Tourism Unit of the European Commission, the European population is growing older. They foresee that by 2050 the number of people aged over 65 will be three times higher than in 2003, while the number of people aged over 80 will be five times higher if compared to the present level.

Travelling for these people could be a problem, as searching information on accessible services, managing the luggage in airplanes, booking an adequate room in a hotel result to be difficult and expensive activities which require more time.

These results reveal a huge potential market that remains partially unserved nowadays.

According to the European Commission’s study “Economic impact and travel patterns of accessible tourism in Europe”, published in 2014, the demand of travels in the European Union made by tourists with specific needs of access will rise to about 862 million by 2020, compared to 783 million in 2012. This will have an important impact on local economies.

At Twissen we notice a strong interest of the private and public part, even though an additional activity of information and awareness should be done to tourism stakeholders.
A further knowledge of the “accessible tourist”, a specific training in this sector, improvement of the accessible services and a proper and efficient divulgation are some of the activities that need to be done in order to catch the opportunities in this segment.


Author: Francesco Redi
President and founder at Twissen. Manager in Local Development, Tourism Policies,  EU Funds. He cooperates with several European universities, public bodies, development agencies, DMOs and enterprises.

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