Preparations for this year’s tourism day celebrations to be held at the Golden Mile Hotel in Kwekwe are at an advanced stage and will run under the theme “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility”.
Celebrated annually on 27 September, the World Tourism Day is the biggest international event in tourism, with the purpose of fostering awareness among the international community on the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.
Zimbabwe will have belated celebrations on the 7th of October in the mining town of Kwekwe after the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry postponed the event to allow Minister Mzembi to conduct his worldwide campaign for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Secretary General’s post.
Speaking to journalists on the state of preparedness ahead of this year’s commemorations, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Anastancia Ndhlovu said they were geared up for this important event.
“All roads lead to Kwekwe this Friday for the World Tourism Day Celebrations and we can confirm that all logistics are in place.
“The theme for this year is Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility where we are paying more attention on accessibility of all tourism facilities.
“The United Nations World Tourism organisation (UNWTO) is convinced that accessibility for all to tourist facilities, products, and services should be a central part of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy. The provision of safe, convenient and economical transport and other tourism-related infrastructure is a key factor for the success of tourism.
“Infrastructure that does not cater adequately for the needs of people with disabilities, including infants and the elderly, excludes many destinations from this promising market,” Ndhlovu said.
However, the Deputy Minister bemoaned the poor road networks which do not allow easy accessibility for people with disabilities.
“Due to the way our transport systems and services are designed, people with disabilities and people in general are experiencing problems regarding mobility or access to information.
“The number of accessibility challenges is massive, and visitors may be affected on every part of the route, either in terms of access to information, local transport, accommodation, visits and or participation in cultural or sporting events, whether as spectators or participants,” she said.
As recognized in the UNWTO’s “Declaration on the Facilitation of Tourist Travel”, adopted by its General Assembly Resolution A/RES/578 (XVIII) of 2009 facilitating tourism travel for persons with disabilities is an essential element of any policy for the development of responsible tourism.
Therefore, mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development will ensure that tourism policies and practices are inclusive of people with disabilities, giving rise to equitable and accessible tourism for all.
Due to the ageing population in the industrialized countries, the rate of disability among people with the capacity to travel is also increasing, adding to the demand for an accessible environment, transport and services – thereby adding to the market value of the accessible tourism segment.
A similar trend is also increasingly visible in the emerging economies, where the fast rising number of the rich and the middle class are frequently travelling . Much of the senior population in those countries has significant income and the desire to travel, both in their home countries and abroad, and their expenditure tends to be higher than that of tourists in general.
Because many people with disabilities and older people are no longer active in the workforce, they have the possibility of traveling throughout the year, which helps to reduce the seasonality of demand experienced by many destinations.
Thus, the growing attention to the “Accessible Tourism” market presents a challenge to the global travel industry in terms of improving policies and mobilizing the investments in order to carry out the necessary improvements across the board, both in the short and long term.
With the right approach, the tourism sector has, thereby, a golden opportunity to serve an important and growing market, win new customers and increase revenue.
Anastancia NdhlovuDeputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality