Make facilities accessible to all, hotels told

Hotels and tourism facilities operators have been challenged to come up with facilities that accommodate everybody especially people  with disabilities.

By Lovejoy Mutongwiza & Chipo Majuta 

The Deputy Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Anastancia Ndhlovu, said accessibility for all to tourist facilities, products and services should be a central part of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy.

She was speaking before the touring major hotels in the capital, Harare, where an assessment on their accessibility was made.

“We are partaking in this tour of hotel facilities to see generally how far we have gone to ensure universal accessibility and exchange ideas on how we can facilitate and formulate relevant strategies going forward.

“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,” said Ndhlovu.

She added that the United Nations World Tourism’s (UNWTO) main focus on this year’s World Tourism Day Celebrations is on people with disabilities and 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.

Meanwhile people with disabilities have bemoaned the lack of accessible facilities at most of hotels and tourism facilities in the country.

Speaking after the tour, Senator Anna Shiri, who represents the constituency of people with disabilities said hotels should be accessible to people with disabilities.

“Many hotels only focus on minor things and forget about the major things like bathroom facilities, the beds and some mobility aids to enhance the lives of differently disabled people.

“Assistive devices and daily living aids which assist in supporting independent living especially in an environment of hotels where caregivers cannot be available must be made readily available,” said Senator Shiri.

She added that hotels need to have writing aids, sensors to help the deaf and even to have vision elevators to help the visually impaired people.

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 of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide. The World Tourism Day celebration was started by the United Nations World Tourism Organization in the year 1980.

The 27th of September was selected as on this day the laws of the UNWTO came into force in the year 1970 which is considered as the big landmark for global tourism.

This international day seeks to address global challenges outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals and to highlight the contribution the tourism industry can make in reaching these goals.

Travel and tourism has become the world’s largest and fastest growing industry, and its growth shows a consistent year to year increase.

With 1 billion international travelers in 2012, countries are increasingly developing tourism as part of their national development strategies as an effective driver of economic growth and inclusive development, creating jobs and well-being for communities.