Making Barbados fully accessible to all is the way to go to push the tourism product to the estimated 650 million people worldwide with disabilities.
In fact, statistics show that in Barbados’ major tourist markets about 4.4 million people in Canada, 5.4 million in the United States and six million people in Europe suffer with some disability.
The numbers are increased when seniors with accessibility needs and people with temporary accessibility issues such as injury, pregnancy and families using strollers, are added.
Together, tourism planners believe, these numbers have the potential to significantly impact visitor arrivals.
“Accessible tourism is therefore tourism for all – and it benefits everyone,” said Acting Chief Tourism Development Officer, Jacqueline Pollard.
She was addressing participants this morning at the Divi Southwinds Resort in St. Lawrence, Christ Church for the inaugural Fully Accessible Barbados Sensitivity & Sign Language 2012 training workshop.
Pollard added: “In Barbados, organisations have recognised the importance of this growing market to our economy and have started improving on accessibility in buildings.
“I know that tourism players in the public and private sectors are very much aware of the need for high standards in the creation and delivery of all tourism-related products and services in Barbados. It should be no different when it comes to meeting the needs of all of our visitors.
“In fact, we can all agree that it is crucial for all establishments to aim for the achievement of internationally recognised standards, as one methodology for ensuring that Barbados can compete effectively with other destinations.”
She added that while tourism partners had refurbished or adjusted their building designs to take the disabled visitor into account, there was a need for progress to be made in communication and interaction with people with disabilities.
Additionally, she said that some individuals were sometimes concerned that they may say the wrong thing, so they said nothing at all, further segregating people with disabilities.
One of the tourism partners who had seen the importance of full access for all was Divi Southwinds Resorts, and General Manager, Alvin Jemmott admitted that although they were not fully accessible as yet, they had recognised the need to cater to guests with special challenges.
He noted that whenever any new adjustments were made to the property they ensured that they took the needs of the individual into account, for example, the provision of new bathrooms specially outfitted for the disabled.
“We in Barbados have to participate to the fullest level in this global industry… There are all types of tourists and if we are going to continue to push Barbados’ tourism to the next level where we give exemplary service, then we have to make the effort to cater to the needs of every guest registered here in Barbados .
“Last year we had a group of guest who were differently challenged, and it was so warm and welcoming to see how staff members were able to communicate with them. I came into this room last year and we had a luncheon in there for 80 persons and I felt like the one who was disable because these people were able to communicate will with each other and some of my staff members were able to communicate at will with them — and I said there is something wrong with me,” he said.
The sensitisation workshop was organised by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the Barbados Council for the Disabled. (KC)