Business Opportunity and Social Responsibility: Growing Importance of Accessible E-Tourism for Senior Tourists and Persons with Disabilities

Business Opportunity and Social Responsibility: Growing Importance of Accessible E-Tourism for Senior Tourists and Persons with Disabilities

Aleksandar M. Ivanović (Alexander College of Arts, Business, Finance, Tourism and Management, Serbia)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 34
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8577-2.ch016


Since Internet is the most abundant, accepted, comprising, reachable, and used source of information, it is the basis for the development of (the first time in scientific literature defined) accessible e-tourism (for all), as the application and implementation of e-commerce solutions, digital, web, mobile, and other ICTs in the function of providing (web and universal) accessibility in tourism, travel, hospitality, and catering industry, especially for the people with (permanent or temporary) special access needs (persons with disabilities, seniors, people with small children, or carrying heavy luggage, or being big or small in size or stature). It has been proven to be an emerging business opportunity. The (multiaccessible) Barcelona (Access website) and other case studies have shown that accessibility details have to be part of the website of tourist facility, enterprise, or destination, clearly visible or easy to find and use – particularly the (hotel or visitor attraction) search engine, producing complete, consistent, and correct information.
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According to Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO, 2013, p. 1), “accessibility is a central element of any responsible and sustainable tourism policy. It is both a human rights imperative, and an exceptional business opportunity. Above all, we must come to appreciate that accessible tourism does not only benefit persons with disabilities or special needs; it benefits us all.”

In order to be as successful as possible, the travel and tourism industry has to design and provide safe, convenient, and economical transport systems as well as other tourism-related services and infrastructure. Raising and maintaining the quality and competitiveness requires an adequate care of the needs of people with disabilities, including also infants, the elderly, and other people experiencing accessibility* problems regarding (even) access to (any general tourist or in particular) information (on accessible services) or the mobility in any part of the route: from booking a hotel room catering special access needs, buying a ticket, checking luggage on the plane, entering local transport, and accommodation, to visits or participation in various cultural or sports events (as spectators or participants). These activities should not be too difficult, costly, nor time consuming, if we want to support and develop accessible tourism* for all, letting disabled people have the same freedom to travel and enjoy tourism experiences as easy as all other citizens. They have equal rights to tourism services and opportunities: accurate and reliable information and marketing, independent travel, and accessible (usually just basically adjusted) facilities, with properly trained staff, understanding their needs. Therefore, accessible tourism becomes a social responsibility and obligation.

However, owing to a growing demand, it should be rather seen as an opportunity and a compelling business case. Instead of excluding (unadjusted and unprepared) tourist destinations from this promising market, the travel and tourism industry (as well as many other related sectors of the economy, from the construction industry to culture and agriculture) can benefit from an increased number of passengers and visitors, higher income, and possibly longer seasons, while the positive impact on the whole society will include more tax revenue, new job opportunities, and an accessible environment for local inhabitants, too.

It imposes the analysis of specific characteristics of accessible tourism, defining accessible e-tourism as its prospective form, discussion of its legal framework, positive economic and financial effects, as well as business examples based on a number of case studies. The area of accessible tourism has been recently (within last several years) covered by a number of official (international, national, regional, or local) acts and policy documents, (mostly partial) scientific research of its segments and issues, as well as practical recommendations for its implementation. This could be an attempt to review and include most of its most important issues. However, accessible e-tourism, based on, depending on, relying heavily upon, and using Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for all marketing objectives and functions, has not been even defined, nor scientifically researched, nor enough attention has been paid to it and its practical issues nor to the managerial implications of using web and mobile technologies. Therefore, an analysis and identification of possible problems, solutions, and improvements has been done from an internet user standpoint, while trying to use only accessible sources as references in the research of accessible tourism.

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