Accessible Tourism summit calls for global cooperation for inclusion of people of determination

The Dubai Accessible Tourism International Summit, opened in Dubai on January 12, 2022, called for joint international cooperation to make service facilities such as airports, airlines, hotels, various means of transportation and communication, websites, shopping malls and other facilities and services friendly to People of Determination whose number is expected to double to 2 billion by 2050 from the current one billion, according to the statistics of the World Health Organization.

The summit, attended by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, President of Dubai Airports, Supreme President and CEO of Emirates Airlines and Group, recommended 20 measures for smooth travel for travellers of determination to face challenges faced by people of determination in terms of movement, residence and travel worldwide.

The summit was also  attended by  His Excellency Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, His Excellency Awad Al Sagheer Al Ketbi, Director General of the Dubai Health Authority,  His Excellency Ahmed Mahboob Musabih, Director General of Dubai Customs and CEO of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation in Dubai, His Excellency Jamal Al Hai, Vice President of Dubai Airports,  and His Excellency Majid Al-Osaimi, Chairman of the Asian Paralympic Committee, member of the International Paralympic Committee, Executive Director of Dubai Club for People of Determination, His Excellency Mohammed Abdalla Ahli, Director General of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) and a number of senior officials. 

The summit was held with the objective to shed light on the challenges faced by about a billion people who have a certain type of need for assistance,  during their movement as residents, visitors or tourists in the cities of the world, and the need to strengthen legislation, laws, infrastructure and services that meet their needs and aspirations and their right to discover the world easily.

The summit was opened by Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, with a welcoming speech in which he said : “ Within the framework of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make Dubai the best city in the world for living, work and visit, and the attention paid by our wise leadership to people of determination, many initiatives and steps have been taken that will enable everyone to enjoy distinctive experiences and tourism components that take into account all needs”.

 The presentations given by international experts indicated that the volume of missed opportunities on the economy and global tourism, amounted to 142 billion euros annually as a result of the reluctance of millions of People of Determination to travel due to the lack of appropriate services and facilities in many cities of the world. The summit also stressed the need to adhere to Universal Design standards to accelerate the process of preparing cities to become more friendly and respond to the needs of people of determination in mobility and decent living.

A discussion session in which a number of people of determination participated shed light on the most important challenges facing millions of tourists of determination during their travel, noting that their recommendations to government and private stakeholders around the world include 20  recommendations for smooth travel without obstacles . The participants called for strengthening international cooperation to provide for the needs of people of determination while on the move, and the need to adopt smart solutions and provide professional staff to provide a smooth travel experience that meets the needs of different categories of physical, audio-visual disabilities and autistic children.

The summit comes in the wake of fast return to recovery of the travel and tourism sectors, after the catastrophic effects of Covid 19 on these two sectors worldwide, to discuss the challenges facing the industry at the present time and the lessons learned from the crisis, especially with regard to tourists of determination.

More than 20 speakers and experts from government and private agencies, in addition to representatives of IATA, Airports Council International, the World Tourism Organization and the World Health Organization, participated in the summit, which was held in both personal and online formats. In addition to the participation of international experts in the field of transportation, global design and facilitated mobility. The conference also provided two training sessions on best practices in dealing with travelers and hotel guests.

The Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, the Community Development Authority in Dubai, the Zayed Higher Organization, Flydubai and the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel were the sponsors.

The first session was presented by an expert from the College of Tourism in Dubai, while the second session was presented by an expert from the Zayed Higher Organization. Dozens of workers in the aviation and hospitality sectors participated in the two sessions, who benefited from the materials and information they were briefed on during the sessions.

Commenting on the summit, His Excellency Awad Saghir Al Ketbi, Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority, said that the progress and precedence that Dubai is achieving every day in various fields and at all levels is what made it a global center for summits, forums and major and important events, among which is the Dubai Accessible Tourism International Summit, which is under the patronage and presence of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

His Excellency Daoud Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality, said: “Our wise leadership pays great attention to people of determination, by providing all facilities and services that enable them to lead their lives normally, as well as their participation in community events because of the importance of their role.”

“We, in Dubai Municipality, are working to be a model for the care and happiness of people of determination, by enabling them to participate effectively in society, and in support of the directions of the Dubai government aimed at transforming the Emirate of Dubai into a fully inclusive and friendly city for people of determination, through programs, projects and initiatives aimed at enhancing community commitment. them, providing all community services in accordance with the best international practices, providing opportunities and an appropriate work environment for them, and enabling them to sustain participation as individuals capable of excellence and creativity.”

He said Dubai Municipality has adopted the issuance of the “Dubai Code ” for the Qualified Environment, in the design of buildings, to be classified as friendly to people of determination, suitable for them, such as special parking, suitable elevators and wheelchairs, in addition to providing free entry for people of determination, and some of their companions.

His Excellency Ahmed Mahboub Musabih, Director General of Dubai Customs and CEO of Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, stressed that the UAE has created an environment characterized by achieving parity and equality for people of determination, providing them with a decent life and integrating them into society.

He said Dubai Customs has exempted medical devices and special materials for the use of people of determination from customs duties, in addition to rehabilitating the infrastructure in the department. It provided touch-screen corridors, entrances and floors for the benefit of the blind in its headquarters, and issued a customer guide in Braille in all customs centers, in addition to a smart cart for customs clearance, and a face-print camera, and provided customs officers and customer service personnel of this category with electronic wheelchairs to facilitate their work tasks.

Ahmed Julfar, Director General of the Community Development Authority in Dubai, stressed that the Dubai Accessible Tourism Summit constitutes an important platform to attract the authorities concerned with empowering people of determination and developing accessible services that suit their needs and aspirations.

“The CDA will benefit from the outcomes of this summit in adopting easy solutions to empower people of determination in cooperation with service providers, allowing them to live their lives and obtain various services without any challenges.”

Jamal Al Hai, Deputy CEO of Dubai Airports, confirmed that Dubai has taken the initiative again to restore easy tourism to the fore, as the city was among the first destinations that successfully opened to international tourists months before hosting the Expo 2020 Dubai, as part of its vision to become one of the best destinations. The preferred for tourists of determination, based on an integrated system of legislation, advanced infrastructure and distinguished services.

Al Hai, Summit Chairman said: “I have prepared Dubai strongly to receive tourists in all categories and succeeded with distinction in recording record growth rates in the number of visitors coming to Dubai since the start of the Expo 2020 and thanks to the support provided by the government and private agencies, will receive tourists from motivational distinctive experiences of tourism owners Dubai “.

Majid Al-Usaimi, President of the Asian Paralympic Committee, member of the International Paralympic Committee and Executive Director of the Dubai Club for People of Determination, who moderated two sessions during the summit, described the  Summit to facilitate “ people of determination ” tourism as a mission, which discusses the travel and tourism of “ people of determination, ” who represent 15% of the total travel and tourism movement, especially that the UAE has become a global destination in tourism in line with the vision of the “ wise leadership ” to make the UAE a preferred destination for people of determination.

Al-Usaimi praised the UAE’s efforts to enhance the services of tourists of people of determination and upgrade them in accordance with the established approach to reach the desired goal, especially since the UAE has become an inspiring model in empowering this category.

 His Excellency Abdullah Al Humaidan, Secretary-General of the Zayed Higher Organization, said: “People of determination are a major component in the society of the United Arab Emirates, and our wise leadership gives them all the attention and care and works to empower them in society as a whole, and the tourism sector in the country is like all sectors in this field.

“The Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination plays a pivotal role in enabling people of determination to experience everything new in their lives, including an enjoyable and distinctive travel experience, in cooperation with strategic partners in the tourism sector.”

Sheikha Dr. Alia Al Qassimi, Director of the Department of Welfare and Social Integration at the Community Development Authority in Dubai,  said:  “Our participation in the summit comes with the aim of reviewing Dubai’s successful experience in transforming into a friendly city for people of determination and the integrated initiatives launched by the authority in cooperation with its partners to develop the quality of their lives, and what has been done in the framework of legislation and laws.

“There is no doubt that the legal frameworks developed by the government contributed significantly to the provision of support and organization of work, both at the level of protection of the rights of owners of determination or the development of databases Integrated on their needs and specific projects outputs to empower and integrate them educationally, socially and in the workplace.”

On the sidelines of the Summit launched “Village Support” programme in the sustainable city of Dubai, which is the largest rehabilitation center and educating owners of motivation in the world, a training program directed to the rehabilitation of workers in the airline and hotel facilities and sectors of tourism on how to deal with visitors with disorder, autism, in collaboration with the  Dubai World Summit to facilitate the tourism of people of determination.

Tasneem Abu Roza, Operations Manager at Sanad Village, said: “Sanad Village confirms the sustainable city’s commitment to work mechanisms in line with Dubai’s strategy to support people of determination and contribute to achieving the emirate’s vision. We work according to an integrated methodology that adopts a new global standard for qualifying people of determination.”

Marina Diotallevi, Head of Ethics, Culture and Social Responsibility at the United Nations World Tourism Organization, said that by December 2021, more than 85 countries have eased travel restrictions on fully vaccinated international tourists as there was a huge surge in demand for global tourism in 2021 which coincided with the northern hemisphere summer holidays.

“Universal accessibility in tourism is about human rights and the access of all people to tourism infrastructure, products and services. The tourism sector must meet the requirements of travelers with needs and consider it an ethical responsibility and a legal obligation. The number of end users of accessible tourism is constantly increasing from developed and emerging economies. By 2050, it will be one of every six people at the age of 65 years or more, while suffering almost half of people over the age of 60 years of different disabilities.  

Dr. Rayana Bou-haka, representing the World Health Organization, said: “We are working to improve the collection and disaggregation of reliable data on people with needs to inform health policies and programmes. The World Health Organization is working on preparing a report on the highest attainable standard of health for people with disabilities by the end of 2022. We are also implementing the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy in All levels of the organization and support the establishment of a global research agenda on health and disability. We also provide for the 194 – member state of technical knowledge and support capacity – building for the integration of a comprehensive approach to disability in the health sector.”

Dr. Hashem Saleh Hussein, Director of the Office of UNIDO in Bahrain, said: “Comprehensive Disability and Sustainable Development of the United Nations aimed at ensuring education of equal and can be reached by building a comprehensive learning environment and provide the necessary assistance to persons with disabilities.

UNIDO speech was delivered by Afif Barhoumi, Investment Promotion Expert Programme Coordinator, UNIDO ITPO/ AICEI Bahrain.

Anna Grazia Laura, President of the European Network for Accessible Tourism, emphasized in her visual intervention during the summit: “Equal opportunities must ensure that everyone can enjoy tourism experiences in a sustainable manner, especially since the concept of sustainability in the field of tourism comes within the interests of the United Nations and is the motive behind the issuance of the ISO tourism standard.”

“The lack of adequate facilities and services causes the global economy to lose about 142 billion euros each year and 3.4 million jobs annually. Here, I would like to stress that accessibility, whether physical access or providing information, is likely to be an area of interest especially people who have the potential material has been suspended and time travel journeys temporarily because of the pandemic, so the tourism sector will need to adapt to changing trends and the adoption of innovative approaches to accommodate the new demands and needs and preferences of emerging markets, according to their characteristics, behavior.”

Ann Frye, an international expert on the transport needs of people with special needs and the elderly and one of the 12 ambassadors for people with disabilities and accessibility in Britain, called for the generalization of the principles of comprehensive design of facilities, infrastructure and services in line with the needs of people of determination

“Accessibility should be viewed as a continuum rather than an isolated issue and therefore transport service providers and public authorities should promote accessible tourism and ensure that every step of that journey is smooth.”

According to the estimates of the World Health Organization, between 10-15% of the world’s population has some kind of need for assistance, and that the number of people who need assistive devices ranging from wheelchairs to communication technologies, will double from 1 billion at the present time to 2 billion people by 2050 as a result of aging, health problems and other factors. About 50 million people with special needs in the Middle East look forward to visiting cities and tourist destinations that provide them with appropriate services that meet their needs.

 The summit recommended 20 measures for smooth travel for travellers of determination to face challenges faced by people of determination in terms of movement, residence and travel worldwide.

In a special session moderated by Majid Al-Usaimi, in which a group of people of determination participated, the participants emphasized a number of challenges faced by people of determination in terms of movement, residence and travel worldwide. They stressed the importance of strengthening international cooperation to remove these challenges, the most prominent of which are the following:

  1. Providing professional staff who are skilled in dealing with travelers of determination with their various needs at check-in points, security checks, passports, and other points inside the airport facilities, and inviting staff to deal with travelers with special needs as ordinary travelers.
  2. Provide guiding plates in sign language (indicative video) in the premises of airports to help travelers from the owners of motivation and guide them to the right area to complete the travel procedures.
  3. Providing sign language interpreters at airports to assist passengers with hearing impairments.
  4. Providing a special vehicle to check-in for passengers with mobility disabilities to enable them to enjoy the airport experience like any normal passenger, and to have the opportunity to roam the duty-free market and taste food and drinks in airport restaurants and cafes instead of placing them in a special lounge pending the time of their flight.
  5. Providing inspection devices for people of determination, especially (motor category) to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience that the traveler may be exposed to at some airports when he is removed from the wheelchair for security checks.
  6. Providing a special mechanism that allows travelers of determination to collect their luggage quickly to avoid them waiting for a long time at the baggage claim area.
  7. Providing close parking for people of determination at the arrivals area.
  8. Generalizing the automated system to open the doors of toilets at airports to facilitate the entry process, especially for travelers with mobility disabilities, because the doors in some airports are heavy and require physical strength to open them.
  9. Allocating a site for people of determination at airline reservation centers to facilitate the booking process, with the need to fulfill the services they requested to be provided on board the aircraft during the booking process.
  10. Training the airline crews on how to deal with travelers of determination and granting them their rights stipulated in accordance with the laws of international institutions concerned with the transport and travel sector.
  11. Providing a sufficient number of wheelchairs inside the cabin of the plane for use in transporting people of determination, as carriers usually provide only one chair, while more than one passenger with a mobility disability may be present on the same flight.
  12. Allocating toilets inside the aircraft that are suitable for passengers with mobility disabilities, in terms of space and ability to move and rotate.
  13. Provide sign language to explain safety instructions during flights.
  14. Providing aircraft with the land line for passengers with visual disabilities and providing them with their own white cane, in addition to providing Braille language inside the aircraft within the movie screens.
  15. Providing programs and series translated into sign language so that the traveler with hearing disabilities can enjoy watching them during the flight.
  16. Providing (iPad) equipped to serve passengers with hearing disabilities, with the aim of facilitating the task of the flight attendant in serving passengers of this category.
  17. Allocating seats with foldable handles to enable passengers of people of determination to move freely.
  18. Design a kind of document to include the technical details of the equipment used by people with disability for easy identification and to provide help if needed.
  19. Provide special friendly toilet facilities, especially in aircraft.
  20. Ensure proper transportation from airport to their destinations and back.