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How is Dominican Republic doing in accesible tourism?

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How is Dominican Republic doing in accesible tourism - Dominican Travel Pro

Accessible tourism represents a great business opportunity for the Dominican Republic, the country that led the international recovery of tourism in the last two years.

This type of tourism involves a multisectoral collaborative process that allows people with special access needs in different dimensions, including mobility, vision, hearing and cognition, to function independently, with equality and dignity, thanks to a range of products , services and tourism environments designed in a universal way.

It’s all about that the tourism value chain, including cruises, hotels, excursions, beaches, tours, among others, become available to those with disabilities or reduced mobility.

Eliminating or minimizing physical and mental barriers to expand our offer and making it accessible entails a public-private commitment to adapt infrastructure and human capital.

Currently more than 1 billion people in the world have a disability, equivalent to 1 in 7 people. Older adults fall into this group and it is estimated that by 2050 about 1.6 billion people will be over 65 years of age, of which 11.5% will spend at least 8 years with some type of disability or reduced mobility.

Accessible tourism seeks to minimize or eliminate the most frequent barriers faced by this audience, including:

– Physical barriers (infrastructure)

– Communication barriers (between the service provider and the tourists)

– Attitudinal barriers (staff not qualified or uninterested in providing care)

– Technological barriers (information or accessibility offer not available or difficult to find)

Of these, attitudinal barriers are more frequent than the rest of the barriers in all tourism sectors.

The reality is that hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities want to travel and have the purchasing power to do so, but they need easy access to achieve their goals.

One of the most important aspects is that these people do not travel alone, which increases the demand for services because they can be accompanied by two or more relatives. Like any other, this tourist does not come to sleep, he comes to enjoy the attractions offered by the destination.

Developing our country as an accessible destination requires a concert of actors working together and share a joint vision. Architects, interpreters, transportation companies and drivers, hotels, resorts, cruise ships, and all the staff are a single body that must be instructed and trained to serve this large segment of the tourism market.

Likewise, the offer presented through web pages, applications, and social networks must also be adapted and respond to this type of tourist. In other words, accessible marketing along with general accessibility conditions represents the best combination to excite and attract them.

How is the Dominican Republic doing in accessible tourism?

Santo Domingo hosted this week the V Ibero-American Summit on Accessible Tourism, which aimed to promote a more sustainable tourism and a social change towards inclusive hotels and tourist facilities.

This significant summit held at the emblematic Sheraton Hotel had the support of more than a dozen public and private, local and foreign institutions, which evidenced the great interest that all people with disabilities and reduced mobility obtain tourist services and products in equal conditions.

Likewise, it demonstrated the shared commitment to the accessibility and inclusion of our tourism industry, while opening opportunities for the development of new market niches.

It is valid to highlight that the trip, whether for a person with a disability or not, starts from the very desire to travel and at the same time with the search for information about the destination and what it offers. Therefore, it is essential to present the information correctly and promote ourselves as an accessible tourism destination.

Of course, this has to go hand in hand with the reality on the ground.

In Santo Domingo, Samaná, Puerto Plata and Santiago, progress has been made with significant investments in accessible infrastructure and it is estimated that in two years all the resorts in our main tourist destination, Punta Cana, will be accessible. Another destination that has been interested in accessible tourism is La Romana-Bayahíbe, since the association that brings together its hoteliers has signed agreements with public institutions to implement staff training programs and adaptation of its infrastructure.

Our two main airports have shown great progress in this regard.

A few years ago, initiatives emerged at the international airports of Las Américas (AILA) and Punta Cana (PUJ), to facilitate the movement of travelers with accessibility needs.

At PUJ, the 23 boarding gates were enabled with the aim of facilitating access for people with reduced mobility and guaranteeing them a greater level of autonomy and the enjoyment of their universal rights as users of air transport.

While in the AILA, a series of actions were implemented that range from the installation of podotactile signage in critical points such as stairs and elevators, ischial support chairs in the Customs area, in addition to duly marked preferential parking.

In these facilities, the presence of wheelchairs, ramps, parking lots, electric carts, and personnel identified to serve people with disabilities or reduced mobility is also notorious.

In the short term, the Ministry of Tourism will make a tender to hire a prestigious international company to audit and jointly develop a national accessible tourism strategy. Also, talks are already advanced for the creation of a council between the public and private sectors.

For now, the Comprehensive Tourism and Urban Development Program for the Colonial City of Santo Domingo is underway, an initiative of the Ministry of Tourism with the support of the Santo Domingo Mayor’s Office.

This program seeks to improve the cultural offer with the appropriate authorization of museums and historical places, the optimization of the habitability conditions of the residents, the development of local economies, and the strengthening of urban tourism and cultural management.

Another aspect to highlight is the progress of our country in the international recognition program for Blue Flag beaches and marinas, in which we currently have 24 beaches certified in 4 provinces.

This program certifies those businesses and places that meet high quality standards and create the necessary conditions to develop a sustainable and comprehensive management of the beaches.

Among the prerogatives of the program is to have spaces and policies that allow people with disabilities to enjoy accessible environments, through the use of amphibious chairs, access ramps, adapted bathrooms, trained personnel and reserved areas. This work is led by the National Council for Disability (CONADIS) and is reinforced by the availability of an accessible online tourism course on its website, aimed at staff working in tourism environments.

Accessible tourism is a great business opportunity for the Dominican Republic, since 17% of adults between the ages of 21 and 64 in the United States have a disability, a percentage that increases to 50% in those over 65 years of age. Canada, our second source country of tourists, shows similar numbers and has 6 million people with disabilities. The mean age is 37 and 41 years, respectively.

It is imperative to offer these people the same opportunities and the same first class service that those who do not have disabilities receive. They also have the right to enjoy our beaches, landscapes, gastronomy, and everything that the Dominican Republic has to give.

These aforementioned factors should motivate service and activity companies to include accessible options, such as the one currently offered by Isla Saona, where excursions designed for people in this market segment are found.

In view of the efforts being made in the colonial zone, the development of accessible infrastructure from its origin, the creation of a public-private strategy based on the hiring of an international firm, and the estimate that in two years all formalized hotels in the Dominican Republic must have accessibility and inclusion for those with some type of disability, I have no doubt that our country will be the leader in accessible tourism in the region.

I perceived that the vision is to create accessible destinations for the benefit of tourists and Dominicans. There is still a long way to go and the most important thing is that the main players in the tourism sector are working to place us at the business forefront.

Accessible tourism is an opportunity to create differentiated value in our tourism offer and we are on the right track.

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