Inaugural Access Tourism New Zealand Conference

I was privileged to be a presenter at the inaugural Access Tourism New Zealand Conference at the Auckland University of Technology on the 4th of October. The conference was opened by The Honourable Tariana Turia, Minister for Disabilities Issues and co-leader of the Maori Party. The key thing about her speech (see the full text below) is the recognition that Access Tourism is a valuable market sector and should no longer just be a matter of disability rights. True inclusion will only come when everyone is valued equally not simply accommodated because the law says so. Currently Access Tourism represents 11% of the total tourism market, and will grow to over 22% over the next 10 years as the Baby Boomers age. This conference represents a major cultural shift and the tourism industry needs to embrace travellers with disabilities as an inclusive part of the overall travel market. It is critical now for everyone to support and accelerate this cultural change away from "accommodating" a minority group to a position of fully inclusive travel.

As I said at the end of the presentation true inclusion should just blend in.

The Honourable Tariana Turia's Opening Address

I am absolutely delighted to be part of this inaugural Access Tourism New Zealand Conference; and I want to congratulate the New Zealand Tourism Research Institute and the Auckland University of Technology for your bold and proactive decision in identifying access tourism as a critical issue worthy of all our attention. 
Access tourism – the development of tourism opportunities for people with disabilities and for the elderly – is the fastest growing sector overseas. Indeed, it is a high growth industry, expanding and exploring the potential of a vast market of tourism products. Access tourism embraces tourism, travel and hospitality. It is also a lucrative market, which can do much to boost our future economic growth. And yet access tourism has been a neglected sector in New Zealand – to our distinct disadvantage. I celebrate, therefore, the initiative taken today – and I want to also recognise the amazing diversity of representatives here from across Government, non-government organisations, tourism operators, travel agencies, the Department of Conservation, regional tourism organisations, academics, industry training organisations, the New Zealand Automobile Association – and I am sure many more. That list is but a glimpse into the enormous potential that is available when we open the doors to disabled people and their families, enabling open access to whatever activities and events are available within.
The important thing is a start has been made, towards opening up the opportunity. There is a willingness to be open, to explore options. This is exactly what you are doing here today. The Vice-Chancellor of AUT, Derek McCormack, and each one of you here, are preparing to do the work; to create opportunities for all.
There are a couple of particularly brave participants that I want to welcome to this conference. It is especially exciting to welcome Diana Palmer, the Manager of the Information on Disability Education Awareness Services in New South Wales. Diana has travelled extensively across North America, Europe, the United Kingdom and parts of Asia and will be able to share the developments across the globe in Access tourism.
I want to acknowledge also

  • Bill Forrester, the founder of Travability Australia: a website which publicises inclusive destinations and accommodation; and
  • Kathy Olsen, the Director of Squiz New Zealand, an expert in web accessibility.

All of these speakers – and others –will help us to break through the barriers, and ensure that New Zealand will be prepared for the needs of an access tourism market.
Some of you might have heard Sandra Rhodda, last evening, on the programme One in Five. She talked about three very clear reasons why Access tourism is so important in creating an economic, social and sustainable tourist market for Aotearoa. Firstly, it is a demographic reality that the numbers of people with a disability will increase greatly in size, as the large Baby Boomer cohort – people born between 1946-1965 – ages; because disability increases with age. Secondly, the baby boomer population are internet savvy, they will demand appropriate services, and they will tell the world when they don’t get them. Conversely, if we do meet their needs, they will be loyal tourists, who will return, and who will spread the good news. Thirdly, people with disabilities tend to travel with more companions and so there is every reason in terms of current and future economic value, for New Zealand, to plan and cater for what might be described as the Silver and Access Tourism markets.
There is, of course, another factor that might just encourage Government to prepare for the needs of the access tourism – and it involves the national sport of rugby. And I am very pleased that Minnie Baragwanath from the Auckland City Council will be speaking to the forum. Minnie has been a very important source of information to the Ministerial Committee on Disability issues. Minnie has shared with us her passion for an accessible Auckland, and we have been heartened by the proactive way in which she has led the charge for an accessible Auckland around Rugby World Cup 2011 – given its opportunity for international exposure.
I want to pledge my personal support for improving the performance of government agencies in removing participation and access barriers experienced by disabled people. Accessibility is one of the three main themes of the Ministerial Committee on Disability issues. We believe there are key areas of improving access such as transport, travel, the built-up environment, the information highway, and attitudinal change. And I want to emphasise that the accumulated prejudices and fears promulgated about disability, can in fact be more handicapping than the perceived limitations that may flow from actual impairment. Whether it is indifference, apathy or ignorance – all act as restrictions on an inclusive society. And so during Budget 2010 I was pleased that we were able to achieve a three million dollar investment over the next three years for a social change programme to improve the lives of disabled people by changing the attitudes and behaviours that limit their opportunities.
The association between access tourism and an inclusive society is absolutely tight. In essence, better accessibility will mean that everyone benefits.

  • Everyone can get where they need to go more easily.
  • Disabled persons can be more independent and less reliant on others
  • It would be easier to find out about things, and take part in new experiences
  • The environment will be accessible for people of all abilities.

I am determined, as Minister for Disability Issues, that we should make accessibility a more visible goal for all. In fact we don’t have to wait to be told – we can do the audit on our marae, our classrooms, our supermarkets, our library to ensure that everything is accessible. At local and central government levels we can provide support with transport options such as low-floor buses, taxis and modified rental cars; upgraded signage; accessible venues, toilets, pathways, loan equipment and services; online guides to what is accessible. 
Finally, I want to ask all of us to consider the role of manaakitanga – our hospitality as hosts. 
How can we make all of our guests feel welcome in this beautiful land of ours? I believe that Access Tourism provides us with many solutions to do exactly that. Once again, thank you for the honour of opening this conference. I look forward to receiving your recommendations about the practical measures that will lead to an accessible tourist experience, and I can assure you all that I will do my best to take every recommendation to the appropriate Minister for their action. 
My best wishes to you all. Tena tatou katoa.

Travability's Presentation to the Conference



About TravAbility

TravAbility was founded in 2007 by Bill Forrester.

Our mission is to be agents of change; to inspire people who have never traveled before to do so, and to inspire others to do more. To encourage all cultures of the world to see disability as an integral part of life, and to provide the motivation and tools to the tourism industry to allow them to create accessible environments that enable inclusion in an economically sustainable way.

We offer a range of services to tourism operators and Destination Marketing Boards to enable them to take advantage of the growing Accessible Tourism market. Our core approach is program oriented focusing on the product and service needs of people with a disability an developing a culture of innovation to attract this highly profitable and rapidly growing market:

  • Development of Access Statements
  • Product, service and program development
  • Development of 'Soft Infrastructure' policies and procedures
  • Staff and Management Training
  • Marketing Services and Toolkits
  • Access information kits
  • Industry Presentations and Conference Keynotes and Capacity Building Workshops
  • Property Audits and Universal Design planning
  • Self Audit Tools
  • National/State/Regional Park Guides and Trail Maps
  • Diversity and Inclusion Strategy development
  • Disability Action Plans
  • New Project planning and Development
  • Stock Imagery through Travability Images
  • Accommodation listings through TravAbility Properties

For more information on how you can make your business more attractive to the traveler with a disability contact Bill.


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