Inclusive and social Tourism: What it is and why it matters
«Whether disabilities are temporally or permanently, physically or mentally, it doesn’t matter if its only one person or a group, we are committed to adapt our offerings and services to every client’s needs because we believe everybody has the right to enjoy an incredible vacation in Peru and Latin America.«
In the past 3 weeks our team of Vamos Expeditions participated at an in-depth course about social inclusion and diversity in tourism. We approached the Peruvian Foundation of Inclusion for Tourism (www.turismosocial.org) to learn more about inclusion and different types of disabilities, specific needs during travel, challenges and solutions. We thought it was really important for us to understand the whole spectrum of special needs, to be able to attend well, to adapt and adjust our services details, programs and itineraries better.
Our team already had several experiences in the past working with disabled people and we started with sharing some of those stories. For example, passengers who took a wrong step and had to sit for a couple days in a wheel chair, an Inca Trail hike with a women with leg prostheses (read more on this blog: https://vamosexpeditionsblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/a-belgian-girl-without-legs-inspires-everyone-when-she-climbs-on-the-inca-trail-to-machu-picchu/) and several experiences with visually impaired travelers. We all agreed that these experiences were very rewarding for us as humans and that we wanted to create more of them in the future. Recognizing as well that there are so many different ways in which our country can be experienced with different senses (such as trying new foods, hearing the typical music and concert of sounds of nature for example in the Amazon, touching the perfect Inca stones, listing to the stories and history of our ancient civilizations, different languages, feeling the warm winds in the desert, and so much more.)
We quickly learned that inclusive tourism is much broader than we originally thought and that it goes far behind wheelchairs, people with prosthesis, hearing and sight restrictions. We learned it is about giving people access to move independent with dignity and equity. That it also includes pregnant women, vulnerable populations, people that have food restrictions, our very youngest and elderly, people with mental restrictions or psychological problems. And that inside all of these categories there exist a spectrum of differences and that their needs can be changeable in a short or medium time-frame.
Did you know that 15% of the world population has some sort of disability? These are aprox. 650 000 000 people!
We talked about privileges, power, vulnerable communities and the importance for us to foment respect and solidarity between our travelers and the places and the people they visit along their journey. We noted that social tourism and making tourism more accessible gives many benefits to the local populations for example making the access easy to enter hotels, museums, transportations, walkways, but also lots of economic benefits, for example, we noticed that in Latin America most destinations have a peak tourism season and very low seasons. Groups of elderly can often travel outside the high season and travel longer and slower, which allows more depth instead of distance and which gives hotels, local tour operators, artisans, and the whole tourism chain, a chance to keep their staff working the whole year round and this is very beneficial.
We also looked at the history of tourism and social tourism, dating back all the way from 1872 starting in Germany, Austria and France and we shared ideas about how to make our work place a more inclusive environment.
As part of the training we also received a 2 classes in sign-language focused on attending deaf travelers. This part was very excited and our team loved this. We learned the signs for letters and numbers, spelling our names, courtesy phrases and common expressions and basic phrases for conversations and that make us able to help travelers on the street with directions, in a restaurant to order, during hotels check-ins and check-outs and for travel.
It was really wonderful to learn to talk a little bit with our hands.
Do you want to travel with us? Don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we are always here to help you find or make the perfect trip for you.