Lilian Müller, ENAT President
Enabling access to tourism is our priority. First, some facts and figures. As a population we're both ageing rapidly and travelling more: older people who still want and are able to travel will soon make up 25% of the European population. Add to this the 50 million people with disabilities in Europe who want to holiday with family and friends, and we find that as many as 130 million people in Europe alone will benefit from improved access to travel and tourism services. Accessible tourism is not a niche market; it's a demographic explosion and we will all feel the effects. We have to improve access now.
Everyone in the tourism industry will know by now that people with access needs expect – and have the right to expect – the same services and opportunities as everyone else: independent travel, accessible facilities, trained staff, reliable information and inclusive marketing. Accessible tourism benefits everyone. More individuals enjoy the opportunity to travel; the tourism industry gets more visitors, longer seasons and new incomes. Society as a whole benefits from new job opportunities, more tax revenue and an accessible environment for both inhabitants and visitors.
The demand for accessible tourism, in its wide conception of tourism for all, is growing. It's now an opportunity rather than an obligation. If the tourism industry wants to maintain and develop quality, sustainability and competitiveness, it must support and develop tourism accessible for all.
ENAT, the European Network for Accessible Tourism, aims to meet these challenges. As an international network originally set up in 2006 by nine sponsor organisations with EU support, we aim to help make European tourism destinations, products and services accessible to all. We bring together all actors in the tourism sector – private, public and NGOs – to share experiences, learn from each other and collaborate in joint projects and partnerships.
We support the development and spread of good policies and practices as a means of raising awareness, knowledge and expertise on accessibility issues in European tourism.
We are a platform for all those who support accessibility in tourism, and a strong representative voice in European towards national institutions and organisations whose actions have a direct influence on the tourism sector.
ENAT started as a European Network, but we welcome members from all over the world to share in our activities and collaborate with our European members. We have only just begun our work but we have our sights clearly set on the path ahead and on the ultimate destination: accessible tourism for all.
Lilian Müller is President of ENAT and Manager of 'Tourism for All in Sweden'.