Accessible Tourism Destination Certification Programme by TGB, Belgium
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The first international certification programme for accessible tourism destinations has been developed and carried out in Lousã, Portugal by the Belgian Accessibility Office, Toegangelijkheidsbureau (TGB). The Certification Programme is a completely new destination management tool which provides an accurate measure of the excellence of an accessible tourism destination, based on strictly defined criteria.
The first international certification programme for accessible tourism destinations has been developed and carried out in Lousã, Portugal by the Belgian Accessibility Office, Toegangelijkheidsbureau (TGB).
The Accessible Tourism Destination Certification Programme or ATDCP is based on an extensive audit of the Destination Management Organisation's accessible tourism policies, infrastructure, transport, services and visitor information, and includes accessibility assessments of the outdoor environment, overnight accommodation, attractions, activities and offers for visitors including persons with disabilities, older persons and families with small children.
Designed and developed by accessibility and tourism experts, TGB Belgium, the ATDCP is a completely new destination management tool which provides an accurate measure of the excellence of an accessible tourism destination, based on strictly defined criteria.
The Accessible Destination Certification Programme involves assessment meetings with destination managers coupled with on-site audits and document analysis, thus building a picture of the capacity and level of achievement of the accessible destination.
Each element of the assessment is scored against a set of indicators, thus enabling managers to track the destination’s performance over time and allowing for benchmarking across any number of destinations.
The Programme also provides a tailor-made Action Plan for destination managers, with priorities for improvements to be made in the different facets of the accessible destination.
The Action Plan aims to ensure that the destination will continue to develop and improve its offers to all visitors, giving them fulfilling, accessible experiences, whatever their interests and regardless of their age or abilities.
The TGB Accessible Tourism Destination Certificate is valid for two years, after which time it must be renewed through a re-assessment process.
Following the first National Conference for Accessible Tourism, hosted by Lousã in April 2007, an idea was born to make the region of Lousã the first accessible tourist destination in Portugal.
Located in central Portugal, Lousã is known for the pristine beauty of the mountain Serra da Lousã, its rural "schist" villages, a long and colourful history, the local cuisine, adventure sports and several ideal health tourism assets.
The project "Destino de Turismo Acessível" was launched with the support of national and EU funding. In the early stages of the project in 2008, the Mayor of Lousã together with some employees made a study visit to the TGB Access Office in Hasselt in order to find inspiration in the work which had been done in Limburg and Flemish Brabant. This study visit also became the basis for developing a joint European project.
The TGB Access Office assisted Lousã in developing the accessible tourist destination as a pilot project for Portugal and Europe. In addition, a certification system and related management and assessment tools tailored to Lousã were developed.
During several visits, the certification system was further refined and the Portuguese team was trained to use the auditing methodology and to meet the requirements of the certification programme.
While a copy of the Certificate and the scope of the analysis may be publicised for marketing purposes, the full ATDCP Assessment Report and Action Plan are confidential to the Destination Management Organisation.
TGB’s collaboration over the past ten years with the Belgian regional tourist board, Tourism Flanders, and participation in European projects such as OSSATE has enabled the accessibility experts to establish the ATDCP on a firm basis, incorporating many of the tried-and-tested assessment tools and procedures developed both in Belgian and International projects.
Mr. Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director of the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT) acted as a consultant to TGB in the development of the certification programme.
Photo. Mayor of Lousã, Fernando dos Santos Carvalho receives the Accessible Destination Certificate from TGB Director, Mieke Broeders, with TGB Project Manager, Bieke Thys looking on.
On 30th June 2011 the results of the work in Lousã were presented to the public during the festival "Artes para Todos".
At this event the TGB Accessible Destination Certificate was presented to the Mayor by TGB’s Director, Mieke Broeders.
New Destinations for Pilot Certification
Having developed and awarded the first certificate in Portugal, TGB is now seeking other destinations to use the assessment and programming tool.
“Working with the Municipality of Lousã, we developed the ATDCP because it was evident that having a destination-level certification for accessibility is an important way to establish full credibility in the emerging accessible tourism market”, says Mieke Broeders, Director of TGB.
“Access audits for hotels are important to assure visitors about the quality of accommodation but Destination Certification goes much further” she adds – “Tourists want more than a bed and a bath – they want to experience the full range of offers at the destination.
Destination certification of accessibility is the important step which all DMOs should take now”.
“After the positive experience of developing and testing the accessible destination certification programme in Lousã, we would like to conduct more pilot assessments in destinations of different sizes and with various activities and tourist offers”, continues Ms. Broeders.
“This will enable us to validate and develop our methods and offer the ATDCP to other destinations that wish to certify themselves as “accessible for all visitors”.
For more information about the Certification Programme, download the PDF document from the right-hand panel.
Mieke Broeders, Managing Director
Tel.: 0032 (0) 11 26 50 30 Fax: 0032 (0) 11 87 41 39
Email: Mieke.broeders <at> toegankelijkheidsbureau.be