Destinations for All

Title: Developing Destinations for all-Increasing the Economy and Participation in Tourism. Photo of building with a Chinese artichoke-style roof with sweeping upward curves, with a background of light green leaves and pink cherry blossoms.

The tourism industry successfully reached one billion international travelers in 2012. While this represents strong growth, there are still great challenges for the approximately 15 percent of travelers who have a disability and need accessible transportation. Without this, they lack the ability to enjoy the full range of tourist destinations.

This lack of accommodation is one of the many reasons the Kéroul’s organization was founded in 1979 in Quebec, Canada. André Leclerc, who’s had cerebral palsy all his life and uses a wheelchair, became determined to help everyone arrive at their dream destination.

One of his major influences, Jacques Gilles Laberge, was general manager at the rehab centre where André stayed early on in life. Laberge firmly believed that traveling is educational for young people, and is one of the keys to furthering a person’s inclusion in society.

A Destination for All is a town and tourist region where individuals with a disability and their families can be accommodated for days at a time, without the hassle of worrying about how they’ll be able to get around and explore just like any other tourist. Beyond accessible hotels, restaurants and attractions, these destinations also have accessible businesses for everyday needs (grocery stores, malls, post offices, etc.), pedestrian routes and local transportation services.

The population of people with disabilities represents a growing market. Being accessible is a wise investment

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for businesses and destinations as a whole. Appealing to all travelers is a plus for the tourist industry, because it’s a population that’s motivated and eager to explore international destinations just as any other tourist would, which will, in turn, increase tourism.

Just imagine your 75 year old father or mother, who cannot move as fast as before, and can’t climb stairs without being in danger of injuring themselves. Or think about the mother with a stroller who can’t get into the bus or climb the stairs in the subway. All these people need a world where they can get around safely, and enjoy their stay at the destination of their choice. Accessibility is needed in every area of life for everybody to get a chance to discover the world.

Kéroul is continuing to move forward with the goal of “one world for everyone” by hosting a Destinations for All World Summit. The aim of the event is to exchange best practices for inclusive tourism; collectively develop international standards for accessible tourism; and establish a global partnership to create accessible destinations.

Leclerc has always known exactly where he wanted to take Kéroul, and never once did he question its importance.

“Believing is imperative,” he says. It has been a lengthy battle, one he is still fighting, to turn Québec into the benchmark for accessible tourist destinations. And winning that fight may be easier said than done, since it requires convincing as many people as possible, including governments, public authorities, and the whole tourist and transportation industry.

Accessibility is the law; it’s also good business. It’s making a way for the future and a world we can all share. It’s time to work together and realize that not only is adapting a world for all a moral right, but it’s also beneficial to the collective economy.

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Read more articles from the Jennifer Esposito Issue.

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