By Annette Chrysostomou
The Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) is preparing concrete plans of action aimed at providing more accessibility to tourists with disabilities.
The aim is the opening of doors to specialised tourism which is a big global market, and satisfying the obligations of the EU.
“At 37 beaches we have created the infrastructure to make swimming comfortable for the disabled. Specifically, 11 of the 37 beaches in Cyprus are fully equipped for this purpose. Moreover, the CTO is planning to give grants to hotels for upgrading their infrastructure to accommodate guests with special needs,” Deputy Director of the CTO Annita Demetriades said in her address at a conference on accessible tourism in Nicosia.
At the conference, it was emphasised that accessibility constituted a key right for all while it is also a moral obligation of both the state and society as a whole.
It included those with motor, visual, auditory and cognitive disabilities, and those trying to get around with children in strollers, and also the elderly.
“Accessible tourism is not just for a small group of our fellow human beings,” Demetriades said. “In the EU there are about 138 million people with increased accessibility needs, usually travelling for holidays in low season. The provision of accessible infrastructures and services give a positive image to our island, enhance the quality of our product, “she added.
According to data, direct revenue from accessible tourism in the EU in 2012 amounted to €352 billion, employing 4.2 million people. Studies indicate that by 2020 improving accessibility could lead to an increase in demand of 24.2 per cent and an economic contribution of 18 per cent.
Demetriades noted that accessible tourism ensured more people had the opportunity to travel. “Undoubtedly Cyprus is an attractive tourist destination, so the tourist industry gets more visitors, who prefer to travel off-peak periods,” she said.
She also noted that apart from hotels, it was important that people with disabilities could depend on having the correct infrastructure around them This was an issue for the state, she added, mentioning such things as restrooms, parking spaces and elevators.
“Social responsibility can successfully be combined with business objectives,” she said.
“Investing in accessibility leads to an increase in the number of customers and is consistent with the proper management of a successful enterprise. Destinations that ensure accessibility usually focus on providing quality services in general, Demetriades said, adding that successful accessible destinations implement cooperation between service providers along the tourism chain but she said there was a lack of coordination, especially between the public and private sector.