Friday, 2 September 2016

SOUTH AFRICA: Tourism Month 2016 Takes A Look At Universal Accessibility

Thursday, 1 September 2016 marks the start of Tourism Month which is seen as the most important month for the travel industry. The theme for this year is ‘Tourism for all – promoting universal accessibility (UA)’.

Tourism Month is set aside as a time to reflect on the most pressing tourism challenges that countries are faced with, and ends with a global commemoration of World Tourism Day on 27 September.

‘There is a misconception that universal access implies accessibility only for people who are wheelchair-bound. This is not so. Universal accessibility at our tourist facilities is about creating an environment that caters for the needs of a broad spectrum of visitors, such as families with toddlers, mothers with babies in prams, senior residents and visitors who may, in some instances, be a bit infirm, and people who make use of a wheelchair for mobility.

‘At some point in our lives, sooner or later, we will all benefit from universal accessibility at our tourist facilities. Universal accessibility has and can definitely bring huge benefits to the travel industry,’ says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Economic Development, Councillor Eddie Andrews.

As Tourism Month kicks off tomorrow, it is a good time to reflect, assess and ask to what extent the City and its tourism partners are meeting their universal accessibility criteria.

Cape Town, together with Durban, was part of the UA City Destinations Pilot Project. The outcome of this pilot project was the development of a website by the Mother City in 2015: http://ctuat.co.za/, where visitors can find useful information on facilities and attractions that are UA-friendly.

‘While we are on the right path, there is always so much more we can do. This website was a step in the right direction. Visitors are able to find facilities that are UA-friendly at their fingertips. It is also a platform for tourism businesses to list their establishments that are universally accessible. The website is therefore a work in progress,’ says Councillor Andrews.

A number of City-owned facilities and other tourism establishments that are deemed to be UA-friendly can be found on the abovementioned website. Visitors will also be able to find information on UA-friendly beaches, resorts, parks, open spaces, the city’s visitor attractions, shopping centres, places of entertainment, car hire companies, hotels and restaurants, as well as the city’s famous Red Bus that is also universally accessible.

The MyCiTi buses have low floors for ease of boarding and the MyCiTi bus stations have a boarding ramp for passengers in wheelchairs and for prams. In addition, the MyCiTi stations have standard access gates and a universally accessible gate to cater for passengers with special needs. For hearing impaired passengers, there are induction loops at ticket kiosks, while visually impaired passengers are assisted by tactile flooring and audio signage.

As the balmy weather of spring settles in, the Mother City is bustling with activities for outdoor enthusiasts who can enjoy the city’s natural beauty at its blooming best, green their surrounds to celebrate Arbour Week, or enjoy National Braai Day, among a whole host of other activities.

For those who would prefer a look back into history and heritage, the City and its tourism partners will launch the Military Heritage Route to showcase the rich military heritage that Cape Town has to offer, as follows:

- On 1 September 2016, the official launch will take place at the Castle of Good Hope
- On Heritage Day, 24 September 2016, an event will be held at the South African Naval Museum
- On World Tourism Day, 27 September 2016, an event will be held at the Chavonnes Battery Museum at the Clock Tower, V&A Waterfront, which is a visitor attraction about the history of Cape Town and is universally accessible

‘As we celebrate Tourism Month, I would like to encourage locals to take time out and be a tourist within their city and the rest of the country to explore the fun, affordable and exciting things to do, even on a minimal budget. South Africa is a melting pot of tourist attractions that cater for a wide variety of tastes and interests. We have nine provinces, each with its own unique and eclectic mix of things to do and see, and there are some gems out there waiting to be discovered, especially in our very own Mother City.

‘There is huge opportunity for unemployed youth to become innovative entrepreneurs and tap into the lucrative tourism sector that is the fastest growing economic sector globally. So let us all do our bit to stimulate growth in the local tourism sector and create sustainable job opportunities,’ says Councillor Andrews.

The importance of tourism and its social, cultural and economic value are pushed to the fore during this time. This year, cities globally will be highlighting their achievements with regard to universal accessibility at their tourist attractions.