19 hotels recognized for being ‘PWD-friendly’

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo / Special to the BusinessMirror

OLD age, disability, or having small children should not be obstacles to traveling.

This was the message of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) during World Tourism Day on September 27, and last week’s celebration of Philippine Tourism Week.

At the same time, 10 hotels were also recognized for being “barrier-free” and friendly to persons with disabilities (PWD).

“People with disabilities, aged citizens, families with children and many more, find obstacles when they travel. As tourism is a human right, the sector should advance to ensure that all citizens enjoy seamless travel in an equal manner,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said in his message in Bangkok during the official celebration of World Tourism Day this year, dedicated to the theme “Tourism for all: Promoting Universal Accessibility.” About 500 delegates from 60 countries participated in the two-day celebration, a news statement from the UNWTO said.

Similarly, at the “Breaking Barriers: Tourism Stakeholders Conference” held in Lyceum of the Philippines, Cavite, Tourism Assistant Secretary for Administration and Special Gwen Javier, spoke about the extreme difficulties that PWDs and the handicapped have to go through as a tourist.

“Every day, wheelchair-bound PWDs suffer from the unavailability of mechanical lifts on bus services, absence of access ramps and inaccessible bathrooms. Ironically, such hardship that they have to put up with, in many instances, defeats the purpose of having an enjoyable experience during a holiday,” she said.

She urged the tourism sector to work together to give PWDs, the handicapped and the elderly a “total tourism experience.”

Representatives from several tourism industry sectors also gathered for the “Accessible Tourism Pilipinas Forum” at the Diamond Hotel in Manila to celebrate World Tourism Day and Philippine Tourism Week on September 27.

Nineteen hotels were recognized for responding to calls for universal accessibility. These are (National Capital Region) Acacia Hotel Manila, Crimson Hotel Filinvest City Manila, Holiday Inn and Suites Makati, Hotel H20, Marriott Hotel Manila, Maxims Manila Hotel, New World Makati and Nobu Hotel at City of Dreams Manila; (Cordillera Administrative Region) Azalea Residences Baguio, Baguio Country Club Corp., The Forest Lodge at Camp John Hay and The Manor at Camp John Hay; (Calabarzon) Taal Vista Hotel; (Mimaropa) Daluyon Beach and Mountain Resort, and Isla Arena Beach Resort; (Zamboanga Peninsula) Garden Orchid Hotel; (Southern Mindanao) Marco Polo Davao, Park Inn by Radisson Davao and Pearl Farm Beach Resort.

Forum participants agreed to push for amendments to Batas Pambansa 344 of 1983, known as accessibility law. For one, resource speaker Architect Jaime Silva of United Arch. of the Philippines stressed the need to make the law more suitable to the needs of PWDs in the age of high technology.

Other resource speakers representing PWD groups were universal design expert Adela Kono and Dr. Jeana Manalaysay, who both noted the PWDs as a growing market for domestic tourism. The forum was jointly sponsored by the DOT and the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA).

In 2011 the DOT partnered with NCDA, an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, to advocate tourism for all and make tourism sites and establishments more accessible to PWDs, the elderly, pregnant women and families with small children.

At the DOT office in Makati, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo led the celebration of Philippine Tourism Week with trade exhibits, a bazaar sale, cultural presentation, parlor games, and recognition of outstanding and long-time DOT employees.

Meanwhile in Bangkok, during the two-day celebration of World Tourism Day, participants from 60 countries exchanged best practices and experiences on accessible tourism and have committed to advance universal accessibility in all components of the tourism value chain to ensure all citizens enjoy the benefits of travel, whatever their abilities may be.

“As 1 billion people across the globe have some kind of disability, accessibility becomes and will continue to be a major concern for us all,” said Gen. Prayut Chan-o-Cha, prime minister of Thailand who presided over the official celebrations on September 27. “We need to create more accessibility, for all including the aging groups. We need to provide better services for all. This is also part of our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

Together with the commitment of governments and the need to develop regulatory frameworks linked to accessibility-related measures, the World Tourism Day celebrations have served to emphasize the immense business opportunities that Universal Design can bring to the tourism sector. “Sooner or later, all of us will suffer circumstances that impede us moving freely and independently, so adapting Universal Accessibility principles will benefit us all,” underlined Ivor Ambrose, Director of the European Network of Accessible Tourism. He added that by 2050, as much as 22 percent of the world population will be over 60 years old and, thus, have specific access needs.

Participants adopted the Bangkok Declaration on Tourism For All, a document resulting from a consultation process involving governments, the private sector, civil-society organizations and accessibility experts. The declaration calls upon all stakeholders to advance policies and business actions that promote universal accessibility, including training, awareness raising as well as considering Universal Design in all new tourism infrastructure and services and while adapting existing ones.

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