The Malta Independent 28 June 2016, Tuesday

Minister Zammit Lewis and PS Caruana call for increased accessibility in tourism

Mathias Mallia Wednesday, 2 March 2016, 11:51 Last update: about 5 months ago

“Accessible tourism for all is not about providing access to people with disabilities, but about creating universally designed environments that can support people that may have temporary disabilities and mobility issues, including families with young children, and the ever increasing ageing population,” Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said

Speaking at a business breakfast entitled ‘Accessible Tourism for All’ at the Westin Dragonara Resort in St Julian’s this morning, the minister said that this will also create a “safer environment for employees to work in”. There was emphasis placed on the need for further training for employees in order for them to be better aware of the needs of guests with disabilities and mobility issues as well as to be able to interact “effectively and professionally” with the guests.

It was also said that the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), the Ministry and the National Commission for Persons with Disability (KNPD) drafted an ‘Audit Report’ process to “encourage and guide hoteliers to improve accessibility within their properties.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Rights of Persons with Disability and Active Ageing, Dr Justyne Caruana, spoke about society nowadays saying that it is “made of people, not numbers” and that it is within the hoteliers interests to always be reviewing their checklist for the interests and accessibility issues of the guests.

“It is essentially a scenario where no one is excluded from both the providing and receiving ends, a reality that commits us to set standards for equal life opportunities – no matter the age or ability.” Dr Caruana also spoke of emphasis which lies on facilities which should be accessible to all.”

The ‘Accessibility Checklist’ which was given out during the conference focuses on an application to make accommodation accessible enough to guarantee another star added to the rating of the establishment. It was said that the additional star for accessibility would by the “crowning reward” for thinking outside the box and thinking of patrons as persons with a variety of abilities and disabilities.

Dr Caruana also mentioned the phenomenon of the Silver Economy, which is an opportunity that arises from the public, private and consumer expenditure related to population ageing and their specific needs. This economy is being considered the 3rd largest economy in the world.

Dr Caruana said that “full inclusion is at the very heart of our agenda as government” ending on the point that “benefits are there to be reaped by both providers and consumers, ensuring that in a fair society, tourism is for all.”

Participants were also addressed by Ms Daniela Bas, United Nations Director for Social Policy and Development, Ms Marina Diotallevi, Programme Manager Ethics and Social Responsibility from UNTWO, who both travelled purposely to Malta to attend this initiative and by representatives from the MTA, KNPD, the Ministry for European Affairs, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, the University’s Department of Gerontology and Youth and Community Studies, and the Institute for Tourism Studies.

Photos Michael Camilleri

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