A tour operator in Myanmar is aiming to attract some of the worldwide accessible tourism market estimated at 1.3 billion people.
“When you also consider their friends and family that market almost doubles in size to some 2.2 billion,” said Dr Lu Mon, Managing Director of Accessible Myanmar, an off-shoot of his established business, Yangon-based Mira Travel.
“And it’s not just the international market we are targeting.”
According to the National Census Data, in 2014, there were approximately 2.3 million of Myanmar’s 50+ million population living with disabilities.
“Those people also like to get out and experience the wonders of Myanmar,” Dr Lu Mon said.
Dr Lu Mon, who is also Joint Secretary General of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA), attended the official United Nations World Tourism Day conference held in Bangkok under the theme ‘Tourism for all … Promoting universal accessibility’.
“The impressive line-up of international speakers from industry, government and disability related agencies has confirmed our commitment and passion to increasing the awareness of accessible tourism opportunities,” he said.
At the World Tourism Day event, Accessible Myanmar announced the formation of a new International Advisory Group (IAG) that will be chaired by sustainable tourism advocate Steve Noakes.
“Accessibility is key to any responsible and sustainable tourism business,” Mr Noakes said. He has spent the past three years providing input to inclusive tourism projects in Myanmar.
The IAG will expand to include tourism industry and disability experts, within Myanmar and internationally, who are interested to volunteer their time and expertise to contributing to a ‘Myanmar for All’ through accessible tourism.
Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office Executive Director Jens Thraenhart has accepted an invitation to join the IAG.
World Tourism Day confirmed that accessible tourism is not only about providing access to people with disabilities. It also addresses the design of all built environments for people with permanent or temporary disabilities, families with young children, the ageing population, as well as occupational health and safety for employees.
“No matter how we define ‘disability’, Accessible Myanmar sees each tourist as an individual and provides travel services for everyone in conditions that meets their needs,” Dr Lu Mon explained.
“People with disabilities have equal rights to tourism services and opportunities. They want to be able to have independent travel, accessible facilities, trained staff, reliable information and inclusive marketing.”
He said that because the infrastructure in Myanmar does not cater adequately for the needs of people with disabilities, including infants and the elderly, the destination is inaccessible to this promising tourism market.
Dr Lu Mon said: “One of the key objectives of Accessible Myanmar will be to increase the awareness about accessible tourism to both our local industry and government and improve communications between tourism providers and their customers by providing accurate and reliable information about the accessibility of attractions, experiences and services.”