The president of the Regional Council, Joan Manel Loureiro, speaks at the conference. To his left, a sign language interpreter makes the conference accessible to hearing-impaired attendees. Image by the Baix Empordà Regional Council.
The Baix Empordà Regional Council organised the 1st Baix Empordà Inclusive Tourism Conference. It was attended by some forty people from the public and private tourism sector in the county. The conference, held at the Espai Ter in Torroella de Montgrí, served to raise awareness in the tourism sector of the importance of working towards inclusive tourism.
As the mayor of Torroella de Montgrí, Jordi Colomí, pointed out, “inclusion is one of the broadest experiences of freedom” and a source of “democratisation of public space“. Xavier Dilmé, First Vice-President and Councillor for Tourism of the Baix Empordà Regional Council, said that “quality tourism must be open and available to all.” “We have to believe in it”, he said.
An accessibility plan available to everyone
First of all, Montse Nualart, a member of the Baix Empordà Regional Council’s Tourism Department, presented the Baix Empordà Tourism Accessibility Plan, a project launched in 2017 that aims to promote the county as an accessible tourist destination. She took the opportunity to show the new accessible tourism website for the visually impaired. There is a section with ideas for everyone and another one with tourist material adapted for people with visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities. Nualart explained that one of the objectives of the plan is to join forces. She has made herself available to all those tourism agents who need advice on accessibility.
Manel Heras, a trainee tourism student with a physical disability, shared his experience. He insisted on the need to provide accurate information on the adaptation of services. A lover of travel, he explained that he has visited places where there are no accessible facilities, but the empathy and attitude of the people makes up for it. “I don’t want them to see my chair, I want them to see me”, he said.
“The most important barrier is attitude”
This was expressed by Diego González, the president of the Spanish Network of Accessible Tourism – Red Estable. He remarked that sometimes accessibility is pure logic and empathy. “Let’s put ourselves in the place of the person with a disability and focus on their abilities in order to enhance them“. He added that “the Baix Empordà’s initiative shows that you don’t have to be big to promote inclusive tourism” and that “it demonstrates a value not only as a tourist destination, but also as a society”.
Three successful cases were then presented: inclusive sailing at the Club Nàutic l’Escala Sailing School, the Torre Valentina beach in Calonge and Sant Antoni, and La Pedrera. Before finishing, a round table was held with the three organisations that make up the Baix Empordà Tourist Accessibility Board: MIFAS, the Associació Centre de Persones Sordes del Baix Empordà and the Associació Discapacitat Visual Catalunya B1+B2+B3. Several conclusions were drawn from the session. Among them, that it is necessary to transmit confidence, that training in universal designis vital and that sensitive experiences must be promoted.
Finally, the president of the Regional Council, Joan Manel Loureiro, closed the day. He concluded that quality tourism is one that ensures that everyone, whatever their abilities, can enjoy it. And he concluded: “The Administration has to make the effort and provide the aid, and individuals, the will and the interest”.