Pokhara to launch first trekking trail for differently-abled people

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Mar 3, 2018-

The first accessible trekking trail, specially designed for visitors with physical and mobility difficulties, is scheduled to be inaugurated on March 30 in Pokhara, as Nepal is making strides to attract a chunk of untapped accessible market. 

The 1.3-km trail that facilitates trekking for persons with disabilities will be inaugurated during a three-day international conference on accessible adventure scheduled to be held on March 29 at Lake City, the organiser said on Friday.  The conference is organised by US-based International Development Institute. It has expected 50 international and 75 domestic participants. 

Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Chief Executive Officer Deepak Raj Joshi said, “The conference is the first of its kind in Nepal and will seek to promote accessible holidays for the differently-abled and people with physical limitations that remain vastly underserved due to inaccessible travel and tourism facilities and services. “Accessible tourism potential remains largely untapped. This new product has been developed for the new travel segment that couldn’t have imagined trekking,” said Joshi. Accessible tourism is an ongoing endeavour to ensure tourist destinations, products and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age. There are over a billion people with disabilities worldwide.

 “The objective of the conference is to spread the message that Nepal is accessible to all people, regardless of physical limitations, disabilities or age,” said Joshi.

The conference will also invite mayors of key metropolitan cities and municipalities, who are the key players and could actually assure accessibility. “It’s a beginning. We expect that the conference will make a big impact in Nepal’s tourism in the years to come,” said Joshi.

Four Season Travel & Tours Operations Director Pankaj Pradhananga, one of the organizers, said annually an estimated one billion tourists travel around the world and among them 10 percent live with some form of disability.

“It’s a big market that has remained untapped particularly by countries like Nepal. Besides, the elderly population is expected to grow faster and this provides opportunity for many,” Pradhananga said.

A study shows that in the European Union, which has a population of almost 372 million, the number of people aged 65 years and older has reached 60.3 million. Therefore many hotels and travel companies, evaluating the prospect of the increasing number of older people, are beginning to prepare special products for a new target audience, namely, for a segment referred to as “senior tourism”

There are many challenges including the need for proper infrastructure to tap into this market. It’s difficult to find a place in Nepal for differently-abled people as the tourism industry here has not realized the potential. There are a large number of hotels in Nepal, but only a few have wheelchair ramps. Nepal lacks basic needs such as toilets. When ordinary people do not have proper access to toilets in public places, building toilets for the differently-abled is a long way off. 

Generally, tourists with disabilities rely on word-of-mouth publicity, and they tend to stay longer than the average length of stay. If persons with disabilities are told that the tourist destination is friendly to them, they have the tendency and eagerness to visit that place.

According to Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide publisher, 50 percent of people with disabilities would travel more if suitable facilities were available to them wherever they travelled.

Studies show that around 88 percent of people with a disability take a holiday each year. In the US, the Open Doors Organisation estimates that $17.3 billion is spent by adults with disabilities on travel each year. In Australia, around $8 billion a year is spent by travellers with disabilities. Around 12 percent of the European market is dedicated to people with disabilities. The market for accessible tourism is large and continues to grow. 

Published: 03-03-2018 08:23

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