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Sustainable and accessible tourism between Australia, Italy and the United States.

This month I wanted to delve into a topic that is very close to my heart and which I often fail to do so due to a lack of exciting initiatives.

I was able to take the time to research the best and latest initiatives in accessible and sustainable tourism. The primary international sources are some of my Australian and British contacts, whose newsletters are always precious!

Tourforce’s December 2022 and January 2023 editions find initiatives concerning accessible tourism in hotels, aeroplanes and destinations.


Scandic Hotels is one of the few companies worldwide that has developed an accessibility standard and ensures that all hotels describe their accessibility online. In addition, they have worked closely with organisations representing people with special needs, guests with physical disabilities and team members to create a 159-point checklist covering all hotel products and services.

Discover the accessibility of Scandic Hotels.

scandic hotel


An invention by Air4All hopes to make air travel more accessible to people using wheelchairs. It allows wheelchair users to secure their chairs using a unique patented rail installed under a folding seat in the first row so that non-wheelchair users can use the space. In addition, the system allows one’s chair to be attached to the rail, which keeps it safe during take-off and landing.

This patent addresses one of the significant problems identified by MMGY Global’s report, ‘Portrait of Travelers with Disabilities: Mobility and Accessibility’, from the United States, which we will discuss at the end of this article.

Air4All website for more information



Visit Moreton Bay Region has released some new guides highlighting accessible and inclusive things for travellers to do in the Moreton Bay Region. The principles were developed with Spinal Life Australia, Moreton Bay Region Industry and Tourism and Moreton Bay Regional Council.

To read more (in English), follow the Visit Moreton Island website link.

Moreton Bay Region

In addition, the Sunshine Council is working with Briometrix to create a mobility map that will change how our community travels on the Sunshine Coast. The map identifies footpaths, shared paths and trails accessible to people of all abilities, ranked according to the effort required to travel the route by an average wheelchair rider.

Visit the website (in English) of the Sunshine Council

Open the Sunshine Coast Mobility Map

Communication and marketing

In collaboration with world-renowned photographers, Celebrity Cruises has created the world’s first open-source photo library featuring ethnic, disabled, curvy and LGBTQ+ people. The All-Inclusive photo project addresses the lack of diversity in travel marketing images and the under-representation of all people travelling. The photos are free for travel companies, media and advertising agencies wishing to make their marketing materials more inclusive.

Visit the All Inclusive photo project website.

The library currently contains over 90 images, all free of copyright.

inclusive photo

As always, guides, standards, and checkpoints can and will help other realities. This is precisely the point of sharing… and demonstrating individual activity and initiative.

Events and conferences

The Asia Pacific Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Conference will be held on the Gold Coast on 28 April 2023 and online on 11 May 2023. The annual event is open to people of all abilities and includes industry-leading presentations, panel discussions and masterclasses, networking opportunities and Q&A idea sessions.

Visit the Asia Pacific Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Conference website, and if you get a chance, let me know if you will be attending!

Online conference access – EARLY BIRD $75

accessible conference 2023

From Italy

The European “Valueable Network”, led by AIPD (Associazione Italiana Persone Down), which ensures the employment inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in the hospitality sector, has been selected among the ten finalist projects of the “Social Entrepreneurship in Tourism Competition 2022” in September 2022.

Valueable was selected from more than two hundred applications worldwide by a specialised jury, which gave it access to an eight-week mentoring and coaching programme in which a mentor, an expert in sustainable tourism and hospitality, accompanies the project staff along the way.

News source (Italian)


Part of BMW Italia’s corporate social responsibility initiatives is the ‘SpecialMente’ project with the DIDI association.

The Diversamente Disabili – DiDi association carries out activities for those who want to approach or get closer to motorcycling by overcoming their disability. It offers driving courses dedicated to these motorcyclists with specially modified motorbikes and certified instructors. During these courses, in which theory parts alternate with practical ones, participants are grouped according to their specific physical needs and then assigned to the instructor, who will teach them how to use the motorbikes with particular modifications and how to ride them safely. BMW Italia supports the Diversamente Disabili association

Held on 1 September in Cervesina (Pv) at the “Tazio Nuvolari” circuit, the session of the driving courses dedicated to motorcyclists with disabilities on this occasion is a team of 30 people made up of employees of BMW Motorrad Italia and members of the Federclub.

Source of the news:

BMW Italia - Special Menate project

From the United States

According to a recent report by MMGY Global, ‘Portrait of Travelers with Disabilities: Mobility and Accessibility’, approximately 12.5 million people with disabilities travelled in 2018-19. Considering the increase in baby boomers expected to acquire a disability as they age, MMGY estimates that this number will almost triple to 33.4 million by 2028.

According to MMGY, travellers with mobility impairments spend $58.2 billion annually on travel and take leisure trips almost as frequently as those without mobility problems.

Travellers with disabilities encounter many problems and obstacles at almost every journey stage.

Accommodation and transport accessibility are cited as the two biggest obstacles to travel for people with mobility issues, MMGY found, with almost all (96%) of the more than 2,700 survey respondents (those who have a disability and use a mobility aid or their caregiver) reporting that they have faced an accommodation problem while travelling, experienced flight problems (86%) or experienced transport problems in the marketplace (79%).

Flying when disabled


Numerous shortcomings hinder the safety and comfort of people with disabilities at airports and planes. However, improvements can be seen.

A 2021 report by the US Government Accountability Office cited the complex terminal layout and long distances between gates as barriers within airports for people with mobility impairments. Another problem area is the inconsistent training of airport and airline ground staff on disability issues, gate change, and flight announcements inaccessible to deaf or blind travellers.

On the plane, wheelchair access is a significant issue, said Claire Stanley, a public policy analyst at the National Disability Rights Network.

Passengers are not allowed to travel in their chairs and instead have to endure being transferred to a narrow airline chair from the gate before being transferred to a seat on the plane. In the meantime, personal chairs have to be checked and risk being damaged.

In addition, on flights on narrow-body aircraft, toilets are often inaccessible, leading disabled travellers to book international itineraries with a change of plane rather than fly direct to have access to the bathroom.

Paige Mazzoni, CEO of Canine Companions, said a new challenge for some travellers with disabilities is increased control of assistance dogs since airlines banned emotional support animals in 2021.

Mazzoni said these bans do not affect qualified assistance dogs, but inadequately trained airline staff sometimes turn away assistance animals at the gate.

Such incidents highlight what Mazzoni said is the biggest shortcoming of airports, airlines and the TSA concerning travellers with disabilities: poor or inadequate training.

Claire Stanley of the National Disability Rights Network, who is blind, says blind travellers are often frustrated at airports, where they may be forced to wait for assistance to get to gates or to move from one gate to another. Sometimes staff inappropriately ask them to use a wheelchair.

But some airports have stepped up their efforts by offering free access to the Aira navigation app, which provides personal assistance to the visually impaired via smartphone camera.

One such airport is Phoenix Sky Harbor, which in June began offering free access to Aira throughout the airport property under a five-year, $50,000 contract.

Help could also come on the wheelchair front. This summer, DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged to work to require airlines to allow passengers to fly in their wheelchairs.

Inclusive Accommodations

US hotels must meet basic accessibility standards under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but some hotel operators are going beyond minimum compliance to create more inclusive environments.

The Schoolhouse Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., opened in a former school last June and bills itself as the ‘world’s first fully accessible boutique hotel’.

The brainchild of the non-profit group Disability Opportunity Fund, the hotel had a dual purpose: to fulfil the fund’s mission to serve the disability market in the United States and to help stimulate the burgeoning local tourism economy.

All 30 rooms and public areas of the Schoolhouse Hotel feature an extensive list of amenities designed to accommodate guests with disabilities. The rooms are furnished with minimalist furniture to reduce obstructions. To address sensory processing issues, the hotel combines cool, soothing colours with limited graphic décor. Near the hotel entrance, a designated area with artificial grass provides a comfortable place for service animals to relieve themselves. In addition, staff and guests can access Jeenie, an interpretation app that can connect to an American Sign Language interpreter on demand.

The dining tables in the Schoolhouse Hotel restaurant are higher than standard to accommodate wheelchair users better. The three-sided bar also has a unique design, with one side at average height and the other two lower, allowing wheelchair users direct access to the bar. On the two more downsides of the bar, the floor behind the bar is also lower, putting bartenders at eye level with wheelchair users.

Although the Disability Opportunity Fund has no plans to open more hotels, Freiman ( ) hopes the Schoolhouse Hotel will serve as a ‘showcase’ for accessible hospitality.

Schoolhouse Hotel common area

Outside the US, Ani Private Resorts, which operates all-inclusive private properties in the Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Thailand and Sri Lanka, has focused on wheelchair accessibility since its inception in 2010.

This is mainly because Ani’s founder, Tim Reynolds, is in a wheelchair, which he started using after a severe car accident in 2000.

The Ani resorts, booked by groups on a buy-out basis, feature accommodations with large open spaces and floor plans, wheelchair-friendly paths and ramps, and many swimming pools equipped with lifts. All Ani spaces that are not fully accessible by default can be made with modifications, such as adding ramps.

“Because we always have to think about what will make it easier for our owner to come and experience our resorts, the design is always thought through,” said Henny Frazer, chief marketing officer at Ani.

Ani’s high level of accessibility has boosted the brand’s popularity not only among wheelchair users but also among older family members.

“We have many multi-generational families who come to stay with us,” Frazer said. “They can often include a very generous grandparent who is paying for the group but may no longer be able to stand. So because we are so accessible, we are also very suitable for people of all ages.”


The Ani resorts

Sara – tourism sector consultant

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