As the implementation of “Accessible Tourism” receives increasing attention among Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) tourism stakeholders, the Asean-Japan Centre (AJC) organized a seminar in March, which highlighted ways of improving travel environments for those with special needs, including persons with disabilities (PWD) and seniors.
The seminar was mounted in response to the World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) slogan, “Tourism for all—to promote universal accessibility,” which was quickly adopted as one of the top priorities in Asean plus Three Tourism Cooperation Work Plan 2018 to 2020.
AJC is an intergovernmental organization of Asean and Japan based in Tokyo, and organized the seminar with the help of the Department of Tourism of the Philippines. Some 115 tourism stakeholders were noted in attendance.
The seminar was a follow-up activity of the workshop on accessible tourism held in October 2017 in Tokyo and Mie Prefecture, Japan. The second year of the two-year program gathered stakeholders from the remaining five [out of 10]Asean Member States, namely Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
AJC delivered a presentation titled, “Japanese Overseas Travel Market with a Focus on the Philippines” to update participants on the recent outbound travel market of Japan. Two Japanese experts dispatched by the organization, Hisashi Yamaguchi, president of TIC Travel Center Co., Ltd, and Chie Nakamura, Iseshima Barrier Free Tour Center, gave lectures on accessible tourism travel products and support for PWD and special needs travelers, respectively.
Representatives from Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam in turn reported on accessible tourism situation in the respective countries, which were followed by presentations from Philippine experts. The entire seminar was interpreted with sign language to cater to participants with hearing difficulties.
Benito Bengzon, Jr., undersecretary for Tourism Development Planning of the Department of Tourism, who gave the opening remarks, stressed that raising awareness of PWD challenges and advocating for their inclusion in travel destinations are the premier goals of accessible tourism. He also extended his appreciation to AJC for co-hosting the seminar in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, in accordance with AJC’s mandate to further promote sustainable tourism between the Asean Member States and Japan, the organization invites tourism stakeholders to their country every year to provide them the opportunity to attend technical workshops and update their knowledge on the Japanese tourism market and industry.