Greece took one more step towards making destinations accessible to people with disabilities following a recent agreement between Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias and the National Confederation of Persons with Disabilities (ESAmeA).
Under the protocol of cooperation, the ministry and ESAmeA commit to a series of initiatives including the provision of comprehensive accessibility information, the inclusion of relevant curriculum at tourism schools on all levels, the development of education and training programs for people with disabilities in tourism professions and support actions for their employment and inclusion in the labor market.
Vardakastanis: Accessible tourism must be a priority
Speaking in February during a special committee, ESAmeA President Ioannis Vardakastanis had said efforts were being made to host the Annual General Assembly (AGA) of the European Disability Forum (EDF) in Athens in June. However, Vardakastanis said the confederation, which this year presides over the assembly, was finding it difficult to find 20 accessible rooms “despite the plethora of expensive 5-star hotels”.
“This should be reason enough to have the stars removed,” said Vardakastanis, adding that it was “unacceptable to need five or six hotels to accommodate 20 people with disabilities, particularly when taking into consideration all the problems that arise regarding their transportation needs”.
Vardakastanis went on to stress that an agreement with tourism stakeholders was crucial in order to make accessible tourism a priority with specific results-oriented time-frames and targets that will ensure accessibility on board ships, tourist buses, at hotels, on mass transport, on beaches, and at archeological sites, “and to ensure these works are reliable consistent,” he said.
Earlier this year, Kikilias said establishing Greece as an accessible tourism destination was a ministry priority, adding that the focus was now on turning words into actions and “giving people with disability the chance to participate wholly and equally in the tourism chain”.
“Accessible tourism and tourism for all must become a tourism development priority. It has a legal character and at the same time it has a forward-looking developmental character,” said Vardakatsanis, also referring to another agreement signed last year with Development & Investments Minister Adonis Georgiadis which foresees the creation of an accessibility seal that would instill a sense of trust in disabled travelers and ensure standards are implemented by businesses.