World Tourism Day 2016: Promoting Universal Accessibility

logowtdThe World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is celebrating World Tourism Day on 27 September to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values. The celebration seeks to highlight tourism’s potential to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing some of the most pressing challenges society is faced with today.

This year the UNWTO addresses accessible tourism for all, which is about the creation of environments that can cater for the needs of all of us. For those with even a temporary disability, families with small children, or the ageing population, at some point in our lives, sooner or later, we all benefit of universal accessibility in tourism.

Watch the official video here


As the UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai affirms: “When travelling, we come across new people, new sights, and new ideas. Often our perception of the world changes as we see more of it. However, we must not forget that for many, travelling can be quite a difficult process”.


The Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet), as a Regional Initiative of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, is also concerned about tourism and its interaction with wetlands around the Mediterranean Region, as they are areas with a unique mixture of environmental conditions, fauna and flora, and very attractive places for tourists seeking new experiences and activities. Nevertheless, MedWet is also aware that, if not well planed and managed, tourism may also have very negative effects, such as the overuse of resources (like water), unsustainable urban and coastal development, and negative impacts on biodiversity and local cultures and social systems.

Blind people visiting Gandia’s marsh with local guides. Photo credit: MJ Viñals.

Blind people visiting Gandia’s marsh with local guides. Photo credit: MJ Viñals.


As an example of best practices in making tourism and wetlands accessible, there is the Aula Natura located in Gandia’s marsh (Valencia, Spain). This interpretation centre was designed first of all to host the Spanish Wetlands Centre (CEHUM) but also to show visitors the wonders of wetlands. The CEHUM is an initiative of the Fundación Biodiversidad, together with the Polytechnic University of Valencia, University of Valencia and Gandia’s city council. The CEHUM was conceived to be a reference centre at the national and international level, to develop actions for the sustainable conservation of Spanish wetlands.

The Aula Natura also offers different didactic programs about environmental education, recreative management and staff training. It allows disabled people, families with small children, and elder citizens, for example, to visit the space using its different accessible paths and infrastructures, such as an accessible observatory for bird watching and an adapted picnic area surrounded by endemic species of plants. The Aula Natural and Gandia’s marsh are a place where nature and the local community can be in contact, but also a place for visitors to discover the culture of the city, a place with centuries of history, where different kings, popes and warriors spent their time.

Paths designed for all kind of visitors. Photo credit: MJ Viñals.

Paths designed for all kind of visitors. Photo credit: MJ Viñals.


As a partner of the project, the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain) is celebrating World Tourism Day with a series of conferences focused on accessible tourism in natural and cultural areas, to promote sustainable solutions to overcoming the barriers to people’s participation, and to demonstrate the work being done in wetlands.


For more information

About World Tourism Day, visit its official website here.

About the events taking place around the world, click here.



Spanish wetlands centre (CEHUM)