Accesible Tourism & Smart Destinations in Spain

Accesible Tourism & Smart Destinations in Spain

ACCESIBLE TOURISM

There are 3.5 millions of Spanish citizens with limited mobility, aged between 6 and 64 years old. In Europe they amount for 50 million citizens and in the world the figure is close to 500 million people, representing around a 10 % in each of the respective populations. It is a very large niche market.

  • The Smart Data concept helps the smart tourist to be digitally connected to his/her destination via Open Data applications provided by the local administrators
  • Spain has become a pioneer in terms of accessibility to beaches due to the large national and international demand experienced
  • Different types of technologies are being incorporated into the smart destinations so that tourism takes the form of a worldwide experience adjusted to suit everybody.R+D+I in this industry can be particularly fruitful in a near future as some funding and assessment can be provided by the UE via the Horizon 2020 program

The main objective of this article is to study Accessible Tourism as a business opportunity for the Spanish touristic sector. We commence with a description of the current social situation of smart destinations and accessible tourism at the local level. Strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats are assessed by using the PESTE and SWOT methodologies. Some managerial implications are suggested, willing to provide the Spanish Accessible Tourism industry with the consequent improvement of social and economic profitability, a better and reinforced image, and a stronger perception of the high quality that this industry offers.

INTRODUCTION
The unbounded growth of technology has allowed companies to adapt it to the cities in such a way that all population can benefit somehow from it. Tourist Destinations can become nowadays Smart Destinations as they use the right technologies. We try to avoid the general mistake of seeing technology as the sole element: we will consider an scenery wherein the design of urban environments, transport infrastructure and services, is aimed at providing better accessibility to land use destinations with less use of private motor vehicles, and every travel is an experience where every customer is the main starring. Limited mobility clients stop being seen as burdens, but as regular tourists instead, under the chances provided by the Smart Destinations Concept.
According to the ITE (2012) the Spanish tourism industry represents a 4.2 % of the total GDP and a 5% of the total employment. These figures could be even better if the touristic network were totally adapted to any visitor, whatever his/her physical status might be. This report ensures that nowadays an 80% of the touristic places in Spain lack the proper conditions and services required by a reduced-mobility person (ITE, 2012). It also applies to elderly people who may wish to use the interurban transportation systems within cities, especially in touristic areas; this group of people is increasing and so are their necessities, meaning that both private and public initiatives have to look for more and better answers to their requirements.
It is important to mention here that limited mobility citizens use to have a large experience in travelling and they contribute to improve the competitiveness of the sector - it is a collective that travels all the year, helping to reduce “seasonable tourism”. Companies and administrators should not forget them, such outstanding customers they are; public and private agents should adhere to the concept of mobility: “the ability of individuals to move freely, independently and easily, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age”.
Accessibility involves universal integration of citizens in physical spaces like buildings, transportation, pavements and daily needs such as communications or services. It takes into account concepts such as integration and non-discrimination of people; safety to move from one place to another without being exposed to any additional risk; freedom to choose where to live, buy or rent; and participation in administration or in the media as a way of equality. Universal means that environments, processes, goods, products and services, as well as the objects and instruments, must be fulfilled to be comprehensive and useful for everybody in safe and comfortable conditions, in the most autonomous and natural way possible (LIONDAU, BOE, 2003). So far, accessible cities can be described as those ones who undertake explicit efforts –such as Accessible Tourism–to ensure their city transportation, points of interest and communities are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities or age.
Accessible tourism seeks to follow a differentiation and specialization strategy as a competitive advantage that reinforces the brand image, which is clearly improved by the adaptation to any passenger. There are 3.5 millions of Spanish citizens with limited mobility, aged between 6 and 64 years old. In Europe they amount for 50 million citizens and in the world the figure is close to 500 million people, representing around a 10 % in each of the respective populations. It is a very large niche market.

PESTE AND SWOT ANALYSIS
PESTE methodology looks at explaining a business opportunity by considering simultaneously a battery of frameworks: political, socio-cultural, economic, technological and ecological. As it regards Accessible Tourism, these frameworks take the following forms:

  • The Political framework for Accessible Tourism in Spain is established by the LIONDAU Law (BOE, 2003).
  • As it concerns the Socio-Cultural Framework, it relates to the population itself, which is constantly changing depending on the mortality, the birthrate and changes in people´s health conditions. As the population of citizens with limited mobility increases, it highlights how much is needed to adapt to the environment so that these citizens could easily integrate on it. Reasons for this increase can be traced in the increasing number of traffic accidents, as well as the aging of the population, among others. Recent data suggests that the Spanish population in this group is close to 4 million people, almost an 8, 5% of total Spanish population, children not included although they are not totally autonomous in terms of accessibility (EFE, 2012). Smart destinations are so important today since they could allow all these people to get easily integrated in the society without any kind of discrimination as it concerns amusement or worthy jobs.
  • The Economic Framework of this PESTE study brings into the light that 2011 meant an increase of a 7.6% in the amount of international tourists that visited Spain compared with 2010, and after two consecutive years of decline in the figures. A 24.2% of their budget was devoted to the trip and transportation and a 23.7% on the touristic pack (Instituto de Estudios Turísticos, 2012).
  • Some illustrative information is that any Spanish passenger with a disability pays, on average, 40 € more than another one who would not have any disability. Apart from this economic penalty, the same report stays that travelling means a high effort in terms of mobility for a 65.5% of people with a high degree of disability (Instituto de Estudios Turísticos, 2012). Customers with limited mobility travel less than desired because of accessibility and comfort related problems, meaning that they use cars more frequently than other customers and they rather stay in hotels than in relative´s places (Huesca and Ortega, 2004). Besides, they use to travel with some companion, so that the occupation rate of regular tourists increases when the limited mobility ones travel with their companions.
  • When assessing the Technological Framework, it is interesting to remember that abundant barriers that made complete accessibility difficult for people with limited mobility have been demolished very recently; different types of technologies are being incorporated into the smart destinations so that tourism takes the form of a worldwide experience adjusted to suit everybody. I+D+I in this industry can be particularly fruitful in a near future as some funding and assessment can be provided by the UE via the Horizon 2020 program. Technology can contribute to sustainable transportation by improving waste treatments, as well as by offering substitutes to physical travel through communication.
  • Smart transport is a more environmentally friendly alternative to conventional public transport systems in that service frequencies, stop locations and coverage, and routing are more flexible. In some cases the vehicles are driverless. These smart transport systems (i.e. automated people movers, personal rapid transport) can be jointly used with conventional public transport systems (i.e. bus, light rail, heavy rail). Technological development in transportation, however, is relatively slow, mainly due to reasons such as the scale and cost of the projects, the long time-frame of research and development, and the long life expectancy of infrastructure and mobile equipment.
  • Technology also has a say in Accessible Tourism since it allows for the introduction of the Smart Data concept. It means that Data has been “unlocked”, collected, aggregated and made available in an open manner to spur development of innovative I/T applications which have the potential to help people, organizations and communities better achieve their goals. It includes volumes of static and real-time data, in multiple formats, and sometimes with analytics applied to derive valuable information and in sights. It also contributes to the diffusion via Social Networks of the “good points” from the tourism destinations, and helps the smart tourist to be digitally connected to his/her destination via Open Data applications provided by the local administrators.
  • Last, but not least, we consider the Ecological framework. According to the World Tourism Organization, WTO, the five principles of responsible tourism are the following ones (Ministerio de Industria, Energía y Turismo, 2012):
  • Natural and cultural resources are protected for the steady use in the future.
  • Responsible tourism does not cause any cultural or environmental damage.
  • Environmental quality must hold and improve over time.
  • It tries to keep simultaneously a high level of satisfaction of visitors whilst keeping the prestige of the place.
  • All social benefits must be shared among the society.

In other words, accessible tourism is expected to act respectfully when designing the infrastructures and in managing the energetic resources in a proper way.

CONCLUSIONS
Accessible tourism is about a whole-of-life approach to tourism, i.e., just about everyone at some stage in their lives will have access requirements. A solution to meet people’s access requirements for the travel and tourism industry and destination management could take place through the application of universal design principles. The economic crisis could have a positive outcome for the domestic tourism market for people with disabilities and people who are ageing. Accessible tourism requires a process grounded on independence, equity, and dignity, reflected in the design and experience development. People with access requirements will be able to travel more independently, requiring less support from tourism destinations, and at the same time enabling them to enjoy the destination with equity and dignity.
Regarding the economical factor, which the managers in the tourist sector of Spain can benefit from, are as follows:

  • A good touristic policy must take charge of increasing the security of the consumers so that they feel protected, as well as, a gaining market share to increase the income of the balance of payments whilst creating employment.
  • This industry needs a faster and smarter governmental approach to public procurement solutions: in the connected world everyone carries a smartphone, which can do almost anything. An intelligent communications infrastructure including utilities, transport, health, which can merge all of that, is highly required.
  • The image of the touristic places increases by satisfying the customer throughout their stay and where it is satisfactory, contributing to the reduction of the seasonable tourism and balancing the demand all year long.
  • Heritage still has a great gap in the fight for achieving accessibility in all public places and it is still looking for solutions to preserve the heritage whilst satisfying the minimum standards of accessibility. On the other hand, many other public places, such as museum, stadiums and protected parks, have increasingly offered an adequate entry to its customers.
  • Spain has become a pioneer in terms of accessibility to beaches due to the large national and international demand experienced.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors wish to thank Fernando García Ochoa for his insightful comments and help. This article has been partially funded by Research Project 2011/00033/001 (MINECO).

REFERENCES

  • Boletín Oficial del Estado, (2003) Disposiciones generales nº 289. Ley Liondau
  • Comisión Europea, (2011) Horizonte 2020, el mayor programa público de inversiones en el mundo para impulsar la investigación, la innovación y la competitividad.
  • EFE, Agencia. (2013) El turismo en España representa en PIB y en empleo el doble que la OCDE (2012).
  • Huesca A., Ortega E., (2004). Hábitos y actitudes hacia el turismo de las personas con discapacidad física. PREDIF (2004).
  • Instituto de Estudios Turísticos, (2012) .Balance del turismo año 2011(2012) 2013, 06/09 .072-12-056- 2.
  • Ministerio de Industria Energía y Turismo (2008) Plan nacional e integral de turismo (PINT 2012)


SWOT ANALYSIS OF THE ACCESSIBLE TOURISM IN SPAIN
Strengths
Loyalty / Good image / Increase of tourists from emerging markets / High variety, reasonable accessibility and good resources
Opportunities
Emerging markets / Aging of population, quality over price / WOM and Foundations / SMART Destinations
Weaknesses
Lack of information and lack of involvement / Technological accessibility and Digital Breach / Bad diversification / Bad image / High competence / Reduction of quality
Threats
Economic crisis, High competence, Heritage VS Accessibility

Accesible Tourism & Smart Destinations in Spain

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