Presentation of the 1st TUR4all International Congress on Accessible Cruise Destinations at a press conference in Valencia, an event to bring about a tourism for all

On 2 October, a press conference was held to present the 1st TUR4all International Congress on Accessible Cruise Destinations which is being held in Valencia on 2-3 December at the Santos Las Arenas Hotel. At the event held at the Valencia Centre for Tourism, the Managing Director for Tourism for the Region of Valencia, Henrick Campos Artesero stated that “it is our duty to support this congress and even though there are many accessible tourism projects already underway, there is still a great deal to do”. Also attending the presentation were the President of PREDIF, Francisco J. Sardón and Antonio Bernabé, Managing Director at the Valencia Tourism Foundation, highlighting the significance of this congress for tourism.

For the very first time in Spain, a congress will be held that focuses exclusively on accessible cruise destinations. PREDIF – The Spanish Representative Platform for People with a Physical or Organic Disability – has become a pioneer by organising an event of such magnitude, namely the 1st TUR4all International Congress on Accessible Cruise Destinations.

The meeting of experts in accessible tourism will be held on 2-3 December in Valencia and will attempt to promote the normalisation of cruise tourism for people with disabilities, reduced mobility or with accessibility needs.

An expert in tourism communication, acting as master of ceremony to present the congress was Fernando Valmaseda, Managing Director of the RV Edipress press agency. During his talk, he wanted to highlight the importance of the sector “given that last year there were more than 10 million cruise passengers in Spain”. He also commented that in Spain, there are 3 million people with a registered disability, 4 if we then also include dependency, 7 if we also add their travel companions and 90 million if we take Europe as a whole.”

Next on the podium was President of PREDIF, Francisco J. Sardón, who confirmed that 30% of cruise passengers do not get off the cruise ship due to the lack of accessibility and we are not just talking about people with disabilities, but rather the elderly and families are the most reluctant to get off the cruise ship”. He also wanted to point out when we discovered this fact ‘we understood the need to have this congress.” Another aspect Mr. Sardón highlighted was the economic one given “the loss from a financial perspective for a destination because improving accessibility improves international competitiveness and although in Spain, we are doing a good job, there is still room for improvement.”

Also appearing with Mr. Sardón at the press conference was Henrick Campos Artesero, Managing Director of Tourism for the Region of Valencia particularly emphasised that cruise tourism is becoming more and more affordable and consequently, it should also be more accessible. Our priority is that everyone receives quality, sustainable and hospitable services in addition to accessibility.”

As for, Antonio Bernabé, Managing Director of Valencia Tourism Foundation, he highlighted that it is our duty to support this congress, but also as highlighted earlier, and as businesses are slowly coming to realise, it is also a question of cost-benefit. In Valencia, we have a guide informing you of the accessibility you are likely to encounter, adapted maps, QR codes but nevertheless we still have so much more to do as we have only just begun. This is the challenge we should be focusing on.”

They all underlined the sector’s need to educate, train and raise awareness of accessible tourism. They also stressed that it is not just a professional responsibility, but rather a right of everyone to be able to make the most out of a cruise. Because people with a disability, reduced mobility or accessibility needs are not second-class passengers, but first-class travellers.

During the presentation, it was made blatantly clear that there is a need to make a breakthrough in this area. Because accessibility is synonymous with good quality and this congress is the perfect opportunity to network for accessible tourism that encourages collaboration and raises awareness among all stakeholders in the cruise tourism sector.

One of the activities being held prior to the congress is to disseminate the needs of cruise passengers by way of a social network survey. The survey will allow us to learn first-hand the pitfalls that need to be avoided when carrying out any activity related to cruises and to be able to find a solution within the framework of the 1st TUR4all International Congress on Accessible Cruise Destinations.

Among the speakers confirmed so far for the congress in Valencia are Francisco J. Sardón, President of PREDIF, Sylvia Longmire, business owners and advocate for people with disabilities, Marco Pizzio, Head of the Department of Social and Accessible Tourism at the AISM, John Sage, Founder and President of Accessible Travel Solutions, Mirjam Versteegh, owner of Disabled Accessible Travel and Virginia López Valiente, CEO and owner of Cruises News Media Group Together they will attempt to paint delegates a realistic picture of the current situation of accessible cruise tourism.

The event, hosted at the Santos Las Arenas Hotel, is being organised by PREDIF, AISM – Italian Multiple Sclerosis Association -, Accessible Portugal and ENAT - European Network for Accessible Tourism – with the collaboration of the Spanish Secretariat of State for Tourism, Spanish Ports Authority, Valencia Regional Tourist Board, Valencia City Hall, Fundación Turismo Valencia, Valenciaport and Cruises News Media Group. For additional information, simply go to www.congreso.tur4all.com