The regional tourism board of Paris Ile-de-France has worked with accessible tourism since 2002. The initial objective was to render accessible the world’s number one tourist destination. As part of this strategy, the regional board was involved in the work on the “tourism and handicap label”. Introduced in 2001, this label has the aim of awarding the institutions and businesses that have made their businesses accessible. The label is divided into four categories, taking into account the main types of disability. Through the work with the label, the regional tourist board gained valuable knowledge and experience in the sector at an early stage and despite the fact that the board is no longer working with the label, it is assisting and encouraging businesses in becoming accessible, through a universal approach to accessibility which includes anyone with special needs, and highlights the economic importance that the market for accessible tourism implies.
The Ile-de-France region covers the whole tourism supply chain to some extent. The weak links seem to be accommodation and catering, where the will to invest resources and time in accessibility often is missing due to the limited size of businesses, with exceptions of larger hotel or restaurant chains. Another weak link is transports, and in regards to Paris particularly, the metro network. The very old structures would be extremely costly to make accessible. On the other hand, accessibility in museums and cultural institutions is better and improving further, and extensive work has been done in information and communication, e.g. through the launch of the Handistrict website providing a database on accessible tourism businesses.
The regional tourism board is cooperating significantly with associations representing people with disabilities in order to improve communication and to learn about the specific needs related to each disability. The board also works with businesses and support them in their efforts to improve accessibility through assistance, training and guidance documents. The business case of accessible tourism is also highlighted by the board and one example of this is the Parisian tour operator Yoola which started its activity in 2009 with focus on accessible tourism and international sports events. The company has registered important growth in these years and an increasing clientele.
To conclude, it seems reasonable to say that the region has achieved a strong progress in accessible tourism, even though there are still numerous improvements to make, in particular regarding weak links in the tourism supply chain and incentives for smaller businesses.
Download the Paris - Ile de France Accessible Tourism Case Study in PDF format, produced by ENAT and Partners for the European Commission (2015).
Visit the Website of VisitParis Region