The 2016 edition of the World Tourism Day (WTD) kicked off in Bangkok, Thailand, September 26, with a media workshop under the topic; “The Role of Media in Advocating Universal Accessibility” at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University.
The WTD, held annually on 27 September, will however, officially kick off at the Siam Kempinski Hotel in Bangkok, with a number of seminars as well as exhibitions highlighted under the theme of “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility,” followed by the Official World Tourism Day 2016 Celebration itself.
This is the first time that Thailand will host the official World Tourism Day, which this year celebrates its 36th year.
This event is an initiative of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations body which promotes responsible, sustainable and accessible tourism.
The Day is aimed at fostering awareness of the social, cultural, political and economic value of tourism to nations.
The World Tourism Day 2016 celebrations in Thailand will run from 26 to 29 September, 2016, and will also aim to promote Thailand’s tourism industry to the 157 member countries of the UNWTO as well as top tourism executives from around the world.
Earlier, in his official message on the occasion, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noted that with almost 1.2 billion people travelling abroad each year, tourism has become a powerful economic sector, a passport to prosperity and peace, and a transformative force improving millions of lives.
“Everyone has the right to access leisure and tourism services on an equal basis. Yet 1 billion people around the world living with disability, along with young children, seniors and persons with other access requirements, still face obstacles in accessing fundamentals of travel such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate. Even with modern technologies, those with visual, hearing, mobility or cognitive impairments are being left behind in many tourism destinations.
“Accessibility is both an important market opportunity and central to responsible and sustainable tourism policies and business development strategies. I encourage policy makers, destination planners and companies working with people with special needs to work together to remove all barriers, mental and physical, to travel. On this World Tourism Day, let us recognize that all people can and should be able to participate in tourism and enjoy unforgettable travel experiences.”
On his part, outgoing UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, said: “Tourism has experienced a revolution in the past 50 years. In 1950 there were 25 million international tourists; today there are around 1.2 billion people travelling the world. Travelling has become a huge part of many lives.
“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.
“15% of the world’s population is estimated to live with some form of disability. That is 1 billion people around the world who may be unable to enjoy the privilege of knowing other cultures, experience nature at its fullest and experience the thrill of embarking on a journey to explore new sights.
“Accessibility for all should be at the center of tourism policies and business strategies not only as a human right, but also as a great market opportunity.
“With the world’s population ageing, all of us will benefit sooner or later from universal accessibility in tourism.
“As we celebrate World Tourism Day, let us recall that all of the world’s citizens have the right to experience the incredible diversity this planet has to offer.
“We thus urge all countries and destinations, as well as the industry, to promote accessibility for all in the physical environment, in transport systems, in public facilities and services and in information and communications channels.
Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, Mrs. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, in her remarks, stated that tourism remains ‘vital and at the heart of forging friendships, creating a better understanding between each other and it connects people to people, hearts to hearts. At the same time, tourism is also a key economic development strategy and a catalyst for the growth of the country, while at the same time tourism is also a significant contributor to job creation and then provides an opportunity to work with people in local communities, giving them the tools to adapt to the needs of a modem day traveler. Tourism is an integral source of income for the people in local communities and it is certainly relevant and connected to the operations, as well as the development in areas that would benefit the whole country in various aspects, both directly and indirectly. The state of our tourism industry has to be diversified, whether it is the social, cultural, or environmental aspects, all of these aspects bring about a sense of pride for the people who work ever so hard to maintain the balance of the quality of tourism that is presented to our guests. We are improving and developing human resources from the very people who know and understand the culture and who are able to spread the charms of Thainess, while at the same time locals have to understand the meaning of quality tourism and sustainability.’
“This year of 2016, the Kingdom of Thailand or often referred to as “Amazing Thailand”, and we are affectionately recognized to be the “Land of Smiles” by the world, has been honoured by the UNWTO in carrying out the responsibility of the host nation for the official celebrations of the World Tourism Day 2016. For this year’s theme, “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility”, it is indeed a challenge for Thailand and the world to recognize the necessity of accessibility in the world of tourism and to accommodate everyone everywhere they may travel to, and we feel that it is time for us to turn our attention to accessibility for all and the message must be, all are welcome.
“We have to understand the theory of Universal Design in order to fully support and accommodate our guests, there has to be a level of fairness in terms of a healthy competition of employment and competition amongst tourist destinations. As the world of travel and tourism is an expanding industry and the number of travelers increases every year, we have to ensure that travelling the world has to be safe and seamless at its utmost. Understanding one another and providing flexibility and space, while at the same time we have to consider the impact of energy conversion has to be our mutual goal of sustainable tourism.
“For this year’s World Tourism Day theme “Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility”, it is a conscious reminder to us all around the world to push for integration in order to improve each other’s potential in tourism and to promote a mutual understanding of different cultures and traditions. This is where tourism extends beyond numbers and figures, as tourism has the magic to bring people from all over the globe, from all walks of life to be together peacefully without discrimination and to be in a world where we respect each other and work towards a common goal of sustainable tourism and human capital development. There is not a greater time than now for us to integrate and work together for us to reach our optimum in the internationally recognized universal design and for us to work hand in hand towards the development of our beloved tourism industry.
“On the occasion of World Tourism Day 2016, which falls annually on the 27th of September, on behalf of the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Thai people, by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to the UNWTO for honouring Thailand by giving us, “Amazing Thailand”, the opportunity to be the host of the official celebration for World Tourism Day 2016. My gratitude also goes out to every single one of you involved in the process and for making this year’s celebration a grand success, and finally, I invite everyone around the world to celebrate this glorious day with us in the Land of Smiles and to be a part of the promotion of tourism for all and the development of universal accessibility,” she said.