WAT! Women Accessibile Tourism New
In partnership with: AISM (Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla)
A model of excellence in accessible tourism, a springboard to social inclusion for all travellers, WAT is an instrument of empowerment for unemployed young women with Multiple Sclerosis through which they can become autonomous.
Millions of people travel abroad every year. Tourism is a pillar of the Italian economy, worth 171 billion euro and 11.8% of GDP. It is also a transformative force in people’s lives, fostering mutual understanding and catalyzing happiness. Sadly, the 15% of the world’s population that lives with some form of disability is often excluded from such enriching travel experiences.
Italy is the fifth most visited destination in the world and is therefore well placed to serve this customer base. After all, tourism is “the business of providing services for people on holiday” so making sure said services are available to all is not just the most economically sensible option in the current economic climate, it is also a social responsibility. 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism and the World Tourism Organization has called for all tourist facilities to be accessible as part of a responsible, sustainable tourist policy.
Architectural and cultural barriers can seem insurmountable to travelers with multiple sclerosis. Their symptoms mean they have to think about mobility and venue accessibility. To assure them friendly, usable destinations, tourism stakeholders need to partner the very people needing their services – people with MS – to understand what to offer and how to adapt facilities, reckoning that not only people with disability will benefit from these facilities, but also elders, parents with stroll or just people with a temporary disability due to an accident.
A truly sustainable offering also addresses other challenges faced by MS patients, such as the right to have a job and how to maintain a career. The unemployment rate among the 114,000 MS sufferers in Italy is around 60% and among those who do work, 24.5% are forced to reduce their hours or change their type of work. Women, already facing gender discrimination in the workplace, are especially hard hit as the prevalence of MS is greater in women.
This project therefore aims to work with Costa Crociere’s excursions department to leverage and hone the knowledge and experience of young, unemployed women with MS for two main goals: to enrich the experience of Italy and Europe’s top tourist destinations for all travelers with accessibility needs, and to boost the girls’ chances of securing sustainable employment in the accessible tourism industry.
The Foundation, aims to turn around the lives of fifteen unemployed young women and bring much-needed change to the industry, together with AISM, which has a lengthy experience mainstreaming people with MS and aware of the benefits of accessible tourism The direct beneficiaries are women with no permanent job, students, school leavers or part-time workers, with an interest in the tourism industry, They are offered 160 hours of classroom and distance-learning lessons followed by work placements. Uniquely, they will also benefit from the expert guidance of a team from Costa Crociere’s excursions department, adding value and authenticity to their training.
The coaching received on accessibility, itinerary planning, experiential travel and how to build networks and promote local attractions will result in the co-design and validation of no less than four new accessible itineraries and experiential travel packages, with accompanying website and social media pages, in each of the cities selected. The skills acquired will also be transferred to setting up and running an online travel communication business to make sure information for tour operators, agencies and internet tourists is as accessible as the services themselves. In at least five cases, the work placement will be turned into a permanent role in the industry.
The model of excellence developed will be documented and shared with other regions as a best practice to be replicated, and the far-reaching benefits enjoyed by the fifteen young women, the roughly 4000 end users with accessibility needs, and the Italian economy and society as a whole.