Open to all: A survey on accessibility for persons with disabilities in Nepal's hotels

August 24, 2021

Ensuring accessibility at tourism destinations for all travelers is key to responsible and sustainable tourism. Accessible destinations are those that have put in place the necessary infrastructure and services to help everyone to participate in and enjoy tourism experiences, regardless of physical limitations, disabilities, or age. While accessible tourism serves the disabled and the aged, it also includes pregnant women and families with small children.2 Not surprisingly, the accessible tourism market is a growing segment — because it makes sense from a human rights perspective, strengthens social inclusion, and, most of all, it presents a significant business opportunity.

But how prepared are Nepal’s hotels to cater to persons with disabilities?

To answer this, a study was conducted by the Society of Economic Journalists—Nepal, in collaboration with the National Federation of the Disabled — Nepal, with financial and technical assistance from IFC. Covering 90-star hotels in major cities of the country, the study found that while most hoteliers were aware of the concept of accessible tourism, they had not invested in disability friendly infrastructure. The reasons for this were varied — some hotels had old structures, some cited geographical difficulties, and some said they simply did not receive many guests with disabilities.

Many of the surveyed hotels said extra costs were a key factor in their failure to build ramps, purchase wheelchairs, or provide other accessible infrastructure and services; even though national and international studies have showed that such infrastructure adds up to less than 0.2 percent of total construction costs. There is also a provision of a 10 percent concession for accessible infrastructure. Moreover, readiness was poor on the human resources side, with no staff employed or assigned to assist guests with disabilities. Another major issue identified by the study was the lack of clarity and understanding about universal accessibility and inclusive tourism practices, even in the concerned government departments, and an absence of relevant policy and legal provisions.

The study shows that the success can be forged only with efforts from the government, the private sector, and donor agencies working together to create a conducive environment in which the principles of universal accessibility is integrated into relevant legal and policy provisions, including building codes and tourism guidelines; best practices in the industry is recognized and rewarded; model accessible destinations are developed and promoted; and necessary support is provided for implementation of public-private partnerships at different levels — all with the participation of and feedback from persons with disabilities.