Simon George, founder and MD of Specialcare Holidays said on Wednesday that the first group of tourists, comprising of nearly 150 differently abled people from various parts of south India, will take a day-long houseboat cruise in Alappuzha this Saturday. George, 52, paralysed from the waist down for more than three decades, moves around in a wheel chair.
Through his efforts, Kerala’s Department of Tourism has agreed to introduce ‘Accessible Tourism’ as a special service to promote tourism in the state in its ‘responsible tourism’ initiative. “It is a dream come true for me and Specialcare Holidays, as I have been crusading for the cause of accessible tourism since 2004,” George told the media here.
“It has been a shame for long that a state with tourism contributing around 12 per cent to its GDP was not able to cater to the differently abled persons who would wish to visit the state,” added George. According to him, accessible tourism starts with providing the visitors with accessible vehicles, specially-trained co-ordinators and tour guides, doctors and nursing staff and accessible equipment including ramps, automated ramps, wheel-chairs, motorised wheel-chairs, lifts-onto-vehicles, accessible washrooms and toilets, Braille and sign language-scripted materials and equipment for the blind and hearing impaired at all the likely places tourist visit including airports, bus stations, hotels and at tourist destinations.
There are about five million wheel-chair bound travellers in the world. “Add these with the vision and hearing impaired, mentally-challenged, the aged and the sick, who also make big chunks of travellers. Kerala, which depends heavily on tourism, cannot ignore this huge market,” said George, who also provides consultancy and project management services to other stakeholders in the industry.