In the age of demographic change, a barrier-free life is not only an important social issue, but also offers new challenges to tourism – and great opportunities. Barrier-free is only appreciated by people with disabilities and limited mobility, but will also provide other senior citizens with easier access to attractions, leisure facilities and other urban highlights. Many marketing organisations of Germany’s federal states have already recognised this potential. Hamburg, too, has been increasingly paying attention to this target group, with the Hamburg Tourism Board (HHT) actively promoting the city’s assets for people with handicaps with the help of funds from the cultural and tourism tax (KTT).
Strongly Rising Demand
The demand for barrier-free holiday offers is increasing strongly and is becoming a competitive factor for destinations. This is confirmed by the following figures presented by HHT:
• Barrier-free access is indispensable for ten per cent of people, necessary for 40 per cent – and a comfortable option for 100 per cent
• 48 per cent of all mobility and activity restricted Germans would travel more often if provided with better offers.
• 60 per cent would be willing to pay higher prices for barrier-free deals.
• Barrier-free access in tourism in Germany would bring along a rise of net sales to 4.9 billion euro and create 90,000 additional jobs.
More Transparency Needed
“For this target group, detailed and honest information is of particular importance to ensure the guest is not experiencing any nasty surprises during the trip”, says Cynthia Wester, head of accessible tourism at HHT. “ Reliable information is the alpha and omega in their travel arrangements.”
The HHT will thus be implementing new tools and expands its services for handicapped travellers. “We will set up a barrier-free webpage with comprehensive information on barrier-free offers in Hamburg, which will allows travellers to gather detailed and reliable information ahead of their travels, and search the site with regard to their needs and wishes”, continues Wester. In addition, a new brochure on barrier-free tourism in Hamburg will be published.
Hamburg already offers many barrier-free attraction. These include, inter alia:
• At the Ernst German Theater, the series “Theater Plus” regularly presents plays for hearing impaired and deaf people, which are also translated into sign language by interpreters. In addition, the theater offers wheelchair spaces and hearing aids. Guide dogs are allowed to attend performances.
• The city’s civiv art gallery “Hamburger Kunsthalle” is located in three barrier-free buildings. Disabled people will be given free wheelchairs. Hearing impaired visitors will benefit from induction loops for voice amplification of the audio guide and guided tours in sign language.
• Also fully barrier-free is Hamburg’s miniature wonderland, which also regularly offers exclusive openings for wheelchairs and severely disabled only
• In Hagenbecks Tierpark, Hamburg’s world-famous zoo, all routes and facilities are suitable for wheelchairs, rollators, and Delta scooters. There are also five wheelchair accessible toilets.
• At HafenCity, people with reduced mobility and vision can easily move around, as all public spaces and facilities are accessible by ramps or lifts. HafenCity’s Info Center at the former boiler house and HafenCity’s sustainability pavilion are also fully barrier-free, and run public tours for wheelchair users.
The Next Steps
In early 2015, first preliminary results of a market research on barrier-free tourism in Hamburg will be available. The results of the survey will allow deeper insights into the behavior and needs of guests with handicaps, and will allow to create custom-tailored packages and offers. All information for barrier-free holidays in Hamburg will be bundled on the new website “www.hh-barrierefrei.de”: http: //www.hh-barrierefrei.de by spring 2015.
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