Tourism operators are encouraged to support disabled, elderly

Thai operators have been urged to provide products for inclusive tourism to facilitate tourists with disabilities and the elderly.

The Social Development and Human Security Ministry estimates there are about 2 million people with disabilities in Thailand, half of whom are elderly and in wheelchairs.

Thailand is an ageing society that will become an aged society in 2021 when the proportion of people aged 60 or older will reach 20% of the population, according to a report by the Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research and Development Institute.

Komkrit Duangngern, director at the Tourism Authority Thailand (TAT), said the agency has continued to open new routes for all people under the campaign “Tourism for All.” Five new routes that offer facilities and safety for disabled and elderly tourists while travelling have been introduced this year. They are in Chiang Rai, Ratchaburi, Chon Buri, Loei and Phangnga provinces.

Mr Komkrit said wheelchair users from the US and Europe tend to spend more than typical tourists because they have special needs for cars and accommodations. They also often travel with caretakers and other companions, which will increase the number of visitors.

This segment offers a strong business opportunity and Thai tourism operators need to adjust to a more accommodating design, he said on the sidelines of the Thailand Friendly Design Expo 2019 yesterday. The event at Impact Muang Thong Thani showcases new innovations and products to help disabled and elderly people interact.

Pheeraya Chiewhatpong, managing director of Legacy Hotel, a wheelchair-friendly hotel in Thailand, said there are a few operators among three-star hoteliers that provide services for people with disabilities.

“We decided to add more rooms for those with mobility problems,” she said.

The hotel has 150 rooms, of which 70 are wheelchair accessible.

Ms Pheeraya said friendly-design hotel rooms have to provide enough space for guests to wheel around freely with safety. Restrooms need sloped flooring and sliding doors as well as hand rails and seating in showers.

Domestic disabled and senior Mice (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) travellers are the main targets for the hotel, which has a meeting room for 350 people.

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