Northeast India is an unexplored slice of paradise and it is fast gaining glories for its mesmerizing and diverse travel destinations. Sadly, it can be a nightmare for the differently abled travellers as there is only about 5% to no facilities for their assistance. Our intern, Kristishila Baruah writes about the urgent need for the basic accessible tourism facilities in this region.
Nothing enriches and enlightens a soul like travelling. Exploring and experiencing a new place influences a person, both psychologically and physically. It energizes the soul and makes one happy and satisfied. However, not everyone is fortunate enough to experience this luxury. According to the World Health Organization, about 1 billion people, which is about 15% of the world population live with some sort of disability. The World Tourism Organization, which is powered by the United Nations, has introduced Accessible tourism as a solution to this obstacle. This particular endeavor ensures that all the tourist destinations, products, and services are accessible to all people, regardless of their physical limitations, disabilities.
Freedom of movement, mobility right, or the right to travel is considered a human right, as stated in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Every country should respect and encourage the freedom to travel for all. In other words, access to tourism is a right for everyone as assured by the UNCRPD. Although the convention has been signed by over 140 countries, including the EU and The USA, accessible tourism still remains a distant dream in many destinations. Even though there are a few cities in India which have been putting extra efforts on becoming a disabled friendly destination. But it is a known fact that India still remains a novice as far as accessible tourism is concerned. Specifically, the Northeastern region, a fast emerging tourist destination of India, needs a lot of attention in terms of accessible tourism.
In recent times, the tourists prefer experiential tourism instead of sightseeing, in which these fascinating states of Northeast India has an enormous advantage, hence making it a popular destination among foreign tourists. This unexplored slice of paradise is one of the few rare places where the tourists can meet about 200 different groups of indigenous people who lead a very colorful and diverse lifestyle even in this modern era. These mystical states are also blessed with unspoiled nature, stunning scenery, waterfalls, mountains, serene Tibetan monasteries, ancient temples, rare wildlife, beautiful traditional handicrafts and vibrant festivals which makes this place one of the must-visit destinations in India.
The tourism industry in the North Eastern States has tremendous growth potential. It has taken the lead in the last 12 years by attracting tourists from all over the world. For further development, accessible tourism should become an immediate priority to attract more tourists and for the long-term sustainability and development of the Northeastern tourist industry.
It is really upsetting to see that Kaziranga, which is the most popular tourist destination in northeastern India has only about 4-5% of facilities for the differently abled people. Even the other popular destinations like Tawang, Shillong, Ziro, etc. have very meager to zero facilities.
A major obstacle in case of the development of accessible tourism in Northeast is the lack of basic accessible infrastructure and absence of enforcing laws in Tourism operating sectors for coming up with accessible tourism products. At the very least, a beginning can be made by the provision of special toilets for the differently abled in the hotels, wheelchair friendly doors can be installed, and trained adventure guides who can help out with those with disabilities can also be hired.
Not only is it beneficial for the customer experience, but accessible tourism can also contribute towards business growth. Given the immense economic and social benefits that can be derived from this fragment of Tourism, it is the need of the hour for the tourism industry to understand and develop accessible tourism in this fast-growing paradise of India.
Accessible tourism is definitely not an easy task to accomplish, but it is indeed high time to breakdown the barriers. Nobody should be excluded from experiencing the sheer bliss of travelling in the heavenly states of Northeastern India. The tourism industry should focus on meeting the needs of each and every category of tourists. People with disabilities deserve the same rights and privileges as those without disabilities. They should be able to go everywhere, stay anywhere, and do everything. Tourism and travelling should be accessible to all.