Innovation for Accessible Tourism in Natural and Rural Areas


Innovation for Accessible Tourism in Natural and Rural Areas

Accessible Tourism has been recently brought to the forefront of the agenda for sustainable tourism development, as numerous research reports took notice of the spike in demand for accessibility. This tendency is supported by the statistics related to the growing number of people with disabilities and growing aging population in Europe and among inbound travelers to European destinations. Existing research proves that people with disabilities and other access needs, including elderly people, pregnant women and families with children, tend to travel just as much as people without specific access requirements (ONCE Foundation, 2016). These people show a high demand for nature based leisure activities, however, even at well-equipped accessible tourist destinations, recreation opportunities and attractions are often inaccessible (Report on economic impact and travel patterns of AT in Europe, 2014). Managers of tourism SMEs tend to lack awareness of the access needs of their customers and have insufficient skills in developing and implementing innovative, sustainable solutions, which could help them increase their market share by seizing the opportunities offered by the growing market of accessible tourism. This is particularly true for natural and rural areas (NRAs), where professional development and training opportunities are limited (Mapping and performance check of the supply side of tourism education and training, EC, 2016).


Project objectives

The Access-IT project seeks to address this competence gap by offering a comprehensive training in the cross-field of accessible tourism, innovation and sustainable development of natural and rural areas. The overall objective of the project is to build capacity of EU tourism SMEs operating in NRAs to bridge accessibility gaps through stakeholder co-design of innovative solutions for tourism products for customers with specific access requirements.

Specific objectives are:

1. Identify the determinants of tourism accessibility in NRAs.

2. Develop case studies of accessible tourism in NRAs, utilising video and other methods for capturing and recording access improvements and first-hand user experiences.

3. Provide hands-on business support and guidance, advancing the innovation capability of tourism SMEs for the development of accessible tourism products in cooperation with key stakeholders.

4. Create a solid foundation for usability and transferability of the project outputs to a wider audience of stakeholders.

5. Increase awareness of business opportunities in the accessible tourism market among EU tourism SMEs operating in NRAs.



The project is targeted at: tourism SMEs operating in NRAs (owners, managers, staff), destination management bodies in NRAs, VET providers offering programs and courses in the field of tourism, individual learners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Stakeholder co-design sessions, planned to be held within the project, will also involve people with specific access requirements.

More than 700 representatives of the project target groups and stakeholders will be directly involved in the project activities and events, such as surveys, stakeholder roundtables, training workshops and conferences. In addition, the project consortium intends to reach at least 5000 rural enterprises through targeted dissemination of the project results.

Project outputs

Project outputs

Mapping Report on Determinants of Tourism Accessibility in Rural and Natural Areas

The impact of result 1 on primary and secondary target groups will be related to raising awareness of:

1. specifics of accessible tourism in NRAs;
2. nonregulated, intangible aspects of tourism accessibility;
3. barriers that people with access needs face or perceive in the process of planning and undertaking tourism activities in NRAs;
4. accessibility improvement challenges faced or perceived by tourism enterprises operating in NRAs.

Result 2 will contribute to raising awareness of business opportunities in the accessible tourism market among EU tourism SMEs in NRAs and motivate their investment in this market. It will also increase awareness of the benefits of tourism accessibility improvement in NRAs among other project stakeholders.

Tourism enterprises will benefit from the step-by-step guidelines and interactive tool aimed to help them in developing new accessible tourism offers in cooperation with key stakeholders. In addition, result 3 will have a positive impact on VET institutions: it will provide didactical resources for hands-on training sessions ready to be integrated as part of their training offers.

How to assess accessibility of a tourism product/service?

How to address the requirements of the target customer segments?

How to develop a truly accessible tourism offer and meet demand?

How to bring to market and promote an accessible product?

How to engage Stakeholders in Accessible Product Development?

Scenarios for practical sessions

The project target groups will benefit from:

- the guidelines for stakeholder co-design of accessible tourism offers, which will enhance replicability of Access-IT pilot trainings;
- the evidence of the impact the Access-IT approach has had on other tourism enterprises, which may stimulate further exploitation of the project outputs both by tourism SMEs and by VET providers.

Project Partners

Społeczna Akademia NaukSpołeczna Akademia Nauk
The UNIVERSITY OF SOCIAL SCIENCES is one of the most experienced and largest private universities in Poland with more than 25 years of experience. It offers education on undergraduate, graduate, MBA and PhD levels in major cities in Poland and in the branch campus in London. We offer also the opportunity to finish an American Master degree program with Clark University (USA). In the educational rankings, published by the influential national magazines the University is placed very high.
Molise verso il 2000 scrl Molise verso il 2000 scrl
The local action group Molise verso il 2000 is a regional development agency that works to support and promote sustainable rural, economical and social development, social inclusion and business and employment promotion in the Molise region in line with the objectives of the EU and of the national, regional and local government development plans.
European Federation of Rural Tourism European Federation of Rural Tourism
The European Federation of Rural Tourism with 29 members from 25 countries, covers the target group (rural accommodation and related services) across Europe with about 5-600.000 micro-enterprises. Given the transversal character of this sector, the objectives of EuroGites are wide-spread and include amongst others professional training, research, and product development.
European Center for Quality European Center for Quality
European Center for Quality Ltd. is a consulting company founded in 2001. The company is specialized in four main fields: Management consulting in the field of EU-funded projects; Design and delivery of training programmes for business entities and employees; Implementation of various initiatives linking the worlds of business and innovation with the education and training sectors; Development and implementation of international standards for quality management.
European Network for Accessible Tourism European Network for Accessible Tourism
Founded in Brussels in 2008, ENAT is a non-profit association for organisations that aim to be 'frontrunners' in the study, promotion and practice of accessible tourism. Our mission is to make European tourism destinations, products and services accessible to all travellers and to promote accessible tourism around the world.
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) is the second-ranked university in Spain offering education among graduate, master and doctorate students since 1969. The UAB holds a leading position in the most prestigious and influential international university rankings due to the growing impact of its research, the constant improvement of the quality of teaching and the ability to attract international talent.