Access Tourism for people with disabilities was a topic discussed at the first New Zealand Wellness Symposium held in Nelson 18-20 September 2008. Sandra Rhodda educated the gathered attendees on the potential to be found in the aging and disabled traveler markets
Spa and wellness tourism is a multi billion dollar industry internationally. The Symposiums’ overall aim was to examine the strategic direction for wellness tourism development in New Zealand and to promote the formation of a national network or association. Wellness Tourism has been on the radar for a number of national organisations, regions and businesses for some time, and an aim of the symposium was to examine the market, discuss the current New Zealand Wellness tourism offer, and plan for the future.
Representatives from the New Zealand Ministry of Tourism, its marketing arm, Tourism New Zealand, regional tourism organizations, tourism operators, researchers from polytechnics and universities, marketing consultants and wellness experience and product suppliers attended the symposium. The opening address was given by the Minister of Tourism, Damien O’Connor, and the keynote speech by Susanne Sims, Founding President of Hawaii Islands Wellness Travel Association.
Sandra Rhodda, Research Manager at Tai Poutini Polytechnic in Greymouth, South Island, and founding member of the Action Group for Access Tourism in New Zealand (AGATNZ) gave a talk on the importance of access tourism (AT) for people with disabilities (PWDs).
She pointed out that AT needs to be developed in New Zealand in order to strengthen Wellness Tourism, and provide for those tourists who will increasingly come here for wellness treatment or medical reasons. Rhodda went on to say that currently, AT, and the related Silver Tourism market, are virtually ignored in New Zealand, and this is short-sighted. This is because the world population is ageing, as people age they experience more disability. Reliable AT products in New Zealand are few and far between which means that the needs of current tourists who are PWDs are largely unmet, although it is unknown how many tourists within and to New Zealand are PWDs. Whatever the current number, that number is bound to rise with the ageing of the the large Baby Boomer cohort. It is this cohort which will dominate tourism in the next several decades, that will have the money, time, and inclination to travel, that will live longer than their parents, that are interested in health and wellness, that will increasingly add to the medical tourism sector, that are increasingly web savvy, and that will demand appropriate services and will tell the world if they don’t get them (see https://www.tppweb.ac.nz/rreports.php ).
Rhodda went on to say that because indigenous Maori culture was heavily focused on caring and reverence for older members of communities, that New Zealand was ideally situated philosophically to host this growing sector. There were also traditional Maori Wellness methodologies that could be ideally shared with guests of all ages, whether disabled or not. Some of these indigenous methodologies for increasing wellness were demonstrated by Maori Wellness Tourism operators who attended the meeting, as were a number of other products and services. Such products included a variety of healing therapies from all over the world and healthful food and beverages.
She also had a chance to put out for distribution the new report The Waypoint – Backstrom Principles on Maritime Inclusive Environments and Practice (Human-Centered Seaworthiness).