Using a wheelchair or living with a sensory impairment doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy a holiday. But it may mean that you have more practical aspects to consider in choosing a destination than other travellers. A project involving partners in adjoining parts of Austria and Slovenia has smoothed the path for people with disabilities visiting their area. Partners from Austria’s Lavant Valley area and the Carinthia Statistical Region in Slovenia teamed up in the project in a bid to make tourism in their area more inclusive. They reached out to local businesses and institutions, raising awareness and supplying expertise.
The partners also organised training to promote a better understanding of the specific needs of visitors with various disabilities. Other activities included testing and developing leisure and cultural activities, as well as the dissemination of information. There is nothing unusual about tourists with disabilities, the partners believe. This is reflected in the name they chose for their project, which translates as “Different is normal — Accessible crossborder tourism”.
The aims of the project included establishing a market segment, increasing the number of overnight stays, developing a crossborder network of companies involved in the leisure and tourism industry, promoting barrier-free catering and accommodation, and developing or upgrading the offer available to tourists with disabilities.
To generate momentum for this drive, the partners engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders in their respective parts of the wider Carinthian area, approaching organisations, businesses, institutions and local authorities to rally support. Joining forces across the border was identified as a way to develop a far more diversified and consequently far more attractive offer for tourists in the area than the participating territories could have provided individually.
The partners also organised awareness raising activities, which included an art exhibition, and cooperation with a tourism school. They produced a variety of publications, such as tourist guides and brochures highlighting specific offers, and a map detailing features of particular interest in the Slovenian town of Slovenj Gradec.