“Hotel infrastructures in Nepal are differently-abled friendly”

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Mirko Tommassoni is a former Captain Regent of San Marino, microstate which is surrounded by Italy. Mirko is also the member of the advisory committee of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin since 2009. Recently, Mirko was in Nepal to attend a talk programme organised by Four Season Travel and Tours on ‘Inclusive Tourism’. Mirko, a differently-abled person, spoke about inclusiveness and accessibility in the tourism sector. On the sidelines of the event, Mirko sat down with New Business Age for a short conversation. Excerpts:

What is the purpose of your visit?
I am attending the program organised by Four Season Travel and Tours. We aim to raise awareness for the rights of people with disabilities. We have been coordinating programs in several places for the cause. We are helping the Center for Independent Living in Nepal. Four years ago, we visited the organisation where they were building wheelchairs for differently-abled persons. We helped the organisation in that great cause. Two organisations – Attiva-Mind of San Marino and the Center of Independent Living of Nepal – have been working together to ensure a better life for people with disabilities. There is a company in Italy that builds wheelchairs with motors. The wheelchair is really comfortable for differently-abled people. The company sells that wheelchair all over the world and the same company is donating wheelchairs to Nepal.

We have also launched a fundraiser for the production of wheelchairs for Nepalese citizens with disabilities.

How important is inclusiveness and accessibility in the tourism industry?     
It is fundamental, but we need to understand that accessibility is not only for wheelchair users, pregnant women and blind people. It is not that ramps solve all the problems of differently-abled people every time. For instance, a ramp is not helpful for a person who can’t use one part of the body. Those people need to use the staircase to go upstairs. So, for accessibility in the tourism sector, the focus should be to include every group of society.

How inclusive is the tourism sector of Nepal?
I think Nepal is making a great effort. I am here in Nepal along with my friend, who is also a wheelchair user. The effort by the hotel staff to support differently-abled people is impressive. Also, the infrastructures in hotels are developed in such a way that people with disabilities can move around independently.

As the infrastructure of Nepal is not accessible for all, what do you think should be the effort of the country?
There should be a political will. All the stakeholders should work together to make infrastructure accessible for all. It is quite challenging to give a similar suggestion to every nation because the economies of all countries are different. The infrastructures that are developed are not used only by visitors. Local people with special needs also access the infrastructure. The government must guarantee freedom and justice for all types of differently-abled people. 

How has been your overall experience in Nepal?
The experience has been amazing so far. People are very nice in this part of the world. Nepal has a lot of attraction for tourists. So, all the destinations should be made inclusive, which will attract more tourists. I have been to Chitwan, Lumbini and Pokhara after arriving in Nepal, and I find the country wonderful.

How is the state of inclusive tourism in the global arena?
Globally, countries have realised that accessibility in the tourism sector also increases the overall business. In the global context, accessibility in the tourism sector is growing. 

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