At the start of the year, the Queensland Government declared 2023 would be the Year of Accessible Tourism in the Sunshine State. They promised that the initiative would “provide greater destination experiences for visitors of all abilities holidaying in Queensland and provide legacy outcomes, including built infrastructure and skills development for tourism operators, across the state in preparation for Brisbane 2032”.
And Queensland didn’t just talk the talk: they allocated $12 million to help small tourism operators make their offering accessible for people with disabilities, raise awareness of accessibility needs and services, and promote accessible travel experiences available to visitors to Queensland.
By all accounts, the Year of Accessible Tourism has been a roaring success. Here are some of our favourite outcomes and milestones we’ve seen in 2023.
Accessible Destination Guides
One of the biggest barriers to travel for people with disabilities is a lack of information. Travellers need to know whether they will be able to access transport, accommodation, and activities before they can even begin to plan a trip.
The Year of Accessible Tourism has seen considerable resources invested in creating comprehensive accessible destination guides, with the kind of essential information so often overlooked in mainstream resources, the facts that can make or break a holiday for travellers with disabilities.
The Gold Coast has long been one of our favourite travel destinations, and now it’s even easier to plan an accessible trip to the region with the Accessible Visitor Guide. It’s just one of many informational resources now available to travellers to the Sunshine State, providing accessibility information for major tourist attractions and destinations (including Brisbane, Cairns, and Fraser Island).
Training for Industry Leaders
Another major obstacle to travel for people with disabilities is the lack of understanding from tourism providers. It’s hard to ensure your specific needs are met if the operator doesn’t understand what they are or how to accommodate them.
As part of the Year of Accessible Tourism initiative, the Queensland Government has partnered with disability organisations to provide immersive workshops and training to industry leaders.
From navigating city streets without sight, to placing orders without hearing, to getting around buildings using a mobility aid, industry leaders experienced first hand – with the guidance of Get Skilled Access trainers who live with disability themselves – what it’s really like to work, live, or visit a destination when you have specific needs. This will have a long-term impact in ensuring tourism operators understand how to accommodate workers, residents, and travellers with disabilities.
Podcasts and Resources
Through the Year of Accessible Tourism initiative, the Queensland Government has funded a number of informational resources to make travel more accessible.
These include online toolkits with practical information to help operators make their businesses accessible, checklists for venues to ensure they have the accessibility basics covered, and podcasts hosted by people with disabilities sharing their experiences of travel.
Accessed That is one of the podcast series produced as part of this initiative. Hosts Oliver Hunter, a comedian who lives with Cerebral Palsy, and Paralympic swimmer Karni Liddell chat to travel lovers about their experience navigating the world, getting the low down from the people who have been there, accessed that. Our very own Julie Jones is the guest on Episode 8, and she talks about planning family travel when one of your family members lives with a disability.
Grants to Improve Infrastructure
Of course, all of these steps forward will ultimately falter if the infrastructure of a destination isn’t up to scratch. The Queensland Government has funded Accessible Tourism Infrastructure Grants ($25,000 to $500,000) to small- and medium-sized tourism and events businesses to improve accessibility through infrastructure upgrades, assistive equipment and technology.
Businesses have used these grants to:
- Install an accessible lift and bathroom facilities (O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat)
- Expand transport fleet to include four new busses with wheelchair-accessible lifts (Gold Coast Coachlines)
- Purchase of two wheelchair accessible buggies (Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World)
- Install accessible audio visual content and upgrade exhibition design and interpretive signage (Qantas Founders Museum)
These are just a few examples of upgrades and improvements made across the Sunshine State in the Year of Accessible Tourism.
What’s next for the Year of Accessible Tourism?
The best news of all: the Year of Accessible Tourism will extend past 2023, and we’ll continue to see funding initiatives and infrastructure improvements for accessibility into the future. There really has been no better time to visit Queensland – and it’s only going to get better!