Portugal has been awarded the Accessible Tourist Destination 2019 award from the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), becoming the first country to be granted the title. This distinction was presented during the 23rd General Assembly of the WTO, in St. Petersburg, Russia on Tuesday 10 September 2019.

The award, presented for the first time this year by the WTO in partnership with ONCE Foundation, recognises Portugal’s efforts to promote tourism accessibility. In Europe there is a market of 90 million tourists with specific mobility needs, hence why the award is an important milestone for Portugal and highlights its leadership in accessibility for all.

Making Portugal an accessible country for all has been a priority work undertaken by the Portuguese government. In 2016, the All for All Programme was launched aiming to empower the tourism sector, helping to create accessible itineraries throughout the country, promoting accessibility offerings from North to South, and encouraging the country to be an inclusive destination for all.

As part of the programme, various initiatives were developed including accessible roadmaps made available at Visit Portugal, good practice guides for the tourism sector, and a specific financing line was launched to support accessibility projects in tourism, under the Valorizar Supporting Programme.

To date, 116 projects representing a total investment of €20 million received a support of €14 million. Some of the investments supported include the accessibility project of the Convento de Cristo (Tomar), Castelo de São Jorge (Lisboa), Palácio Nacional de Mafra (Mafra) as well as the Caves Calém (Vila Nova de Gaia).

A web search portal and the app “Tur4All” was also launched, which provides information on hotels, restaurants and cultural offer for people with specific mobility needs in Portugal and Spain.

At the Tourism & Hospitality Schools managed by Turismo de Portugal (12 schools across the country), a module dedicated to accessible tourism has been included in the students’ curriculum, which already represents a total of 1,059 students trained in this theme.

Besides an “Accessible Beach” Programme, Portugal also launched the “Festivals + Accessible” programme which aims to distinguish events that present accessibility conditions for people with specific needs, such as pregnant women, seniors, wheelchair users, blind people and others.

Speaking about the award, Ana Mendes Godinho, the Secretary of State for Tourism in Portugal said, “We are delighted to be recognised with this award which is a huge incentive for Portugal to become the most inclusive destination in the world. Accessible tourism is a matter of citizenship and also an important segment in world tourism. While much remains to be done, we hope to continue being a world leader in this category.”

Ana Sofia Antunes, Portuguese Secretary of State for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities said: “This is the recognition of a solid and structured work that Portugal has been doing in terms of promoting more and better accessibility for all. The recently developed “More Access Programme” will support accessibility promotion projects in about 50 municipalities amounting to € 15 million. Apart from that a survey on the accessibility conditions of the public buildings in the country will allow the State to draw up multiannual plans to improve its heritage. This Government has taken safe steps to make Portugal a truly inclusive country. It is a path with no return, because it´s our commitment to all those we work for, whether they are people with physical disabilities or disabled in their mobility.”

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