Barrier-free tourism for everyone

In Germany, barrier-free tourism is of major economic significance. But what is important for travellers with limited mobility or abilities? How can tour operators meet these needs? As part of its “IUBH Tourism Radar 2019”, the IUBH University of Applied Sciences, in cooperation with the consulting agency NeumannConsult and the specialised tour operator RUNA REISEN, investigated these questions.


Accessibility is necessary for 40 percent of the population and a measure of quality for 100 percent. The initial results of the survey, with over 1,300 participants the largest German online survey of travellers with disabilities and their family members, show that travellers with disabilities have the same holiday interests as tourists without restrictions, but prefer customised packages – and attach great importance to accessibility right from the start when booking.

Travelers with disabilities have the same holiday interests as everyone else

Many tour operators and tourist destinations are still uncomfortable with the topic of barrier free accessibility, and shy away from the supposed special wishes of this group of tourists. The IUBH study shows that the holiday wishes of travellers with disabilities do not differ from those of guests without disabilities. Relaxing and unwinding are preferred holiday activities, as well as hiking and cultural activities.  The most popular types of holiday are beach holidays and city tours.

Most travel bookings are done online

When it comes to planning holidays, internet is the first source of information; respondents prefer special websites with information about barrier-free travel. Most travellers then book their accommodation online – preferably directly with the property owner. “Accommodation enterprises should therefore provide detailed information about accessibility on their website,” advises Prof Dr Peter Neumann, Director and Professor of Tourism Economics at IUBH. In order to distinguish oneself as a destination for barrier-free tourism, Neumann suggests using a communication mix of “special-interest” information – for example via websites that bundle the accessibility of a holiday region – and standard media, such as the website of the accommodation company, which integrates information about accessibility.

For 95 percent, accessibility at their holiday destination is important

Travellers with a disability especially like to book private trips with their partner, family or friends. Group travel is far less popular. When selecting a holiday destination, local accessibility is important or very important for around 95 percent of the respondents. “However, barrier free accessibility is not only restricted to the specific booking, e.g. the lift in the hotel”, says Prof Dr Peter Neumann. “More importantly, the entire service chain must be barrier-free and offer guests a safe and comfortable holiday experience, regardless of whether they are disabled or not – from barrier-free arrival and enjoyable cultural or natural activities, to restaurant dining with allergy-friendly meals.”


Dr. Peter Neumann is Professor of Tourism Economics at IUBH Dual Studies. He worked for many years as a research assistant at the Institute of Geography of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, where he also received his doctorate. He has since founded the consulting firm NeumannConsult, which focuses on research and consulting in the fields of urban, regional and tourism development. In 2014, he was appointed Professor of Tourism Economics at IUBH University of Applied Sciences. Prof Neumann was project manager for various fundamental research studies on barrier-free tourism for the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and the EU Commission.

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