Project visits4u final conference – Accessible Tourism for All in Riga

On 07th of December 2017, the Latvian organization of people with disabilities and their friends “Apeirons” held an international conference “Accessible Tourism for All” as part of the project “visits4u”, which is co-funded by the COSME programme of the European Union. The conference theme was on tourism accessibility for people with disabilities and developing inclusive tourism for everyone.

Ivars Balodis, Chairman of the Board of organization of people with disabilities and their friends “Apeirons” says: “Tourism and the possibility to travel is important for everyone, but the concept of accessible tourism in Latvia and around the world still requires further work. Of course, tourism places are specific places and ensuring accessibility in those places often requires creativity, imagination and non-standard solutions, but I’m pleased that more and more tourism places in Latvia are becoming accessible to society. It is important to understand that inclusive tourism does not only mean the physical, environmental accessibility by setting up ramps in order for a wheelchair user to move easily. This concept involves a much broader perspective – accessible tourism means acting so that everyone can enjoy the atmosphere of tourist facilities – families with small children, people with visual and hearing, intellectual, physical impairments, as well as seniors. The provision of accessible tourism rather than reconstruction of places, implementation of additional technological solutions requires change of the thinking and attitude of people involved in tourism. Therefore, I was pleased that we had such conference here in Latvia where we had possibility to discuss with tourism organizations, business, tourism makers here in Latvia to make them more open to accessible tourism.”

The conference began with presentations of policies and strategies on accessible tourism, and their implementation, by the European Commission and the Ministry of Economics in Latvia.

The Municipalities of the Latvian towns of Jurmalas and Siguldas, presented what they have done respectively to make Tourism in their regions more accessible for people with disabilities. For example, the municipality in Jurmala earned the third place in the ‘Access City Award 2017’, the European prize that recognises good practice in making cities more accessible. This is a very good example how local authorities can work to make their cities accessible to everyone.


Conference delegates

Subsequently, different tourism businesses presented how they are involved in accessible tourism and what they do to improve the services they provide: Latvia’s States Forest main business is forest management but in their forest they have created tourism attractions and many of these attractions are accessible for people with disabilities in Latvia. The Latvian Museum of Natural History which is located in an inaccessible building and due to its cultural heritage status it is not easy to make changes in the building. However, the Museum have been actively seeking solutions to overcome the physical barriers of the building and improve the visitors’ experience in their premises. As a result, they are developing accessibility of their programmes and finding suitable alternative solutions where possible.    The Latvian green movement, together with Apeirons, has created a Certification of Accessible Natural Places which will be awarded to natural places as a sign that they are accessible.  Apeirons presented their mobile application of accessible places “Mapeirons”, where it is possible to find tourism attraction and other places what are accessible for people with disabilities.

The final session of the conference was dedicated to the Visits4u project, presenting its progress since July 2016 and its outputs: the visits4u itineraries in Modern Art and Culture and in History and Heritage in Latvia (Sigulda and Riga), Spain (Reus and Tarragona) and Greece (Rhodes). Furthermore, the visits4u online tools and resources were presented for the first time: Access Guides, Case Studies and Online Training modules, which are available for free via the project’s website. During the two discussion panels, visits4u partners – the Centre for Accessible Environments (UK), Asklipiades South Regional Social Protection and Solidarity Network (Greece), DomSpain Consulting LTD (Spain), Turin institution for the Deaf (Italy), Municipality of Rhodes (Greece), Nikanor LTD (Bulgaria), Apeirons (Latvia) – talked about their work as part of the project, their learning and ideas for future plans.

visits4u panel on capacity building

Conference delegates had the opportunity to gain international theoretical and practical information on how to make tourism accessible to everyone. During the intervals delegates visited the conference’s exhibition on accessible tourism and environment where they could try different assistive equipment, watch the visits4u videos in Sign Language and get information materials on acessibility and accessible tourism.


visits4u panel on accessible itineraries

Further information about the project:


Conference organiser:



















Increasing disability awareness in tourism in Latvia

Towards the end of 2016 APEIRONS, the Latvian partner, organised three seminars on tourism accessibility where the main focus was on welcoming visitors by becoming accessible to everyone and shifting the mentality away from “specially made for disabled” to “universal use and access to everyone”. The seminars were attended by accessible tourism users, public authorities, tourism professionals and Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Applying a user-led approach

Each seminar was tailored to delegates so as to make it relevant and achieve its objectives: the first seminar was organised mainly for users of tourism services in order to find out traveling patterns and challenges arising during travels. As participants stated, the main issue was that most of the times attractions and accommodations have no information on accessibility on their websites. Even at times when such information is provided, upon arrival to the site it would turn out not to be as accessible or suitable, which would then make the trip challenging. This demonstrated even further the need to raise awareness locally and provide specific training targeting tourism professionals and the hospitality industry.

The first seminar was organised mainly for tourism users in order to find out traveling patterns and challenges arising during travels. Their feedback was shared with participants in the subsequent seminars.
The first seminar was organised mainly for tourism service users in order to find out traveling patterns and challenges arising during travels. Their feedback was shared with participants in the subsequent seminars.

The subsequent seminars were therefore delivered primarily to these target groups, where in addition to the overall training the feedback from the user seminar was shared. Although representatives from local authorities agreed that it would be very challenging to convince businesses to invest in better and accessible tourism, the responses from the seminars was positive and participants admitted that it is vital to start raising awareness of accessible tourism

Using modern technology to improve access

APEIRON started to tackle the issue of accessible tourism in 2013 when it started developing the idea of a mobile application with a data base of accessible object and places. The App, called ‘MAPEIRONS’ was launched in summer 2014 following an audit of more than 22.000 objects and places around Latvia and including 1100 in the App. As the data shows 1 in 20 sights are fully or partly accessible. In terms of accessibility Latvia is far from brilliant but it is progressing slowly and steadily. Up to date MAPEIRONS includes more than 22.000 objects and during 2016 it has been downloaded 522 times on Play Store and 324 times on AppStore. This proves that people do like to travel and use modern technologies when planning their trips.

Through visits4u APEIRONS will be able to map more accessible touristic sights and develop itineraries in Riga (the capital) and in Sigulda, one of the most beautiful cities in Latvia. Tourist offerings in Riga will focus on contemporary attractions where the main place of interest is the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, whereas in Sigulda the focus will be on historical heritage where the main attraction is Sigulda Medieval Castle ruins. It is envisaged that MAPEIRONS will be enriched with further data collected during and as part of visits4u.

Inclusive tourism is responsible tourism

In November 2016 DomSpain Consulting ltd, the Spanish partner, organised 4 seminars targeting stakeholders of the Tarragona region from different sectors of the tourism industry (tourism offices, hotels, restaurants, shops, etc.), technicians, decision-makers and local associations active in the field of tourism.  The main objectives of the seminars were to raise awareness of the participants on the issues related to inclusive tourism and travel provisions for customers with special needs as well as inspire the tourism stakeholders to take up an active role in the following phases of the visits4u project: mapping provisions for accessible routes in Reus and Tarragona, identifying inclusion challenges and, if possible, making adjustments to ensure participation in travel of tourists with specific access requirements.

Olena Korzhykova, visits4u Project Leader for DomSpain, delivers the seminar to tourism professionals. Photo of the training room in boardroom style during the seminar and Olena’s presentation. Delegates sit around the table where the training materials are laid out and a monitor projects the homepage of the website.
Olena Korzhykova, visits4u Project Leader for DomSpain, delivers the seminar to tourism professionals in Tarragona.

The early promotion of the workshops, the time of the working sessions suitable for different groups (one group in the morning, another in the afternoon and two more groups in the evening) and direct contacts with potential participants helped encourage people and organisations of the province to get involved and brought about the diversity of the participants coming from different sectors of the tourism industry and society levels. Prior to the workshops, the majority of the participants declared their interest in the theme and motivation to collaborate with the team in further project activities and approximately 30% had a previous experience in working  with tourists with special needs.

During the sessions, participants came up with the conclusions that tourism stakeholders should be aware of and have an open-minded and non-discriminatory approach to tourists with special needs.  The importance of providing the right and detailed information while describing the level of access provision was also greatly emphasised: for example, a restaurant should not only inform clients about external and internal environment, but also about availability of Braille or large print menu, dietary requirements catered for, etc. This information is crucial as every tourist has different needs and this information will help to understand if this is the right place for him/her to choose or book.

Olena Korzhykova, visits4u Project Leader for DomSpain, delivers the seminar to tourism professionals. Photo of the training room in boardroom style during the seminar and Olena’s presentation. Delegates sit around the table where the training materials are laid out and a monitor projects the homepage of the website.
Olena Korzhykova, visits4u Project Leader for DomSpain, delivers the seminar to tourism professionals.

The seminars also served as a platform to elaborate joint reflections on the importance of adequate education and training (formal or informal) for tourism industry workers and assume that only through taking up a responsibility and an active role by all tourism stakeholders is it realistic to create an environment where all tourists, with all their needs, are felt welcome.

If you want to get involved in the project in Tarragona, Spain, you can contact DomSpain directly (details here:

visits4u seminars in Rhodes

The Municipality of Rhodes in cooperation with the Social Cooperative Business “Asklipiades” successfully held four (4) training seminars in Rhodes aiming to build capacity of tourism industry staff and entrepreneurs on access and inclusion.

Seminar manual front cover with the title of the event and the project. Logos of the organisers and supporters are at the top and the bottom of the page respectively. A photo of the city of Rhodes is superimposed by an outline of a diverse group of people, suggesting access for all.
An image of the seminar manual front cover.

The seminars took place in October 2016 at different venues across the city: Elysium Resort and Spa Hotel, Rodos Palace Hotel, the City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Dodecanese.

The content and delivery were tailored to SME’s professionals, public bodies, chambers and associations. Host speakers included Mr. Theodoros MAKOS, Employment Office Manager at the Greek Manpower Employment Organization, and Ms. Marily CHRISTOFI, Surveying Engineer and Accessibility expert for disabled people at the National Confederation of Disabled People. Moreover, experts on accessibility from the Municipality and “Asklipiades” presented the project and elaborated on relevant topics. The areas covered included the legal framework regarding the Disability Discrimination Law, Health and Safety building regulations in Greece, attitudes towards disabled people, government programs supporting employment of disabled people, good practice examples on accessibility, particularly on spatial, visual and acoustic access.

More than forty (40) people attended the seminars including representatives from the Municipality of Rhodes, the Association of Disabled People in the Province of Rhodes, the Hellenic Tourism Organization, the Commercial Association, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Dodecanese, the Travel Agencies’ Union of Rhodes and the Hotel Owners’ Association of Rhodes.

Presentation by the Municipality of Rhodes during held at the seminar at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Dodecanese.
Presentation by the Municipality of Rhodes.

Participants were given a manual with practical information and guidance on how to identify access barriers and find solutions to remove them. The majority of participants also stated that the topics were in general interesting, relevant to their work and very useful for future improvements regarding accessibility and how they could further improve their services in terms of sustainability.

All events were greatly supported by public and private entities, who welcomed the project and contributed their resources – such as venue and printing facilities – towards the seminars.

If you want to get involved in the project in Rhodes, Greece, you can contact the Municipality of Rhodes or “Asklipiades” directly (details here:


Further links:

Municipality of Rhodes:

Social Cooperative Business “Asklipiades”:

National Confederation of Disabled People

Greek Manpower Employment Organization:



Visits4u project

July 2016 marked the launch of ‘visits4u’, an 18 month project that will develop and deliver inclusive tourism training and capacity building to improve user experience and sustain inclusive design in tourism. The theme resonates the message of this year’s World Tourism Day on 27th September, which focuses on ‘Tourism for all – promoting universal accessibility’.

The rationale behind the project derives from relevant research and developments across Europe showing that staff attitude is ranked as a key factor for an enjoyable experience. The quality and availability of the right information to visitors are both considered equally important. visits4u will, therefore, aim to address better customer satisfaction under the inclusive tourism narrative, focusing on enhancing staff skills and improving information accessibility. This will be implemented through training, seminars for local tourism companies, case studies – demonstrating that access means good business – and toolkits to help embed inclusive practices in the field.

The action is structured in four Work Packages:
1. Capacity Building
2. Research and Itinerary Design
3. Product Development and Implementation
4. Dissemination and Evaluation

By the end of the project in each partnering country, visits4u aims to establish stronger networks of tourism businesses alongside increased confidence, knowledge and commitment to making their services more accessible and, as a result, eventually more sustainable. Click here for further details about the project.
Following the introductory months, partners visited London to attend a two day training course and hold the first partnership meeting on 5th – 6th September 2016. Read more about it here.

Visits4u in London

Following the introductory months, partners visited London to attend a two day training course and hold the first partnership meeting on 5th – 6th September 2016.

The training focused on access and inclusion, exploring the benefits of universal design and inclusive management practices to meet the needs of all users. It provided delegates with good practice examples and techniques on how to identify potential barriers to access, alongside solutions to improve accessibilty and customer service for tourists and visitors.

The programme included a presentation by Ross Calladine, Head of Business Support at Visit England who shared his experience on how to support tourism businesses develop accessible itineraries and a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where Barry Ginley, Equality and Access Officer, presented the museum’s policies on inclusive environments.

Group photo at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, September 2016 © CAE
Group photo at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, September 2016 © CAE