Lonely Planet Writer

Thailand launches accessible tourism routes for people with disabilities

The Thai government plans to create eight routes through the country that will be completely accessible to visitors with disabilities.  “Amazing Thailand means Amazing Thailand for all,” said Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Thailand’s Minister for Tourism and Sports, as she launched the initiative on Tuesday, at the United Nations’ World Tourism Day conference in Bangkok.

The Grand Palace of Thailand.
The Grand Palace of Thailand. Image by VasenkaPhotography / CC BY 2.0

The routes will cover each of Thailand’s eight major regions and will be designed for anyone who finds travel and tourism challenging, whether because of a physical disability or because of age, or a sight or hearing impairment.

Mrs Wattanavrangkul admitted that improvements needed to be made in the country: “to better understand the challenges I personally tried to reach the hotel in a wheelchair and it wasn’t possible. I learned that [the physically disabled] have pride and want infrastructure that empowers them to be able to travel and move as independently as possible. So it all starts with ‘Universal Design’ to make sure proper facilities are in place. There must be public and private sector co-operation that apply cultural standards that are also suited for local populations.”

Sunrise over Nam Nao National Park, Thailand.
Sunrise over Nam Nao National Park, Khon Kaen Province Thailand. Image by GettyRF

The first trial route will journey through Khon Kaen Province in northeastern Thailand, and will aim to eliminate any gaps in accessibility from arrival to departure of the visitor. The scheme will then be replicated around the rest of the country.  Khon Kaen Province is home to the large university town of Khon Kaen and Nam Nao National Park, an important nature reserve sheltering an abundance of wildlife including elephants, gibbons, barking deer, flying squirrels and Malayan sun bears.

World Tourism Day is an annual conference hosted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNTWO). The theme of this year’s event was ‘Tourism for All – promoting universal accessibility’ and the day brought together government representatives and expert speakers from over 60 countries to discuss the value of investing in accessibility.