Dubai has the potential to be a world leader by expanding facilities to accommodate more people with special needs and spread the awareness of Tourism for All, it was concluded by a panel of international speakers at the Fourth International Tourism Development Forum for People with Special Needs.
Held in Dubai at Le Meridien, HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum chairman of Dubai Civil Aviation and Emirates Group and patron of the event, confirmed that the regional tourism industry was expanding at a pace outracing all other similar developments in the world.
“Expanding tourism facilities – both in transport and tourism sites and hotels – will lead to a greater economic output, while it will fulfil our commitment to mankind,” he said in a speech that was delivered on his behalf by Mohammed Ahli, director general of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority.
“People with special needs are an integral part of our society. More than 30 million in the Arab countries and 750 million (WTO figures) globally are either physically or mentally challenged. We should not keep them in isolation,” he said.
“Every year this forum reminds us of our responsibility and strengthens the call to expand facilities for them. Apart from the humanitarian aspect, extended services to people with special needs could provide the Arab world with a potential $3 billion in economic opportunities, according to recent reports and create a win-win situation for all,” he said.
Proper government regulation, increased public awareness and the private sector’s support could help increase their mobility across various economic segments and unleash the hidden potential of disabled tourism which is estimated to fetch $60 billion globally.
Dubai last year served nearly seven million tourists and has taken the lead in promoting this campaign, with the UAE government spending millions to expand facilities.
Dubai International Airport will soon open 17 new gates for people with special needs. Last year, of the 34.3 million passengers that came to the airport, about 220,000 of them were passengers with special needs.
“We receive requests for 600 wheelchairs per day and the numbers are growing,” Jamal Al Hai, vice president for strategy at the Dubai Airports said.
“Dubai International is poised to handle 40 million passengers this year,” he said.
The airport has a dedicated team to support such a large number of disabled passengers.