Are sustainable tourism and accessible tourism the same?

Today we are talking about the misunderstanding that is often created by talking about accessible tourism.
Often, accessible tourism is understood as synonymous with sustainable tourism or, at least, as an extension.

Is that what it is? Are they really the same thing? 
Let’s find out together in this article!

Sustainable tourism

Sustainable tourism means “tourism implemented according to social and economic justice principles and with full respect for the environment and cultures. Responsible tourism recognizes the host local community’s centrality and its right to be a protagonist in the sustainable and socially responsible tourism development of its territory. It works by fostering positive interaction between the tourism industry, local communities, and travelers.” [1]

Therefore, we can say that the responsible tourist is committed to following two fundamental principles: respect for the environment and the local culture.

Concerning respect for the environment, it must avoid damaging its surroundings, safeguard the ecosystem and its biodiversity, minimize the environmental impact resulting from tourism activities and structures.


The second principle markedly differentiates the ordinary tourist from the sustainable one. It is based on the tourist’s attention to the population who lives in the destination locality. It is based on the respect of the host culture and local traditions, trying to support and promote together with the inhabitants the sharing of the socio-economic benefits deriving from the tourist activities (for example, favoring the local restaurant at the expense of international fast-food chains).

Given the many characteristics of this tourist branch, it is difficult to give a single definition. For this reason, it can also be defined as: “responsible tourism, “solidarity tourism”, “eco-solidarity tourism”, “conscious tourism”, “ecotourism”, or “community tourism”, depending on the aspect most safeguarded.

Given the many characteristics of this tourist branch, it is difficult to give a single definition. For this reason, it can also be defined as: “responsible tourism, “solidarity tourism”, “eco-solidarity tourism”, “conscious tourism”, “ecotourism”, or “community tourism”, depending on the aspect most safeguarded.

Accessible tourism

Accessible tourism is: “a set of facilities and services made available to people with disabilities or special needs so that they can enjoy the opportunity to travel, stay and take part in events without encountering problems or difficulties under autonomous conditions, but also of safety and comfort.” [2]

But, going into more detail, when can a holiday be defined as accessible? When does the hotel comply with all the accessibility parameters imposed by law? When is the information provided comprehensible, easy to find, and useful? When is the staff of any service in the tourism chain trained and adequately prepared for various needs?

uomo in carrozzina che sale su un treno

All the ideas given above can be corrected. Still, it is not enough that the structure respects the parameters of accessibility, that the information is easily understandable and available, or that the staff has an adequate preparation regarding the different needs. It is not the single service that makes any holiday an accessible holiday.


A holiday can be classified as accessible when the above parameters are inserted in a globally accessible “network”, including hotels and accommodation facilities, means of transport, restaurants, bars, recreational activities, and places of interest.

Therefore, a hotel that is totally accessible from a regulatory point of view, but situated in an unfavorable context with, for example, rough roads or frequent stairways, or with unsuitable public transport, loses its attractiveness and is not actually usable.

The development of an accessible “network” can bring benefits not only to people with a disability, be it permanent or temporary, motor, sensory, or cognitive. 

Segnaletica che indica un percorso nel bosco per le carrozzine


Accessible tourism must be considered, in fact, as an immense resource that, if developed wisely, will facilitate the holiday to a much more comprehensive range of people. For example, families with children who use the stroller, elderly people with difficulties in longer journeys, people with food intolerances, and, last but not least, friends, family, and spouses of people with disabilities.

The objective of accessible tourism must be to allow anyone to be free to choose one destination rather than another, based solely on their own desires and dreams, interests, and choices, not on impositions strictly related to the level of accessibility of one location to another.

After defining what is meant by sustainable tourism and what is meant, instead, accessible tourism, in your opinion, we can still consider them the same thing?
No, we can undoubtedly say that they are two different types of tourism.


However, we would like to point out that one does not necessarily exclude the other. In both, we find that the general commitment, both of the tourist and the tour operator, is mainly mutual respect and, we could then define both types of tourism as part of the same family as if they were two siblings. Different but often complementary, guided by parents’ wisdom, who have raised them and nourished them with healthy and deep values, such as love of neighbor, equity, and equal opportunities.

Our dream is to discover and share more and more tourist destinations that reflect these values.

What do you think?

Your opinion is critical. It is a source of sharing, growth, and improvement, which Travel Simple is based on. Share with us your experience.

[1] Cos’è il turismo responsabile (http://www.aitr.org/turismo-responsabile/cose-il-turismo-responsabile)

[2] Cos’è il turismo accessibile? (http://www.turismoaccessibile.eu/siteon/index.php/progetto/definizione-turismo-accessibile?showall=&limitstart=)

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