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MATIW-2012: Focus on Business and Inclusive Travel
September 21, 2012 14:36

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Tatiana Melyakova: People with disabilities must be able to travel

The annual Moscow Autumn Tourism Industry Week has again visited the Crocus Expo Hall in the north-west of Moscow. The events and talks focused on the opportunities for business travellers and - for the first time - on tourists with disabilities.
Given the size of Russia, the question raised in one of the talks on business travel - why an event should be held in this particular region? - is justified and tricky to answer. Of course, it is unlikely that a Moscow business group will be taken to the Lake Baikal, but even around Moscow there are perhaps too many sanatoriums, hotels, not to mention the full programmes in the nearby regions, e.g. Kaluga Region or Vladimir Region. 
To manage the situation, business travel specialists in Russia actively study the foreign experience (the U.S., in particular), find the means to apply the findings to the Russian market, and also create ways to monitor the growth and quality of Russian conference facilities. 
To this purpose the website Conference.ru is collecting the best-developed business meeting facilities across Russia. The main business projects include business brunches, banquets, MICE events abroad, and videoconferencing. Among their partners are MaxiMICE, UTS, Concord, Moscow City Radio Network, RCS (Russian Corporate Services), and the Cronwell Resort "Yugra Valley" (Khanty-Mansiysk).
Another online venture, micediscount.ru, unites the existing MICE-providers with potential clients. This is Russia's first project offering discounts for MICE events that include conference facilities, hotel accommodation, team-buildings, and various corporate events. A MICE-provider may register on the website to advertise their offers to any business traveller or corporate team.
The Moscow Tourism Forum this year focused on the legal and transportation issues for tour operators and holiday makers alike. And it is highly important that for the first time the problem of inclusive travel has been raised. Tatiana Melyakova, the President of a non-profit organisation "Social adaptation for the disabled and youth", spoke on the topic, providing a rather upsetting statistics on the state of inclusive travel in Russia. In addition to the country, and Moscow in particular, being generally unadapted to the needs of the disabled, the process of adaptation is severely hampered by the discrepancy between "official" figures on disabled citizens and the inofficial data: the two estimates are miles apart.
This is not just a question of social aptitude of Russia. It is fairly safe to say that the country is at the early stage of accepting the fact that people do not lose the will to live, once struck by disability. They still want to be active as far as they can afford, and they want to travel - by themselves or with the help of a relative or a social worker. Unfortunately, even in Moscow such opportunities are few and far between, not to mention the regions. Disabled people, along with the elderly and children, may even be seen by some as a budget's burden. 
According to Melyakova, this needs not to be the case: a person in the wheel-chair can still bring their share to the budget - provided they are given such opportunity. At the moment, Russia's public transport, hospitals, libraries, shops, museums, and various public spaces simply do not have access to people in wheel-chairs. They are also badly adapted to the needs of the blind, those who suffer from epilepsy, etc. 
It was noticeable that the majority of tour operators and transportation managers were not prepared to this talk, mostly because of the costs of readapting facilities, transport, and infrastructure to the needs of the travellers. However, this will have to be addressed because Russia is a global tourism destination and has to be able to accommodate any visitor, in a wheel-chair or with a walking stick.  


Author: Julia Shuvalova

Tags: Russian tourism tourism for disabled MATIW   

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