21 Feb 2024

New toolkit urges tourism businesses to embrace inclusivity

Belfast City Council has developed a new toolkit to help tourism and hospitality providers in the city become more inclusive and accessible to visitors with disabilities.

Caption: Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy with Eimear Callaghan, Tourism NI; Judith Owens, Titanic Belfast and MaryJo McCanny, Visit Belfast at the launch of the ‘Embrace the Inclusive Spirit’ initiative to support Belfast’s growing tourism sector.

‘Embrace the Inclusive Spirit’ is the latest initiative delivered by the council to support Belfast’s growing tourism sector and was launched today at an event in Titanic Belfast.

The free resource pack, developed with Tourism NI, Visit Belfast and the Northern Ireland Tourism Alliance, will help local businesses take steps to tap into a market worth an estimated £249 billion each year to the UK economy.

The toolkit includes online training videos and access to ‘Living Library’ feedback events where businesses can chat to service users and test drive ideas. There are also suggested itineraries for disabled visitors, based on recommendations from local residents with disabilities, and details of accessibility features at local venues and facilities, in partnership with AccessAble.

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy, opened today’s event and said the Embrace the Inclusive Spirit toolkit was a good example of the practical support the council and its partners are providing to businesses in the city.

“Ensuring Belfast is a welcoming city for everyone is a key goal for our council and this is one of the ways we are helping to make that vision a reality,” he said.

“We’ve heard a lot recently about what Belfast isn’t doing – but today shows the very real improvements that are being made in our city, and the partnership work taking place in the background to improve the visitor experience, support local businesses to attract new custom and create new opportunities by exploring different markets.

“This toolkit is all about highlighting simple changes that services and products can make to put inclusivity and accessibility at the heart of what they offer and improve the visitor experience for everyone. Well done to everyone who has helped to develop this valuable resource.”

Embrace the Inclusive Spirit is the second phase of a programme developed through the council’s Make Yourself at Home ten-year tourism plan which recognises the sector’s role as a key economic driver for the city and wider region.

Today’s launch saw operators, event organisers and hospitality providers gather at Titanic Belfast to hear from a panel of guest speakers about their first-person experiences of travelling with a disability.

They also heard about tools and products available to tap into the ‘purple pound’ and had the opportunity to hear from local businesses already putting inclusivity first through increased use of accessible ramps, seating and toileting, as well as improved translation services and increased use of alternative formats. 

Among the speakers were Sinéad Burke, disabled educator, broadcaster and author, Sean Fitzsimons, disability rights activist; Ross Calladine, Accessibility & Inclusion Lead with VisitEngland and Amy Waumsley from AccessAble.

Sinéad spoke of her experiences as an educator and founding her company Tilting the Lens to bring visibility to inaccessibility and designing with people with disabilities. Some of the company’s work included working with brands including British Vogue fashion magazine to produce editions focusing on the stories of disabled people from across fashion, sport and creative industries with Sinéad featured in the cover of one of the editions.

At the event, videos were shown of ‘24 hours in Belfast’ by residents/visitors to the city with autism, visually impaired and cerebral palsy. There was also a special performance by disability dance group Luminous Soul.

Judith Owens MBE, CEO Titanic Belfast, said: “Titanic Belfast is delighted to be the venue partner for Belfast’s first inclusive tourism seminar, as we know first-hand how important it is for businesses to be inclusive for all guests. We are proud to be recognised within the industry for our accessibility standards but are continually working to develop these, most recently with the introduction of Changing Places facilities. We look forward to continuing to work with our industry partners across the city to make Belfast and Northern Ireland accessible to all!”

Eimear Callaghan, Head of Experience & Industry Development at Tourism NI, said:

“Tourism NI is delighted to partner with Belfast City Council on the development of this toolkit helping to promote accessible and inclusive tourism. Northern Ireland is renowned for its friendly people and outstanding visitor experiences, and we are committed to working with our industry to ensure that our giant welcome is extended to all our guests.”

The Embrace the Inclusive Spirit toolkit will be available to download from the Visit Belfast website at visitbelfastpartners.com or by calling the council’s Tourism, Culture and Arts team on 028 9027 0426.