In recent years there has been a great focus on physically facilitating for individuals with disabilities. This includes making it easier to use tracks in the forest and fishing places. The University College of Southeast Norway now wants to take this one step further. With the associate professor at the School of Business and Department of Business and IT, Ingeborg Nordbø in the lead, USN is participating in a working group that has received a support grant of NOK 2.2 million from The Research Council of Norway.
"There are lots of things that have been facilitated in tourism, but only a small amount has been communicated to our visitors. One part of the project “Experiences for everyone” will be about making this happen. It is important that tourism gets a system in place to convey this message to those of our visitors who require more detailed information when they are planning where to travel", says Nordbø.
Tourism is changing because of the many technological changes and changes in the age groups wishing to travel. We have large groups of active older individuals who wish to experience adventure and excitement, but there is a link between age and increasing disability. Hearing and vision, for example, are things that alter with age. Allergy is also a problem, which can cause travellers to hesitate.
"The Culinary Academy, NCE Tourism, Vest-Agder County Council and Nordland Research Institute are also participating in “Experiences for everyone”. The geographical spectrum is wide ranging and the solutions can be used all over the country. We are a coordinated working group. Which is important in a process like this. The idea is to include companies and users in order to find good solutions", says Nordbø.
Although there is a limit to what the working group can achieve during the project period, they have clear targets for what can help Norway to become a competitive travel destination. It is, among other things, about understanding what influences the choices visitors who require more facilities make, and what needs to happen to optimise the experience.
"One of the pilot projects will be to ensure that everything that is already in place in terms of facilitation and facilitated products is made visible and accessible", says Nordbø.
"A disability can be a variety of things. We will be examining how new technology can contribute to tourism becoming part of making a more generous and inclusive society", says Nordbø.
She tells us that greater facilitation for the senses of smell and touch, for example, will enhance the experience for individuals with or without disabilities. “Experiences for everyone” must be about identifying the critical barriers that prevent seamless travel by using design thinking methodology. The project will, in collaboration with companies and some of the major tourism clusters, test one or more pilots, for one or more types of disability. The testing will generate new knowledge, practical models and solutions that can be transferred to other companies within tourism. The project links together technology, culture and industry with public management and NCE tourism and research institutions in order to provide access to tourism for new target groups, extend the season and contribute to employment all year round. Tourism for everyone will provide an infectious effect for other target groups, and will contribute to a brand building of Norway as an inclusive and sustainable tourism destination.
"It is important to include companies and the industry in this dialogue. From USN it is the research group; “Sustainable tourism” that is participating”, says Nordbø.
Several companies have been contacted and they have confirmed their willingness to participate.