Why sight guided holidays are not just for the visually impaired

MU Vienna Tourism and Service Management Researcher and Lecturer Kristof Tomej has been studying holidays offered for inclusive groups consisting of people with and without visual impairment and using the findings to propose ways of incorporating more of the non-visual experiences in the design of tourism and other services.

“Tourism services are heavily reliant on the visual sense. This may cause exclusion for many customers whose visual abilities are limited” says Kristof “the core of many tourism services have been designed with an assumption that the users perceive their environment visually”.

Through his research Kristof found that the social component of these holidays serves as a great pull for participants, and that sighted persons choose them not only for altruistic reasons but for the exceptional social bonds that develop during such trips and the exclusive “beyond visual” experiences that no mainstream packages can offer.

“For both persons with and without visual impairment, lack of companionship is a common and strong reason to choose inclusive holidays” says Kristof.

Inclusive holidays allow visually impaired participants to join a global community of tourists, without the prohibitive costs of arranging sighted carers. For people with visual impairment, inclusive holidays are a solution to a need for guiding in unknown environments, resulting in decreased anxiety and less fear of feeling patronized. However, Kristof’s research also found that “non-participants with visual impairments mentioned they did not want to participate in inclusive holidays because they did not trust the sighted guides.”

Through observations and the application of service design techniques, Kristof’s research identified several aspects where changes in the design of inclusive holidays may improve the experience of the customers. Even more importantly, insights from this unique format provide valuable information for improving services in other domains aiming to be more accessible to persons with limited sight.

For more information on this research watch Kristof’s lecture on this topic here.

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Related subjects:
BBA in Tourism Management
MSc in International Tourism Management