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Christchurch Stands to Reap Massive Economic Benefit From Rebuilding Accessible City With Eye to Tourism

Dwayne Alexander, Alexander Communications 13 May 2014

One of New Zealand's foremost accessibility experts says Christchurch has the opportunity to be a world leader in accessibility and reap the financial and social rewards associated with making the city fully accessible to residents and visitors.

Platinum members of the Christchurch Chamber of Commerce will learn how Christchurch can become the world's most accessible city when John Allen and Minnie Baragwanath, chairman and CEO respectively of the social enterprise Be. Institute, speak to them later this month about why the promotion of accessibility is a sound commercial strategy.

Ms Baragwanath says Christchurch and the greater Canterbury region stand to benefit from rebuilding with an eye to the 'yellow dollar' – the enormous financial gains associated with making a city accessible to all. Factors that need to be considered when creating an accessible city include aging, pregnancy and travel in a city with prams, sight and hearing impairments, injury and paralysis, and mental and physical illness.

"If accessibility is incorporated into Christchurch's rebuild, the city stands to reap the benefits of increased tourism from the access sector while improving the quality of life for residents with access needs. Research has indicated that building a world-class accessible city could lead to an economic gain for Christchurch in the billions of dollars."

In general, the access market is predicted to represent 25% of total global tourism spend by 2050.[1] The New Zealand tourism sector is a $24 billion industry (2013), with almost 20,000 FTE jobs. Total expenditure by international visitors is $9.778 billion. [2]

This view is shared by John Allen, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive and secretary, who will speak about how the provision of accessibility in the workforce can provide economic and social benefits for the corporate sector and wider community.

Nearly 5.5 million passengers travelled in and out of Christchurch Airport in 2012.[3] This number is expected to rise, in part due to the city's promotion as a tourist destination in international publications. Lonely Planet listed Christchurch as one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2013, and this year the city was ranked second on the New York Times' list of '52 Places to Go in 2014'.

In Australia, 4.2 million people with a disability spend more than AU$4.8 billion on tourism and hospitality annually. It has been suggested this figure could be extrapolated for New Zealand, given the value of tourism in our economy and that 20% of people in our major international tourism markets report a disability. Researchers Shelton and Tucker (2005) argue that if 20% of New Zealand's four million population are disabled, then a domestic disabled travel market of 80,000 would be generated.[4]

During her university study Ms Baragwanath used technology created by the Christchurch-based company Humanware, a top exporter that employs a number of blind people in its design team. The Humanware technology is designed for blind and vision-impaired users around the world, and Ms Baragwanath credits it with enabling her to get an education, which made her employment possible.

"My degree led to a job working for a TV programme about disability in the 1990s, which took me to New York, where I interviewed John Hockenbury, one of the top TV journalists in the US. He is paraplegic and said the first time in his life that he did not feel disabled was when reporting in third-world countries, where the infrastructure doesn’t work for anyone, so he was no worse off than anyone else.

"My sense is that since the disaster, all Cantabrians have had the experience of living in a city that disables them. Footpaths aren't easy, building entrances don’t work, there is a lack of reliable information, it's hard to get back to work or continue education uninterrupted."

To examine the value of accessible tourism to the New Zealand economy, Ms Baragwanath has partnered with accessible tourism researchers at the University of Waikato, Professor Alison McIntosh and Dr Cheryl Cockburn-Wootten, to commence a number of important research and community initiatives. Working with industry, community and government, they hope to initiate and facilitate an accessible tourism strategy for New Zealand and show that the market is not small and inconsequential.

Professor McIntosh and Dr Cockburn-Wootten, co-founders of the Waikato Management School's Network for Community Hospitality, have facilitated a number of collaborative student research projects around accessibility, tourism and employment. The university students have found the work around accessibility inspiring, prompting them to volunteer for a number of other events organised by Be. The students report that they have enjoyed making the theory and content of their coursework applicable to make a difference to their communities.

Some organisations have also been quick to realise the potential of making their businesses accessible for employees and customers by participating in the Be. Welcome programme, which assesses and supports businesses through the process of becoming accessible, and links the assessments and reports online for accessibility users seeking to engage with businesses relevant to their impairment and location.

A number of tourism operators and organisations have started the Be. Welcome programme, including Christchurch Airport, which serves more than one million access customers of a total 5.5 million customers a year.

Ms Baragwanath believes making Christchurch an accessible city will not only increase tourism, it will create economic benefit through greater inclusion in the workforce.

Approximately 20% of people in Canterbury live with a disability and more than 60% of New Zealanders with a disability are unemployed, compared with the New Zealand average of 6.2%. Research shows that more than 186,340 New Zealanders with a disability[5] could be working now but are being inhibited by employers' lack of readiness. Overall, the workforce exclusion cost of inaccessibility is estimated to be $11.7 billion.

Ms Baragwanath says she is pleased to have the opportunity to speak to business leaders in Christchurch and hopes those in charge of the redevelopment of the city will prioritise access for all in this unprecedented opportunity to create the world’s most accessible city.

Fact Sheet

  • The Be. Institute was founded in 2011 through a partnership between the Auckland Council, the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the Auckland District Health Board and is now an independent social enterprise operating nationwide;
  • Its purpose is to both inspire and enable accessibility through innovation and leadership;
  • The problem New Zealand faces is that 20% of the population doesn’t get full access to society, and even if employment is possible, people with disabilities earn less on average that those without;
  • Founding trustees of the Be. Institute include John Allen (CEO of MFAT and Chair of the former Employers Disability Network) and Mark Bagshaw, and the chief executive and founder is Minnie Baragwanath;
  • There are three interdependent pillars – social, physical and personal – necessary for a truly accessible society;
  • The Be. Institute's philosophy is around inclusion – everyone is welcome to participate and contribute – and the principle that in order to create a world in which we can all Be., we need to think about our expectations of disabled people, and consider the value of disabled people as leaders and not just recipients of charity;
  • The Be. Institute has coined a new term – the 'Access Customer/Citizen/Employee' – which may include any of the following:
    • An older person with less than optimal mobility
    • A parent pushing a stroller, or a heavily pregnant woman
    • Someone with a hearing or vision impairment
    • A person with a mental health impairment
    • A person who uses a wheelchair
  • The Earthquake Disability Leadership Group (EDLG) last year launched a petition to request that the Government urgently take all appropriate measures, including changes to the building code, to ensure full access to public and commercial buildings for disabled people as part of the Christchurch rebuild. The ELDG's goal is to make accessibility a best practice goal, not just a minimum compliance issue;
  • Between 660,000 and 730,000 people in New Zealand have a disability, and a total of 20% of Kiwis report a disability;
  • Half of people 65+ have a disability, and by 2030 25% of Kiwis will be aged 65+;
  • The limited accessibility for people with a disability means that 20% of Kiwis are excluded from fully participating in everyday activities;
  • With improved accessibility, businesses could increase by 20% more customers;
  • Sign language is the third official language of New Zealand;
  • Access Tourism – in Australia, 4.2 million people with a disability spend more than AU$4.8 billion every year on tourism and hospitality alone. Although a similar study has not been conducted in New Zealand, it can be estimated that the spending would be relative to our country's size;
  • According to Lonely Planet, 50% of disabled people would travel if they could be sure of accessible facilities (Mayland, 2014);
  • According to a UN project, by 2025, 14% of the Asia-Pacific region’s population will be 60+ and the region will house 56% of the world’s elderly (APEC, 2003);
  • The population of 60+ years in OECD countries accounts for 20% of the population, 50% of discretionary spending, and 75% of assets (Rhodda, 2010);
  • The access market is predicted to represent 25% of total global tourism spend by 2050 (Forrester, 2014);
  • An expected multiplier of two is given to travel companions and travel frequency (Buhalis et al, 2005);
  • The global accessible tourism market is said to account for 2.2 billion people, inclusive of travel companions, and controlling a global annual disposable income of $8 trillion (Visit Scotland, 2013);
  • The benefits Christchurch businesses will accrue from enhanced accessibility provision are: greater returns on investment; higher occupancy; expansion and diversification of clientele; increase sales and profitability; a loyal, repeat customer base; competitive advantage; enhance business quality; off-peak and midweek travel traffic; longer staying customers; increased market share; greater sustainability (Ambrose et al, 2012; Buhalis et al, 2005; Darcy et al, 2010; Rhodda, 2014; Visit England, 2013; Visit Scotland, 2013);
  • Auckland, Queenstown and Christchurch are New Zealand's most visited places for international tourists (Tourism New Zealand, 2014).

Other sources:

Statistics New Zealand, 2006
Office for Disability, 2008
Be.ready – The toolkit for business
Innov8 Consulting Group Disability Statistics Chart

For more information:

Dwayne Alexander
Alexander Communications
+64 (0)21 324 463
dwayne@alexandercomms.co.nz


About Be. Accessible

Imagine a world where every building and community is truly accessible and where every person can simply Be. That world is what Be. Accessible has set out to create. Be. Accessible is a social change initiative and a holistic framework for accessibility with a mission to create a truly accessible country for us all.

Be. Accessible is managed by the Be. Institute, a social enterprise that works across all sectors and communities throughout New Zealand.

The Be. Institute was founded in May 2011 by Auckland Council, Auckland University of Technology and Auckland District Health. Its founding trustees include John Allen (CEO, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade), Mark Bagshaw (Managing Director, Innov8 Consulting Group), Ross Brereton (former CEO, the Disabled Persons Assembly of NZ) and Mary-Jane Rivers (Founder, Inspiring Communities).

The Be. Accessible mission is to inspire and enable New Zealanders to improve physical, personal and social aspects of accessibility so that we may all contribute fully to society. To achieve this, Be. Accessible has developed the following programmes of work:

  • Be. Welcome is a holistic accessibility programme that works with businesses and organisations, big or small, as they journey towards greater accessibility. Businesses engaged in the Be. Welcome Programme are assessed using the holistic assessment tool, which caters to a range of access needs. The results of this assessment are then placed on the Be. Accessible website for access customers so that they can make informed decisions about where to shop, travel and play.
  • Be. Employed is a dynamic programme that supports businesses and employers to embrace and facilitate accessibility, opening up employment opportunities to be fully accessible to all members of our communities.
  • Be. Leadership is a unique 12-month programme dedicated to the development of people with access needs. This programme engages up to twenty participants a year in a process of deep learning about leadership that is unique to people with access needs so that they are empowered to step up to leadership roles in their communities.
  • The Be. brand and campaign is a platform of story telling and communication with the goal to inspire, educate and build a community of interest across New Zealand that is bound by the common goal to shift attitudes and behaviours towards people with access needs.

Be. Accessible is led by Chief Executive, Minnie Baragwanath who works with a highly specialised team of people based in Auckland and Wellington.



[1] Forrester, 2014.

[2] MBIE, 2013.

[3] Christchurch International Airport Ltd, 2012.

[4] As cited in Buhalis, et al, 2005.

[5] The New Economic Value Generator, 2012

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