Red Sea Looks to Make its Diving Centers Disability-Friendly



red sea accessibility

Skift Take

Red Sea is being built from the ground up as an accessible tourism destination.

Saudi Arabia’s luxury Red Sea destination has been certified as disability-friendly for its two diving centers – making it the first project in the country to be recognized as such.

Officiated by PADI, the certification confirms that all aspects of diving rules, including infrastructure, logistics, communication methods, training and safety measures, are designed to be inclusive and appropriate for all divers, and all areas are accessible for wheelchair users, including the diving area and any boats used for diving experiences.

According to a European Network for Accessible Tourism estimate, the global economy loses $150 billion each year by not catering for potential travelers with disabilities.

The World Health Organization estimates 1.3 billion people — or 16% of the global population — experience a significant disability today. This number is growing because of an increase in noncommunicable diseases and people living longer. 

Red Sea’s Accessibility Efforts

Many of Red Sea Global’s accessibility efforts are led by Rosanna Chopra, the developer’s executive director of destination development. She is running a whole new function called “Project Aurelia” in Red Sea to ensure it is one of the most inclusive destinations in the world.

At the Skift India Summit 2024, she said: “Red Sea is starting from the beginning in so many ways, a blank canvas. We’re looking at ways to leave a destination in a better state than we found it. Historically, sustainability hasn’t addressed people and communities. We are really looking to people and planet.”

“The actual size of the accessible tourism industry will reach $88 billion by 2025. So whether this is a moral, ethical and humane commitment, or whether it’s just commercial good sense, it must be done.”

Red Sea Global requires all its employees, consultants and partners to follow the UN-backed standard, ISO 21902 – Accessible Tourism for All, throughout their work.

ISO 21902 does not only on disabilities to do with mobility or wheelchair use; it lays out operating procedures for those with hearing issues, sight impairments, autism, chronic pain, and other conditions.

Chopra added: “We are thinking of all people. We’re not looking at accessibility just in terms of disability, but also the [opportunities] in multi-generational travel. We are a developer, so we can challenge the architects, the engineers from the start to insist we adhere to the ISO [21902] guidelines.”

“We don’t put forward a plan unless it adheres to those guidelines.”

At Skift Global Forum East 2022, disability rights activist Tanzila Khan called for an end to “disability tax” in travel.



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