Accessible Tourism (AT) is an emergent sector with great economic value, the solid potential of growth and important social impact, however, largely neglected or considered a formidable challenge by both receptive structures and VET providers (European Commission’s Study on the Supply of AT (2015). Nevertheless, AT constitutes a substantial niche segment to make Europe become “No.1 Tourist Destination in the world” ( EC- COM(2010) 352), as well as a plausible development niche for small communities left outside the urbanization waves that, with their authentic cultural heritage and natural landscapes, already proves attractive to the increasing trend of back to nature ecological and original tourism.
Apart from architectural barriers, human resources still represent the biggest hurdle to successfully promote AT due to the scarcity of available VET training courses, as well as the lack of a centralized training scheme. Project RESTAT – REcognizing Skills to Transform Accessible Tourism aims to address this gap by offering a holistic, package solution to render Tourism workers and professionals competent, ready to offer diverse tailor-made services to tourists with special needs, and notably, visionary in to subsequently act as the true promoters of AT.
In doing so, RESTAT will gather a multidisciplinary partnership consisting of 06 partners from five countries under the lead of Municipality of Tusa and will develop four principal Outputs:
- A Practical Skills and Employment Context Mapping research study (IO1) to identify a set of desirable AT skills most likely to be accumulated on-the-job, plus a set of Prospective Job Mobility Opportunities for professionals with skills in AT. It will establish the compass for successive outputs.
- A Skills Endorsing Tool (IO2) to objectively evaluate, recognize and even classify the level of skills tourism workers have regarding AT through successful completion of a series of testing devices.
- An Upskilling Course (IO3) with 04 Specific Training module of intermediate level, useful for both tourism workers and managers in rendering their services more professional, well-planned, entertaining and tailor-made to different special needs.
- A Career Guidance Tool (IO4) to boost Employability and Job Mobility of Tourism Professionals point them to the most suitable career options basing on both of their validated skills and personal characteristics.
Applying a holistic approach, all four Outputs will be linked to each other in an organic manner, i.e. the development of the next Output shall depend on and continue from the findings and result of the previous one. Individually, IO1 will follow the Delphi method when conducting questionnaires, interviews and focus groups, using a panel of experts and peer-review to allow more converging final answers. IO2 will use a rich, ample battery of modular tests of various formats using interactive graphics that ensure a front-end, user-friendly experience in order to produce an objective assessment integrable to other skills passports. IO3 will employ a MOOC-like format, including multiple forms (texts, videos, webinars lectures, virtual groups, exercises, and tests) for each training module. IO4 will provide an innovative profiling software that combines skills and personality in giving the right career guidance advice. In addition, each output development will strictly follow the EQAVET circle to allow test, revision, and improvement.
Regarding Target groups of participants, RESTAT shall strive to involve the following four groups in both implementation and dissemination activities:
A – Tourism managers and VET providers aspiring to increase services and quality;
B – Tourism workers and professionals (including seasonal ones);
C – Central and Local authorities seeking strategic development options;
D – Employers, job agencies and advocacy groups.
In the long run, RESTAT aims to make AT a vibrant economic sector in smaller towns’ context with the well-prepared workforce to enforce sustainable development, responsible tourism and the social value of equal opportunity. It also aspires to contribute to Europe’s harmonization schemes for recognizing, validating and better-utilizing workers’ skills and qualifications.