It is a boom time for the hospitality sector.

For the first time during 2012, Dubai played host to more than 10 million international visitors, and Dubai’s hotels reaped a bumper Dhs18.82bn (US$5.12bn) in revenues. In November 2012, year-to-date occupancy of 80% was up 2% on 2011 according to Ernst & Young’s 2012 Middle East Hotel Benchmark Survey. Dubai’s 2020 vision is to welcome 25 million tourists.

Abu Dhabi has recorded similarly buoyant figures with 2012 another record year according to the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), which revealed that in 2012 it welcomed 2.3 million hotel guests to the emirate’s hotels and hotel apartments, representing a 13% rise on 2011 figures. Hotel revenues for the same period also increased by 6% to US$ 1.261 billion.

Business Monitor International puts UAE tourism sector growth at 6.5% per annum between 2011-2021, with visitors from the Middle East, Europe and Asia Pacific the key source markets. Employment growth prospects for the sector are also buoyant, with a forecast annual real growth rate of around 4.1%. Hotel supply is also expected to increase from the current 96,992 hotel rooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to a total of 125,383 hotel rooms in 2016.

In November 2013 it was announced that Dubai was to host Expo 2020. Figures from Dubai authorities estimate that winning the rights to host Expo 2020 will create a staggering 111,000 new jobs in the hotel and restaurant sectors.

All of this adds up many more people coming to the area for work and pleasure. The sector needs to be ready if it is to meet the special requirements of visitors with disabilities.

All public places should be designed so that all members of society can access them. Accessible and disabled friendly environments are essential if people with disabilities are to be included within the wider community. In order to allow disabled people equality of access to employment, offices and workplaces should also take account of their needs.

Ebdaah provides training in disability awareness for staff, support to implement change programmes to become more disabled-friendly, and advice from highly experienced staff about accessibility and design.