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  • Writer's picturePeta

The Nation-Wide Accessible Travel Agency With Travel Agency Founder Daniel Zunzunegui

Travelling with a disability can be daunting, even for a seasoned disabled traveller. This week Peta sits down with friend Daniel Zunzunegui, director and founder of Accessible Spain Travel. 

They deep dive into travelling in Spain and how you go about starting an accessible travel agency that covers an entire country. 




Connect with Peta:

Instagram: @petahooke




 

Episode Transcript:

 

Peta [00:00:02] Hello and welcome to the I Can't Stand Podcast, the podcast answering our questions about what life is like when we have a disability. My name's Peta. I have cerebral palsy and I'm your host. This week I have a very special friend on the pod, Daniel Zunzunegui.  Daniel owns an amazing, accessible travel agency over in Spain. He helped myself and my parents have an amazing holiday last year, and I really wanted him to come on the pod and explain why Spain is such an accessible place and why he does what he does. So without any further ado, I'm going to pass over to Daniel.

 

Daniel [00:00:57] My name is Daniel Zunzunegui. The director of a travel agency that I specialise in accessible travel in, in Spain called Accessible Spain. Our service, focuses in two main areas. One is providing, personalised support to people with disabilities and their companions during the, planning, booking process or the trips to Spain. And the second one is, auditing the accessibility in Spain of accommodation itineraries, around transport, museums. Which help us, personalise each trip accordingly. On the personal side, I'm 41 years old. I live in the beautiful city, Madrid, and I'm very passionate about culture, arts and travelling. Of course, I worked in the travel industry for a bit more than 15 years now.

 

Peta [00:02:05] Many people will know. Listening to this podcast, I went to Spain earlier this year and it's no coincidence that you're on the pod here today. Daniel. You were the reason why the trip went so well. You helped my parents and I travel through Spain, so I might be biased, but I can attest to everybody listening that Daniel really knows his stuff. He knows what he's doing. We had a fabulous trip. So while everybody listening is probably like, this is a really random episode, it's not. It's because I really wanted to promote your work and, talk about accessible travel because I also have a degree in it. So it's a real passion of mine, too. So why did you start Accessible Spain travel?

 

Daniel [00:02:56] Thank you. Peta. Well, I always been, moved by some different social or, environmental issues that were related to improving people's lives. It's always something that I always search for in my professional on my personal life. It's something that. I think it goes with me and in a strong way. One of the things I got involved with was, volunteering, for an association in, in Barcelona called,  This is an association that works to help with promoting the well-being and autonomy and and social inclusion of people with disabilities. One of their initiatives was organising weekend stays outside Barcelona, on which I started participating as volunteer. These trips were very, very mind opening experience for me because I got to understand, many things that. I did not before. Such as, the barriers and difficulties that exist when when having a, a disability. But it also showed me how, travelling brought a lot of joy and, to to to everyone that participated. On the other hand, one of my favourite things in life has been, showing, the place I live. Showing Spain, to friends and the type of person who, enjoys, being the, the host and get people to try typical foods and get them to know, old traditions and things that, only Spanish people do. Accessible Spain is kind of a mix of these two motivations. This is what made the I think this is what made the company what it is today, which is which has the the mission to make travelling in Spain, accessible for everyone. So, so it can be enjoyed by everyone.

 

Peta [00:05:34] You said a lot of your understanding of people with disabilities came from volunteering with the association. There's a lot to travelling with disability, as you now know. It's very complicated. How did you work towards having that knowledge and being able to help people with disabilities? Because even though I have a disability, I don't think my knowledge would be deep enough to be able to help all sorts of people with different disabilities. So how did you go about learning about what each person might need?

 

Daniel [00:06:14] And exactly. Yeah. I first gain knowledge, like practical knowledge through volunteering but afterwards, it was through, researching and also did  training. One of my most important teaching has been through customers. My customer. It's, is really broad. We have many, many, many different families and customers. Individuals, couples. And these are seniors. Younger families, young people. It's people who normally has never been to Spain.

 

Peta [00:06:59] And you find that a lot of them have physical disabilities, like are they mainly in wheelchairs, or do you also have people who are vision impaired or blind or hearing impaired?

 

Daniel [00:07:12] Most, had a physical disability. We have not, really catered yet. Customers with visual or hearing impairments. Cognitive impairments. This is something that we are at the moment, working to develop.

 

Peta [00:07:34] So when you did start the business, you said before you're passionate about where you live Madrid. So with that, where you initially started your services like. Spain is a big country. How do you go about being able to provide so many good quality services in so many different places? Where do you begin?

 

Daniel [00:07:57] This is actually one of the main challenges at the beginning. We grew organically bootstrapping and and with zero investment. So it's something that it requires travelling and in time of course. I'm very happy that at this point, we have more than 30 destinations. All these destinations have accessible ground transport. Central hotels, apartments, equipment, rental .aassistance, Ada assistance. We have itineraries. It's been a it's been it's been quite, an effort to, to set agreements and audit in, at these different destinations. But as I said, we're very happy now to have so many and so many things to to offer in Spain.

 

Peta [00:09:09] Of course you love your country, but you've also travelled quite a lot to different countries around the world, so you'd now have a perspective of how accessible Spain is like. It's extremely accessible. It wins awards for its accessibility. Why do you think disability is so widely accepted in Spanish culture?

 

Daniel [00:09:35] Well, the, there has been great progress. Especially from, from the mid, last century and mainly, pushed by the National Association of the blind in, in Spain. But I will say it is still a long way to go. In terms of, social inclusion, to a workplace and so on.

 

Peta [00:10:08] Yeah, that's very similar to Australia, where I would say we're not quite as accessible as Spain, although I might just be being hard on my country. We struggle with employment. It's very hard for people with disabilities to get higher education and just simply have the same opportunities as non-disabled people. So yes, there's certainly a long way to go. How common is it to have a disability in Spain? So in Australia, 1 in 5 people have a disability. Do you know how many people have a disability in Spain?

 

Daniel [00:10:48] It's it's about 9% of the population.

 

Peta [00:10:52] I just wondered because, we're 20%. So there's a lot of disabled people in Australia. And considering how many of us there are. I'm surprised by how inaccessible Australia is compared to Spain.

 

Daniel [00:11:11] Sorry. I just look it up and it's about almost 3 million and that's, almost 7%, 7% of the population.

 

Peta [00:11:21] Yeah. Very small. Okay. For anybody listening that thinks, I really want to go to Spain, or I want to go on my first overseas trip. What advice do you have for someone that might be scared or hesitant?

 

Daniel [00:11:37] Talking to others that has, visited Spain is always a great help for their experience through their knowledge and, through their feedback. And in a way that they can find out, what is very important for them. In order to, for them to travel comfortably and and safely and and feel comfortable. I would encourage people to visit Spain because. I will say that things are set in a way that it's very easy to the visit Spain and and things like ground transport. There are many accessible, taxi minivans that have wheelchair ramp and. Society is familiar with assisting people with disabilities when in this within the city and accessing places like restaurants, bars. There is a long way for. Places to become fully accessible. But I would say the Spain is a very friendly place, welcoming.

 

Peta [00:13:00] And by no means like I'm only one person. But I have done a special episode about where I went on my trip, so I will link that in the description if anybody wants to hear, all the amazing things that, we did while we were away, that's there for you to listen to. There are so many resources out there now, particularly with things like Instagram and TikTok, that you can learn and be exposed to, to find the information because it can be quite daunting. It is, as we keep saying, it is very worth it. My last question, Daniel, you were talking about things still need to be improved, which of course I do. Things can always be improved when it comes to travel and tourism. What are the things you hope The industry will look like in the future?

 

Daniel [00:13:58] Well, definitely air travel. Now we're looking at, the prototypes of, planes, in the US that eventually would be mandatory to have, adapted toilets and easier ways to embark and disembark the plane. I think that's crucial. The assistance other airports in Spain think can be better. I know there has been, Greece an investment for it. Nature. Rural areas, need better improvement. Of course, these are, more challenging, but we have to look at the great, the success stories in many different natural parks and rural areas, which I think. Said the past two to follow, two to many others. Then outside the metro underground. That can, improve as well. The maintenance of, public lifts, entrance to shops. Those. Those are the ones that come to my mind, Peter.

 

Peta [00:15:26] Well, thank you so much for talking to me today, Daniel. It's been such a pleasure. Anytime I get to talk about Spain and travel, I'm a happy person and it's been lovely to see you again.

 

Daniel [00:15:38] It's so nice to be on your podcast. Thank you. Really, it's always, really nice talking to you. And sorry for my English. I hope, you got to understand everything I try to say.

 

Peta [00:15:57] Thank you for listening to this week's episode. I hope you enjoyed it. And thank you, Daniel, for coming on the podcast. If you did enjoy the podcast, please write and review the show on Spotify or Apple. Share the show with a friend. And don't forget you can always follow me and my future travel plans over on Instagram. My handle is at Peter Hook. Thanks again for listening. And until next week. Bye. I would like to respectfully acknowledge the  Bunurong and Wurundjeri people of the island nation, of which I record the podcast today. And I pay my respects to both elders, past and present, along with and especially to those in the First Nations communities who are disabled themselves.

 

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