If I was to tell you that your hotel is neglecting to appeal to a customer group that is worth £12bn pounds a year I’m sure I’d have your attention. I am of course referring to those with a disability, and this figure, (estimated by VisitEngland), represents the annual UK spend on overnight stays for disabled guests and their travel companions.
Another recent study revealed that 72% of disabled travellers found that hotels did not meet their accessibility requirements, which further demonstrates that many hotels are failing to see the benefits of providing accessibility, despite the power of the ‘purple pound’. However, by making a few simple changes to accommodate people with disabilities – most hotels will see immediate benefits.
For someone with a disability, travelling can often bring with it great stress and discomfort-
therefore it is essential that when you arrive at your hotel, your room is as accessible as possible.
Imagine after a long journey, struggling to enter your room, being unable to reach the lights, take a shower or even access the phone to request assistance. As a wheelchair user, I have checked into expensive hotel rooms, (previously advertised as accessible), only to find that the furniture deprives me of getting to half of my room- therefore I am paying for full price, for 50% of the space.
Hotels must make allowances for a wheelchair user to access all areas and features, as well as allow space for easy access through hallways and corridors. Furthermore, there should be wheelchair accessibility to other available parts of the hotel, such as the bar, the restaurant or the spa.
It is highly likely that a customer’s first experience of your hotel will involve contact with a member of your staff, so it is critical that your entire team is trained to be disability aware. A Scope survey recently revealed that 67% of the British public actually ‘feel uncomfortable’ when talking to people with disabilities and ‘awkward’ about being patronising or saying the wrong thing- so make sure all staff have a good understanding of etiquette, appropriate use of language, methods of communication, perceptions and barriers around disability.
All hotels should endeavour to make small changes, like adding clear font type and large print in all written materials. Also, have braille options available and make sure your website can be read and navigated in a number of different formats to accommodate as many different disabilities as possible.
Adding extra touches such as welcoming assistance dogs, providing TV’s that have subtitles, having a hearing loop system in the hotel, and offering access to items such as bed risers, large button phones and vibrating pillow alarms will all work wonders and allow you to be considered more accessible.
As you become more accessible- don’t forget to shout about it. Add details to your website, make it clear on your social media and let the millions of people with disabilities know that you are a fully inclusive hotel. It might be the difference between a person with a disability choosing your hotel, or a competitor’s.
Established in 2005, Enable Me is a small user led disability awareness charity that specialises in providing disability awareness enrichment days, providing information about the needs, challenges and unique life experiences of disabled people.