The hotel sector is constantly undergoing changes due to the trends and interests of the population. That’s why hoteliers must seek specialization and focus their efforts on trying to offer a differential treatment to each of their guests.
However, despite the growth of the old population and the high percentage of people worldwide with disabilities, information and accessibility in hotels is still scarce, creating a problem for travelers with special needs such as a pregnant person or a person who needs a wheelchair.
Hotels spend so much time designing unique and personalized experiences, and most of them are carried out in the same hotel facilities. Some examples include:
- Romantic Spa & Relax
- Suite Room, Jacuzzi & Champagne
- Special Dinner with a Chef’s Menu
The common point of these experiences is the accessibility of the hotel. Is the swimming pool infrastructure accessible? Does the restaurant have a menu for celiacs? Does the Suite room have an adapted jacuzzi?
If most of the answers are no, then the hotel is not inclusive and neither are the experiences. Incorporating such measures will allow hotels to attract more guests and likewise guests will choose that hotel over others.
An inclusive experience is given in those hotels that provide Smart Accessibility, offer an Accessible Environment, and there is active Involvement by all the hotel staff. At the end of the day, guests only need to worry about Remembering the experiences lived throughout the day and being able to Share their happy moments with friends and family on social media.“Containers of Experiences and Inclusive Tourism” (Nonay, 2012)
In order to understand better what is an inclusive experience we will focus on its 5 keys:
1. Smart Accessibility
This concept refers to the reuse of resources and making sure accessible rooms are the most desired by any customer. For instance, many adapted rooms are located on the ground floor, not allowing users with disabilities to enjoy the views from the property.
All rooms should be accessible, comfortable and visually equal for every guest. An inclusive room is not a different room, is an improved space for everyone. A grab bar designed for people with motor disabilities, will instinctively be used for everyone to lean on while showering.
2. Accessible Environment
The importance of an accessible environment both outside and inside the hotel and having an inclusive environment will facilitate the customer experience. Adapting swimming pools, constructing ramps instead of stairs or even visual alarms will make a huge difference for the client.
It is essential to add extra value to the experience. Based on the involvement and contributions of the hotel staff, the customers will achieve “social accessibility“, feeling like at home .
Staff training is important to help workers know how to act and feel safe and secure in a situation with a disabled client. It is important, for example, that the receptionist understands the situation and identifies the type of disability, as there are some that are invisible and difficult to detect.
With a good training, the staff will know how to act in the different possible situations and therefore there would be no difference in treatment between a regular person with a disabled one.
One of the most important sensations within the experience is to remember all the moments and experiences that can be lived in the destination. Once you arrive at a hotel it is essential that the client is completely comfortable while having breakfast or showering, without worries such as not being able to reach the towel or not being able to look in the mirror because it is very tall.
“Sharing is caring”, so it is essential to incorporate accessible events and facilitating social interaction. For example, adding an accessibility software to hotel’s computers will allow visually impaired people to browse the internet easily and share their stories.
This leads to customer loyalty. Depending on the experience, guests can leave with a negative image that can affect the hotel. Thanks to little improvements, clients will have a more positive opinion and consequently they will share their experiences and recommend the hotel to their closest ones.
By including inclusive experiences and focusing on these 5 keys, hotels can exploit a market niche and obtain a competitive advantage with regards to others that haven’t opted to work on inclusivity and accessibility.
Finally, hoteliers must make sure that the level of accessibility offered is well marketed and customers could have prior knowledge of their facilities and different special services. Only that way they could stand out from the crowd.
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