Thursday, March 13, 2014

Building Hotel Brand Loyalty -The Special Needs Traveler

Anyone who has special needs or is close to someone with special needs knows how challenging travel can be. The parents of an autistic child, the wife of a man with Alzheimer’s disease, the person who is wheelchair bound. These are just some examples of people who deserve to travel and go on vacation as much as anyone else, but often find the process of traveling more difficult than the reward. Hotels, like all businesses, must follow the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but there is so much more hotels can do to earn the loyalty of the special needs traveler.

Parents of children with autism have difficulty just relaxing at all when they take their child into the unfamiliar surroundings of a hotel. Thankfully some hotels have made progress in providing a safe and comfortable environment for both child and parents. The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities is now giving autism friendly ratings to hotels that train their staffs to be sensitive to the needs of people with autism, in addition to other special needs. There are a number of hotels going a step further by offering safety door alarms and padding for furniture corners. These come in a safety kit available to special needs travelers upon request. These safety measures, like door alarms, can benefit other types of special needs travelers as well, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The ADA offers broad descriptions of its requirements, some of which are open to interpretation. Hotels can, particularly during building or remodeling, go above and beyond the law to create hotel facilities that truly make the special needs traveler feel at home. For wheelchair and easy walking access here are some guidelines:


  • Lobby check-in desks have some space low enough for a wheelchair bound guest to be fully accommodated.


  • Guest rooms should be large enough for easy wheelchair access, with beds at the height, television controls and desks easily accessible. All bathroom fixtures must be easily reached with a fully accessible shower on a level floor.


  • All hotel elevators should have controls that can be reached easily. Level floor upon entry and exit of elevators.


Hotels should welcome the special needs traveler with the same level of care and quality of service and accommodation that they would any other hotel guest. To gain their trust and repeated hotel bookings, requires stepping beyond what is mandated by law and doing the right thing.


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