Honoured in July with the Accessibility Award at the 2019 Cateys, the management team at London's Royal Lancaster Hotel have been praised for their forward-thinking approach when it comes to accessible design. We spoke with project communications manager Patrick Sheehan to find out more about how the hotel ensures all customers are welcome through its doors
First of all, congratulations! Has the 2019 Catey win sunk in yet?
Both I and our general manager Sally Beck were delighted, and honestly quite surprised, to win the Accessibility Award. We believed we had only just begun taking accessibility steps but on reflection we have achieved quite a lot in a short space of time.
What are the key achievements?
I would give Sally particular credit here, as without her foresight and business acumen we would not have been able to push for the accessible facilities we have now via a series of renovations.
How have guests responded?
In August alone we had the pleasure of welcoming six separate wheelchair users and their families. All had a comfortable stay and gave extremely positive feedback on our rooms and facilities – particularly for the fittings and the cleanliness of the rooms.
What are the hotel's next steps?
We pride ourselves on being a learning organisation. We have been fortunate in having the services of Caroline: a tetraplegic customer, who, as she herself puts it, is just about the ultimate accessibility mystery shopper!
Has she been road-testing the new facilities?
Considerable research was carried out in advance, but welcoming Caroline helped us consider every aspect. It gave us a bird's eye view, right from the reservations stage to arrival, check-in, rooming, employee behaviour, transport challenges, special equipment, health and safety, and enjoyment of the hotel's F&B outlets, with flexible and inclusive dining.
Have you changed anything on Caroline's recommendation?
We implemented practical fixes such as door stoppers with handles for wheelchair users, as well as arranged for specialist taxis and clinical waste disposal. Awareness has been raised and new standards set across the business – everything from streamlining reservations to more efficient service, and ways to heighten guest and staff comfort. We also have spacious lifts, which addresses a common issue for disabled guests.
How would you characterise the hotel's approach to accessibility?
We are open, proactive and dynamic, and welcome and act on feedback. We are also hoping to resume our accessibility training connections with Access Champ, founded by the late Arnold Fewell. We are working with Caroline to continue road-testing our services and facilities.
Why do you do it?
Aside from the legal aspect and that feeling of making our guests happy, our general manager Sally routinely emphasises that the business element is a no-brainer. None of us is getting any younger, and there will always be accessible travellers who want to stay in hotels and can afford the best. Those guests need to know they are cared about, as well as being confident that their stay will be as enjoyable as everyone else's.
● The Accessibility Catey is sponsored by Blue Badge Access Awards, which takes place on 7 October at the Langham, London
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