Sponsored by C.P. Hart
2014 Winner: Park Plaza Westminster Bridge
Recognising that 27% of the UK population has an impairment of some kind, the team at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge set about ensuring that it could meet the needs of this growing market. It looked at all aspects of the hotel's operation to meet, and often exceed, the expectations of guests with disabilities. Starting with the website, the team detailed the hotel's accessible features and ensured that those using talking browsers, text browsers, screen readers or small devices were able to use it successfully. When guests book, they are asked whether they have any special needs.
Throughout the guest journey, measures are in place to make sure that all their needs are catered for, whatever their requirements. The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge has stepfree access, tactile paving and electronic doors, and check-in areas feature induction loops and low desks for wheelchair users. The hotel has 54 accessible rooms, with doors that open fully against the adjacent wall, and lighting controlled from the bedside table. Meanwhile, the rooms have strobe lighting in the event of an emergency and vibrating pillows are available on request.
These initiatives are all worthy, but Park Plaza Westminster Bridge has also made a clear business case for them. It has seen a 7.6% rise in occupancy since launching these initiatives in 2012 and attracted some significant events. One weekend event held at the hotel to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Thalidomide tragedy alone was valued at over £79,000, while a Welcome for the Team GB Paralympics brought in around £143,000.
What the judges said
"The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge entry was both substantive and impressive. Accessibility is clearly an integral part of how the business is managed; its 550+ staff are trained and customer needs are met. Meanwhile, the personal evacuation plans developed for all its guests with disabilities exemplify best practice."
"The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge provides an extraordinarily high number of accessible rooms. It has recognised that being accessible is a great marketing tool and has secured major contracts because of it. On a personal note it is the only hotel I have stayed at that provided a special area for my assistance dog. But what came through more than just the physical alterations was the hotel's awareness of the needs of disabled guests and recognition that disabled people can make great employees."
"It has clearly demonstrated a commitment to accessibility with knowledge of the market value and the opportunities it presents, and has recognised that staff training, awareness and service are as important as physical access."
"It is a very welcoming hotel for people with disabilities and this is due to its ongoing investment in training, which covers all departments. It ensures all guests complete a personal emergency evacuation plan, which very few hotels do, and this gives disabled guests a much greater feeling of safety. And the hotel employs staff with disabilities, which is a great example for the whole industry."
Jurys Inn Brighton
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London
Managing director, HALM
Helen Dolphin Director of policy & campaigns, Disabled Motoring UK
Arnold Fewell Managing director, AVF Marketing
Anna Glazebrook Marketing manager One Great George Street
Sales & marketing director, Chewton Glen hotel and spa
Carrie-Ann Lightley Information service manager, Tourism for All UK
Michael McGrath Director, MMMS
Brian Seaman Access advisor, Access New Business