The hotel industry has made progress in making its facilities open to all but could still miss out on potential business around the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to experts.
2012 Legacy for Disabled People: Inclusive and Accessible Business, newly published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Office for Disability Issues, found:
- For an average business, disabled customers may account for up to 20% of the customer base
- 32% of disabled people have difficulty accessing goods and services they want to use
The findings, which are especially relevant to the public serving hotel industry, highlighted the main reasons for disabled customers switching to a more accessible competitor, including poor customer service, inaccessible telephone systems and inaccessible printed information.
Business minister Mark Prisk said: "This report makes a clear economic case that businesses that are more accessible will be more profitable."
A British Hospitality Association spokesman said: "Hotels are very aware of the opportunities presented by this market. Many hotels have specially designed facilities (Thistle Marble Arch; Park House hotel, Sandringham), while all of them have complied, as far as they can, with the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.
"All the 1,000-plus hotels built since 2004 will have designed in accessible facilities but some of our more traditional hotels have had difficulty with full compliance because of their structure. However, it's clear that the Paralympics will provide an opportunity for all hotels to provide the right accommodation and a warm welcome to everyone."
Paul Morrison, head of Vision Hotels, which launched earlier this year, said the industry was getting there but could still do more by placing accessibility at its core. In the case of Vision the group's four hotels had previously been dedicated to people with sight loss but the company now aims to appeal to all.
"Specialist support continues to be available for our visually impaired guests, if they need it, but all who stay now share the same high quality experience. We hope this ethos of inclusion and opportunity is reflected by all hotels and guesthouses as the country gets ready to welcome the world in 2012, and leading by example, we're delighted to be advising a number of independent hoteliers on how to make their premises accessible to people with sight loss.
"Vision Hotels is run by national sight loss charity Action for Blind People, which established its holiday offering in response to a lack of accessible accommodation in the English tourism market," said Morrison.
Damian Hyndman, partner at law firm Eversheds, warned hoteliers that the Olympics would also bring issues of accessibility into sharper focus. "The Equality Act 2010, which comes into force on 1 October 2010, will further strengthen disabled people's protection from discrimination," he said.
"The aim is to make services available to everyone in the same way. That requires businesses to anticipate potential difficulties that disabled people might experience and to take steps to overcome them, as part of an ongoing process."
By Chris Druce
E-mail your comments to Caterer News here.
If you have something to say on this story or anything else join the debate at Table Talk - Caterer's new networking forum. Go to www.caterersearch.com/tabletalk
Looking for a new job? Find your next job here with Caterersearch.com jobs