Travel in­dus­try misses large chunk of business

Travel Digest - - NEWS - — Lor­raine Thom­son

Ho­tels, air­lines and tour op­er­a­tors in New Zealand are miss­ing out on 25 per cent of business by not ac­com­mo­dat­ing for spe­cial ac­ces­si­bil­ity needs. Ac­ces­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion Be In­sti­tute chief ex­ec­u­tive Min­nie Barag­wanath said in ad­di­tion to the 25 per cent of New Zealan­ders who iden­tify with hav­ing a dis­abil­ity, baby boomers ( the fastest grow­ing pop­u­la­tion in the coun­try) who have at least one im­pair­ment over the age of 65 years, are also not be­ing ac­com­mo­dated for. “Peo­ple with ac­cess needs tend to travel for longer pe­ri­ods of time, are loyal cus­tomers and travel with an av­er­age of three to four com­pan­ions,” she said. “It is es­ti­mated that be­ing ac­ces­si­ble could im­prove a business’ cus­tomer base and turnover by be­tween 20 to 30 per cent.” There are two main ho­tels that al­ready meet ac­ces­si­bil­ity needs in New Zealand – the CQ Ho­tel in Wellington and the Sudima Ho­tel chain across the coun­try. Both ho­tels have im­ple­mented a range of ac­cess fea­tures to warmly wel­come all guests with any kind of dis­abil­ity. The CQ Ho­tel in Wellington has ac­ces­si­ble fea­tures such as a lower check- in desk, an ac­ces­si­ble car park and ramp, nine ac­ces­si­ble rooms, front­line staff who are trained in New Zealand sign lan­guage and ac­ces­si­ble bath­rooms. The Sudima Ho­tel group of­fer fea­tures such as a low­ered desk at re­cep­tion and an ac­ces­si­ble shut­tle ser­vice be­tween the air­port and ho­tel. “For ho­tels, it is im­por­tant they com­mu­ni­cate their ac­cess fea­tures via their web­site. When a ho­tel goes through an ac­ces­si­bil­ity as­sess­ment through Be In­sti­tute, they cap­ture all of their in­for­ma­tion, which the ho­tels and cus­tomers can draw on.” More than 200 tourism busi­nesses through­out New Zealand have the Be Ac­ces­si­ble grad­ing sys­tem. “We have al­ready started to work with a hand­ful of Aus­tralian pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor or­gan­i­sa­tions. So, the ex­ten­sion of Be Ac­ces­si­ble into Aus­tralia is al­ready un­der­way. We plan to work on that over the next 12 months, but of course re­main open to work­ing in other coun­tries as the op­por­tu­ni­ties arise. At Be, the sky is the limit,” said Ms Barag­wanath. Air­lines can think about the end- to- end cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence too – con­sid­er­ing cus­toms, se­cu­rity, filling out board­ing cards and bag­gage. “It is im­por­tant that air­lines don’t as­sume that ac­ces­si­bil­ity is al­ways about mo­bil­ity, but also visual and hear­ing im­pair­ments, learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and el­derly peo­ple with im­pair­ments. We all have dif­fer­ent ac­cess needs; so one rule does not ap­ply to all peo­ple. Air­lines can think about who all of their cus­tomers may be.” Travel agents can con­sider the en­tire end- to- end ex­pe­ri­ence as well. It is not just about book­ing an ac­ces­si­ble room, for ex­am­ple. The whole chain/ cus­tomer jour­ney must be con­sid­ered, ie trans­port, ac­com­mo­da­tion, fa­cil­i­ties and shop­ping. Also, they can con­sider in­di­vid­ual ac­cess needs and pro­vide all the ac­ces­si­bil­ity in­for­ma­tion for the cus­tomer. A wel­com­ing at­ti­tude and be­ing con­fi­dent serv­ing and work­ing with a di­verse range of peo­ple, is a start. Ms Barag­wanath, who has visual im­pair­ment, re­cently re­ceived a Queen’s Hon­our, MNZM, for her work on im­prov­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity. At her Be Ac­ces­si­ble Auck­land of­fice there are nine staff. “We also have a Be Coach net­work work­ing with busi­nesses through­out the coun­try to as­sess their level of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and coach them through their im­prove­ments. We have more than 20 coaches who take busi­nesses through the process and give them rec­om­men­da­tions to im­prove.”

Be In­sti­tute chief ex­ec­u­tive Min­nie Barag­wanath, MNZM, . . . “It is es­ti­mated be­ing ac­ces­si­ble could im­prove a business’ cus­tomer base and turnover by be­tween 20 to 30 per cent.”

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