The hospitality industry prides itself on giving its customers a warm welcome and providing outstanding service in pursuit of high guest retention and customer satisfaction. But, are we as an industry truly doing everything, we can to extend that same level of customer experience to ALL guests or customers, including those who have disabilities?
Studies show over a two-year period more than 26 million American adults with disabilities traveled for pleasure and/or business, taking 73 million trips. The study also quantified how much adults with disabilities spend on just their own travel - $17.3 billion annually. Since these individuals travel with one or more other adults, the economic impact is likely double, or $34.6 billion. Demand for accessible travel will continue to grow due to demographic ageing, creating the travel industry’s greatest untapped opportunity – especially considering the U.S. is the number one in-bound market for travelers visiting the Cayman Islands.
The Caribbean is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world for disabled travelers, but not all Caribbean islands are equal when it comes to accommodating visitors who are handicapped, in a wheelchair or have limited mobility. Travelers still face obstacles in accessing the most basic travel needs such as clear and reliable information, efficient transportation and public services, and a physical environment that is easy to navigate. Many islands are known for older structures that unfortunately lack accessible-friendly elements such as elevators- or overall do not have adequate provisions for those with limited mobility making access difficult, or - impossible. The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have a bit of a competitive advantage since they are part of the United States, they must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by ensuring accessibility for guests with disabilities. Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica and St. Martin have also been recognized for their accessible initiatives.
In order to enable guests from all over the world with these access requirements, as an industry, we must understand, implement, and enforce accessibility regulations – or at minimum internal policies in your own hospitality businesses so guests of all abilities can enjoy and experience our destination.
While there are circumstances that sometimes prohibit facilities or businesses from becoming fully accessible, there are simple ways to better accommodate guests with disabilities.
Information and marketing – provide detailed information on the accessibility of facilities and services in advance, making this information easy to find, while helping to avoid any surprises upon the guest’s arrival to your business.
Customer service and training – It is critical that staff (both onsite and off) are properly trained to interact with guests with disabilities, respond to questions, and provide additional information regarding your business’s accessible features. Poor customer service and lack of business upkeep can ruin a customer experience, even if the business itself is fully accessible.
Physical facilities – making reasonable adjustments to buildings and facilities. A hospitable experience is not provided when a guest cannot locate an accessible parking space, get to the front door, maneuver around his or her accommodations, or dine in a restaurant.
Guests with disabilities and older adults who benefit from accessible features are likely to become repeat customers for businesses that provide them with accurate information, informed assistance, and a friendly accommodating attitude.
For an evaluation of simple cost-efficient ways your business can improve its guest accessibility, a list of resources, or to schedule our employee training program Accommodating Guests with Disabilities, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 936-3671.
Brooke Meyer is the managing partner of Caymera International, a Caymanian-owned hospitality and tourism consulting and advisory firm. She holds a master’s certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and has also earned continuing education certifications in Hotel Real Estate and Asset Management, Digital Marketing, and Revenue Management from Cornell University. Brooke has earned the Meeting Professionals International's Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and Professional Convention Management Association’s Certified Association Sales Executive (CASE) designations. She has an unwavering commitment to mastering the dynamics of the hospitality industry – and sharing that wisdom with her peers, clients, and stakeholders. Visit Caymera at www.caymeragroup.com