Dubbed one of the leading and largest hotel industry events in the world, the 2019 Lodging Conference, held in Phoenix, Arizona last week was bustling as hotel owners and executives from around the globe came together to strategize about development, finances, franchising, management, construction, design, and operations. More than just a conference, the entire event served as a think tank where everybody in attendance had the opportunity to join in the conversation, discuss issues, and solve problems that we face in our industry.
As a conference sponsor, Cayman-based Caymera International was fortunate to have an opportunity to gift two conference registrations along with exhibition space to a non-profit organization called Sensory City. This enabled the organization’s founder, Tanya Acosta, a Boston-based Speech Pathologist and mom of a child with a disability the access to discuss and advocate for a growing issue in our industry; Sensory Processing Accessibility and her mission to create sensory-inclusive hotels, resorts, airports, museums, restaurants and attractions for guests with Cognitive or Sensory Processing Disabilities such as ASD/SPD (Autism Spectrum Disorder/ Sensory Processing Disorder).
Did you know? Individuals – or our future guests, who have autism, PTSD, dementia, and ADHD all benefit from sensory consideration? And, how about these figures: In the U.S., Cayman’s number one in-bound market - 13 million people have PTSD, 1.5 million people have Autism, 5.7 million adults have dementia, and 6.4 million children have ADHD.
Sensory City’s mission is to implement custom solutions that promote comfort, reduce judgment, and overall facilitate less complicated travel experiences for families with loved ones with special needs, who love to travel. And, what better forum to give them an opportunity to do so - than a global hotel industry event?
During a preliminary conversation, I had with Tanya, I learned a lot. I also had an ‘AH HA’ moment. Back in mid-August, I wrote a column about Accessible Practices for Guests with Disabilities. And, regretfully, I didn’t include practices for sensory processing accessibility - not for any other reason than my own lack of overall awareness. And, since then, I’ve come to realize, after many conversations and much research; it’s not just me- the overall hospitality and tourism industry is greatly lacking in this area leaving these individuals and their families completely under-serviced, which is why Caymera International has become an official partner of Sensory City. We want to change this, increase awareness throughout the industry and make businesses inclusive, not just for those with visible disabilities, but also those with less visible disabilities as well. In partnership with Sensory City, we are now able to offer our tourism partners:
Sensory Friendly Training
We offer industry specific training for employees at your location or via webinar. These workshops include information about the populations that present with sensory issues. We provide strategies for welcoming and including guests who have less visible disabilities and focus on how a business can adapt their space in order to promote the safety, communication, and comfort of individuals with unique sensory needs. In addition, we offer autism awareness training, sensory friendly training for people of different professions. Our industry specific trainings are appropriate for airport, attractions, hotel and resort, restaurant and museum employees.
Custom Picture Books-Social Stories
Custom made Social stories (picture books) explain your location in pictures. Children with autism often have difficulty with transitions and adjusting to new spaces. They often “think in pictures” and are visual learners. Hence, visual supports and social narratives designed to show people with autism what to expect at the hotel or establishment and how to access its services are critical to making their experience as pleasant as possible.
Each customized order will include several laminated copies. These can be available for distribution to families upon arrival and a digital copy is provided so that guests can read it prior to arrival. Having this in advance can prepare an individual to transition smoothly to an unfamiliar place.
Our experts will do a walkthrough of your site and provide a list of recommended modifications that your business can implement yielding your space the ability to accommodate the diverse needs of individuals with sensory considerations.
Sensory Friendly Certificate
A custom “sensory friendly” certificate and a decal for your window and our website are provided. This defines your business as a certified sensory friendly space. Additionally, we can provide marketing materials and a consultation with your marketing team in which we supply the phrasing and keywords necessary to attract and welcome individuals with autism to your establishment.
Comfort Kit & Safety Kit
Sensory challenges often require sensory items for comfort. We provide sensory kits that contain a hand-picked supply of sensory friendly toys, safety items such as outlet covers and door alarms, weighted blankets or lap pads and noise-reducing headphones. These allow your establishment to offer a selection of calming and soothing items in order to accommodate individuals with sensory needs.
Did you know that there is now a Yelp-like app that lists all the locations that are sensory-friendly? We can offer businesses a sensory-friendly certification and list sensory friendly venues on these sites.
For questions or for information on how to become sensory-friendly, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for more updates and insights from the Lodging Conference next week.
Brooke Meyer is the managing partner of Caymera International, a Caymanian-owned hospitality and tourism consulting and advisory firm. She’s an industry veteran and 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. Visit Caymera at www.caymeragroup.com or email email@example.com for more information.