I think you’ll agree that locking in accommodation for a trip can be one of the hardest parts. We know it’s often easier to return to the places you’re familiar with. Once you start looking into something new, it’s hard to find the right information, see images of what to expect or get hold of a person who understands your needs, right?

But, there are businesses around the world who set a solid benchmark. Plus, new and innovative awards programs are popping up, helping to recognise businesses and raise not just awareness, but the-bar in accessible tourism!

Take Nordic hotel operator Scandic for example. They operate 280 hotels across six countries, and are by far the leader in the hotel space. They believe ‘providing really good service to all guests, with or without disabilities’ is important. Shouldn’t this just be at the core of every business? Wouldn’t it be great if everyone would just… be like Scandic!

In 2003 they appointed an accessibility ambassador and developed Scandic’s Accessibility Standard:

“In consultation with organisations for people with special accessibility needs, our hotel guests, and team members, we have drawn up a checklist of 135 points which we call Scandic’s accessibility standard. This standard encompasses everything we offer and is to be an integral consideration for all products and services at the hotel.”

As for awards, we recently came across the ‘Bespoke Access Awards’, which are all about ‘Better design to improve the hotel experience for disabled and able-bodied guests.’

It is an international ‘design’ competition with five guiding principles that applicants must meet. A design must be; universal, personal, flexible, functional and beautiful, with the winners being outstanding in meeting all five principles.

This years winning DESIGN went to MnM Studio Architects in Dubai.

One of the key features was a hoist fitted to a ceiling track which is able to spin around the entire orbit of the room! The judges felt that it “delivered a truly aspirational bedroom space, utterly reimagined from the norm, combining a great sense of adventure with elegance and surprise.”

PHOTO CREDIT: A hotel room designed by MNM Studio Architects

Robin Sheppard, founder of the awards, has been a UK hotelier for more than 40 years. He learnt first hand the needs of a person with a disability after becoming paralysed from the neck down from Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in 2004. It was from this experience that led him to put more research into the way hotels catered for people with disabilities and decided more needed to be done. The awards, launched in 2016, run alongside the Royal Institute of British Architects, and are an attempt to “change hearts and minds amongst architects and designers, turn hotel bedrooms and public areas into less-functional and hospitalised spaces, and inject delight and surprise.”

Sheppard says “Just because you can’t walk doesn’t mean you haven’t got a sense of style’.

Next month we’re excited to look at a few of Australia’s standout accommodation providers and the awards programs here that include ‘Accessible’ categories. We can not wait for the SA Tourism Awards in November, when one business will be awarded ‘Excellence in Accessible Tourism’ for the first time ever in South Australia! It’s so important for these programs to exists to keep the conversation going, and that those doing good are highlighted across the industry, and the community.

We realise that there needs to be a whole of industry approach and that an award does not fix everything, there is no quick and easy fix. But, we need leaders.. Sheppard sums it up perfectly. “Such changes invariably take time and the initiative did not begin with short term aspirations in mind. We were under no illusions as to the speed of impact of the Awards, but rather believed in the benefits that would arise from providing a spark for the future of the hotel industry, as well as the people that design buildings, products and services around it.”