Accessibility in Hospitality

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Accessibility in Hospitality

Foreword

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Let’s leave the first two to our prime minister and just concentrate on the statistics, because they tell quite a tale. The statistics in this report shock, embarrass and intrigue in equal measure. More importantly they make you realise that what is currently normal is not acceptable. We must establish a new normal and erase years of historic insouciance on accessibility.

Read on please and gauge the level of moral and commercial change that is required. Then mark in the ‘imperative, must embrace’ part of your to do list.

Robin Sheppard
President, Bespoke Hotels | Founder Blue Badge Access Awards (BBAA)

Introduction

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1 of 5 UK working adults have either a visible or invisible disability, according to purple.org. Our own findings from a recent consumer survey suggest that figure may be even higher, as 24.6% of our respondents reported having a visible or invisible disability.

The spending power of disabled people and their households in 2020 was estimated to be worth £274 billion per year to UK businesses, and Purple states that various hospitality sectors lose out on 163 – 274 million pounds per month, by ignoring the needs of disabled people. It's a substantial market, often unrecognised.

We’ve partnered up with BBAA to shed some light onto accessibility from a consumer’s perspective. Hopefully this will make for an insightful read, and help bring your business closer to your customers, both abled and disabled.

Is hospitality doing enough?

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Based on our findings, a large majority (71%) of customers say that there isn’t currently enough attention brought to accessibility in the hospitality industry.

In terms of demographics, the sentiment is in direct correlation with age – it seems to become more important to people as they get older: 62% of Gen-Z responded that not enough attention is brought to accessibility, and this percentage increases in a linear fashion, parallel with age, rising to 73% in the 66+ age category.

There is a distinct split in opinion from a gender perspective, too. In contrast to women, only 62% of male respondents suggested not enough attention is brought to accessibility, however that number reaches 73% with female consumers.

Sector Analyisis

We also performed a sector analysis, to reveal which sectors consumers consider taking accessibility most seriously.

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The results are as follows:

  • Hotels – 58%
  • Leisure – 16%
  • Restaurants – 14%
  • Pubs – 7%
  • Quick Service – 5%

Results from our survey reveal that hotels have a good reputation for keeping the needs of disabled in mind, however there is a stark difference between hotels and every other sector.

Are you losing custom?

We can see from Purple’s research that vast amounts each month are lost due to the needs of disabled people being ignored – but as accessibility is being talked about more within the consumer landscape, do businesses risk losing custom from abled customers, if they ignore the needs of the disabled?

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We asked our consumer panel (including both abled and disabled people) whether they would leave a venue if access for disabled was inadequate or not as described, and a almost a third of consumers (30%) said yes, which is notably higher than the percentage of disabled people within the survey (25%). Roughly a third (33%) abstained from the question, and another third (37%) said they would not leave.

When asked whether customers would return to a venue where access was difficult, more than half of consumers (53%) said no, whilst 27% abstained and 20% said yes.

We also investigated whether customers would return if staff were unaware of the needs of a disabled person, and 2 out of 5 (43%) would not, another 41% abstained and 15% said they would return.

From a gender perspective, men appear to be more resolute than women, as a markedly higher percentage of men said they would a) leave a venue b) not return if accessibility was problematic, and c) they would not return if staff were unaware of the needs of the disabled.

In terms of age, standing out from other age groups are the millennials (26-35), who responded far less critically than any other age group to all three questions (i.e. least affected by lack of accessibility), whilst no clear pattern emerges regarding the most critical age group.

* We hypothesise that the large number of abstentions in this section of the report are due to abled consumers (75% of total respondents) being unsure of how they would react in these scenarios.

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Effect of disabled staff on customer experience

How would a customer react to a disabled person being employed at a venue? 59% said it would impact their experience positively, 39% abstained, and 2% said it would impact their experience negatively.

Women seem to be affected positively by a disabled person serving them far more (66%) than men (38%), a majority of whom abstained (58%). Shockingly, 4% of men said their experience would be affected negatively by a disabled staff member, whereas there were no women who said they'd be affected negatively.

* Addendum: Perceived Covid safety

We have been keeping track of how safe our panel of consumers feel at the idea of going out into hospitality venues, and the most recent results show that consumer confidence has recovered significantly since the Omicron wave hit UK in December.

The average safety score is now 8.1 out of 10. In October 2021, confidence was at its highest since the beginning of the pandemic, at 8.34, and during Omicron it dropped all the way down to 7.6. It will be interesting to see whether consumer confidence will have a record-breaking month (since the pandemic) in March / April.

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