A Twitter friend asked me the other day, whether I knew if a particular hotel in London was ‘autism friendly.’
We had never stayed at this specific property, so I suggested she contacted the hotel directly and asked whether it could provide the accommodations she needed. I mentioned that based on our decade of travel that would be the best way to ensure a stress-free stay.
But then it dawned on me–why are parents even struggling with these extra steps?
In today’s world with such a surge in the number of autism families ,hotels don’t need to wait to be asked by parents but should strive to become much more autism-friendly on their own.
In fact, a move like that by the leading chains is bound to lead to increased revenue and return business as well as revolutionize the way the hospitality industry approaches the entire autism community.
And, in most cases; becoming autism-friendly wouldn’t even involve spending money on remodeling rooms or gadgets but tweaking existing services in five simple steps.
Have special needs agents
One of the reasons we love staying on Marriott’s properties is the fact the chain has designated special needs’ desk that helps travelers with specific accommodations,
It provides patrons with a one-stop solution eliminating the tedious job of repeating your list of accommodations to different staff members and can prove extremely useful for complex overseas itineraries that involve multiple stays in several countries.
Though this might not be a viable solution for the smaller hotels, it is a valuable marketing concept that medium to large hotel chains should consider copying.
Add website assistance
A feature I often use and wholeheartedly recommend is an online special request box ( like the one available on Priority Club’s website when booking online) where I can quickly mention my feather allergy and need for quiet and connecting rooms at booking.
Furthermore, it might be beneficial for hotels to designate a well trained customer-service person with some knowledge of autism to respond to any additional question via a link on their web page.
Remember: some parents might be more comfortable with sharing the information with one person than reiterating their child’s information to every hotel staff member they meet.
Mark particular rooms as quiet
Hotels are already required to tag some places as wheelchair user accessible to accommodate mobility disabilities so why not mark ‘quiet rooms to help the growing autistic travel community?
All the hotel needs to do is mark rooms that are away from noisy venues like lounges, elevators and vending machines as ‘quiet’ on their website for parents to choose from.In cities with busy traffic; rooms facing interior courtyards should also be recommended. for noise sensitive travelers
Get Staff trained
Even though many parents don’t share their kids’ diagnosis -their particular needs might still surface in their requests and complaints, so appropriate autism staff training is essential.
Sometimes solutions to an issue are solved by ‘thinking outside the box’.
An example that comes to mind is the staffer at the J W Marriott Berlin hotel that noticed how my son was distraught after being told their restaurant was full, and he couldn’t dine there.
The front desk manager, single-handedly, put two lobby tables together, procured extra chairs and brought our ordered dishes from the restaurant to the lobby area so we could finally dine after arriving at the hotel from our long-haul flight.
Provide additional safety measures
Hotel officials should know that the number one travel concern of parents (especially of younger ones) is that their kids might open the room door and wander off unattended.
Some rooms may face a double whammy with a front as well as a balcony door accessible for children to open.
By providing inexpensive additional locks (placed higher up than usual) or mini dual contact noise sounding alarms on the room doors, hotels might not only be able to avoid a potential safety problem but provide parents with much-needed peace of mind.
Have you stayed at a hotel with your autistic child and received special accommodations -share your experience with us.