by Gaby Huddart
Twelve of the UK's biggest hotel groups are backing a project that aims to make hotels more accessible both to disabled guests and to disabled staff.
The Hoteliers' Forum was launched on Monday under the auspices of the Prince of Wales' Advisory Group on Disability.
Members pay a £1,500 subscription fee to join and sign an agreement to introduce a number of measures to their companies. These include improving access, training staff in disability awareness, extending employment opportunities and gaining accreditation under the UK National Accessible Scheme.
"It was relatively easy to get the first 12 members on board - most were committed to doing these things and the threat of imminent legislation has helped focus people's minds," said Peter Holland, chairman of the forum and co-ordinator of the Prince of Wales' Advisory Group.
"But hotel groups haven't only signed up out of a sense of being goody-goody - they also see the business benefits of opening up their establishments to a wider variety of customers," he added.
At Monday's inaugural symposium, 40 chief executives and top managers from across the 12 hotel groups attended workshops and training sessions on disability awareness.
The next major meeting of the group will be in November when members will discuss the progress they have made and future plans.
The founder hotel groups are Copthorne, Country Club Hotel Group, De Vere, Forte, Hilton National, Inter-Continental, Jarvis, Novotel, Queens Moat Houses, Scott's Hotels, Stakis, and Thistle and Mount Charlotte.