£220m spent on a hotel and it comes down to buying a stair climber!
I find this story below from the London Evening Standard incredible, especially when I think the use of a stair climber as suggested can be dangerous for both people with disabilities and the staff using them, regardless of the training they receive. And why only meet the legal requirements and then quote the wrong Act. Has nobody heard of the Equaility Act 2010. This sort of situation really does make my blood boil and gives out such a bad impression of this Industry.
When the five-star Savoy hotel completed its £220 million refit it promised to "exceed people's expectations".
But a wheelchair user told today of her unscheduled tour through its kitchens, goods lifts and a loading bay because of apparent problems with disabled access at the Grade II-listed building.
Legal journalist Husnara Begum was attending a networking event and looking forward to views of the Thames from the Savoy's palatial Riverside Room, which is on the ground floor of the 120-year-old hotel.
Staff struggled to get her there after realising there was no direct wheelchair route across the building. Mrs Begum, based in Oxford Street, suffers from rheumatoid arthritis so painful that she needs an electric wheelchair and cannot reach lift buttons.
After being greeted at its Strand front entrance last week, Mrs Begum said she was led first up and then down in two lifts, through a bedroom and then down a kitchen corridor piled with boxes before finally arriving at the Riverside Room.
Mrs Begum, editor of Lawyer 2B magazine, said: "With the amount of money the Savoy spent on its refurbishment, I was excited and expecting big things. When I arrived the staff were very helpful but in the end I found the whole experience very stressful." She said the situation descended into farce after the event. "It all fell apart when I wanted to leave and it took them 10 minutes to find someone who knew how to get me out of there. I was taken back through a kitchen, past all the chefs, and through a loading bay where workers were taking a cigarette break.
"I was then left to my own devices in a goods lift and I started to panic because I couldn't reach the buttons." Another staff member finally took Mrs Begum into another lift so she could get out of the Savoy, but she missed her train home to Tunbridge Wells.
The Savoy reopened in October after a three-year renovation costing more than double the original budget. The entire building was restored, including the entrance and 269 rooms, wiring and plumbing.
General manager Kiaran MacDonald said: "We are sorry that Ms Begum had a less than satisfactory experience at The Savoy. I have spoken to Ms Begum personally and apologised to her.
"During the restoration, we made several additions to make The Savoy more wheelchair accessible and to meet the legal requirements outlined in the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act." He added that they were purchasing a stairclimber to enable guests to "overcome any challenges presented by our status as a listed building".
The cornerstone of digital marketing – so take care of it
The cornerstone of any marketing strategy must now be your website. That is why I get so exasperated when they do not work properly. And most importantly they stop me from making a purchase. Let me give you just five examples without naming names:
1. This hotel website offered a call back feature to save you time making the enquiry and booking. Brilliant I thought and so I left my number expecting a call within the next 24 hours. Six months later nothing has happened and the booking has been lost forever.
2. More business must be lost because the payment system on the website has been made too complicated with far too many click throughs. If I then experience a problem I usually give up and the sale is lost again. Amazon has built their success on making it easy to buy things and the hotel industry should learn from it.
3. Next is that it can be very difficult to book an accessible room on line. This market has been estimated as £2 billion by the Government so why not make it easy for me to buy a suitable room.
4. Providing a contact us email and then not having the courtesy to reply.
5. The last one is all the broken links that you find. I am just getting interested when it says “more”, I click on this only to go nowhere and I can’t get any closer to a sale.
A lot of money has been invested in your website so make sure it is simple to use, does what it says, reaches all key markets and works properly.
The true story of Mo?
Last week we had a few days in London and I met a young member of staff called Mo (picture above). She was enthusiastic in everything she did, she had a huge smile whenever you saw her and she seemed to project positiveness to everyone she came in contact with, including people with disabilities. She had only started at the hotel a few months before but the Hotel GM told me, “Ever since Mo started things have started improving. The atmosphere in the hotel is fantastic, business is on the up and everybody is pulling together even during the busy Bank Holidays and peak times of the week”.
I asked him why he thought Mo had had such an impact. He answered, “She was like a breath of fresh air, she was new to the industry and not being funny I have been surprised that one person can have such an impact. We really seem to be on a roll. Everyone loves her. I have put it down to the training that we gave Mo when she started as this included training resources about providing excellent customer care to disabled people. She took to everything easily and was so enthusiastic and that strong foundation has made such a difference not just to her but the whole hotel. I have seen in the past where negative people have demoralised and depressed others and it is just fantastic to see the reverse happening”.
I asked why the hotel had decided to attract people with disabilities and the GM replied, “I read a VisitEngalnd leaflet called At Your Service and this outlined the £2 billion market opportunity that most people in this industry have ignored. We have worked hard on providing excellent customer service and this has increased the lets of our accessible rooms by 18% and found that many people come with carers or members of the family. They usually eat in as it is easy access for them and so the spend per head is higher than the business market”.
I wanted to follow the career of Mo so I asked what her surname was. It is Mentum!
If you want more information on this subject please visit www.tourismforall.org.uk/conference.php and look for the conference details on 8th June in London.