Bed&Care’s tourism, interview with Alessandro Zucconi from Federalberghi Rome’s Young Hoteliers

Is accessible tourism an opportunity or a nuisance for hoteliers? We talk about it with Alessandro Zucconi President of the young hoteliers of Federalberghi Rome.

Article by Serena Stefanoni

 

The Italian legislation establishes that each accommodation facility must be equipped with rooms accessible to persons with disabilities, but for guests with specific needs it is often difficult to find accommodation in line with their needs. Let’s try to understand why together with Alessandro Zucconi, President of the young hoteliers of Federalberghi Rome.

 

What is the attitude of hoteliers regarding accessibility issues?

Given that hoteliers comply with legal obligations, it should be noted that some legislative provisions involve an increase in costs.

When I talk about costs, I am not just referring to the cost of adjustment work itself, but also, and above all, to the costs in terms of space to be allocated to the adapted rooms which, by their nature, require larger spaces than the others. It should not be forgotten, in fact, that for the hotelier, every square meter of the hotel is a space that must be put into income and allocated efficiently and profitably in order to ensure the sustainability of the company.

In this context it is up to the individual and his / her sensitivity to assess whether this type of investment represents a cost, a nuisance or an opportunity.

In my experience, I have seen hotels that use rooms that are accessible for other uses because they do not identify them as an asset that can actually be sold on the market, while there are other colleagues who focus on improving accessibility as they fly to increase their turnover and attract a new customers.

 

Because for many hoteliers the reception of tourists with specific needs is seen as problematic and unprofitable?

Surely a factor that restrains the hotelier, even in the presence of adapted rooms, is the fear that the rest of the structure is not adequate. Many hoteliers rather than leaving a dissatisfied customer, and therefore risking a bad review, prefer to avoid proposing their hotel in the accessible tourism circuit or, in any case, not highlighting and advertising the facilities available to customers with specific needs.

 

How could this attitude change?

First of all by making the hotelier understand that hosting travelers with special needs is much simpler than one might think.

In my experience it is sufficient to be able to adequately inform the client about the characteristics of his hotel so that the client himself can decide whether or not the structure is suitable for his needs.

For example, my hotel has a very narrow lift, so at the time of booking I inform guests with reduced mobility in such a way that they know immediately that, depending on the width of the chair they use, they may not be able to access to some areas. Then, when the guest arrives, our staff offers a visit to the hotel during which the solutions adopted to make the structure more accessible and usable are highlighted. Once you’ve done this, to have a satisfied customer, just treat it and serve it like any other guest.

Another important aspect is to work on staff training and on the adoption of procedures that help different professionals to respond adequately to the requests of the various types of guests. In this sense it would be important for hotel consultants, architects and engineers, too, to be prepared and trained in order to offer hotelier furnishing and use solutions that are as flexible, efficient and accessible for everyone as possible. In my hotel, for example, the adapted room is a triple room with two bathrooms, one of which is accessible. In this way, when the room is not occupied by guests with motor disabilities, it is sufficient to close the bathroom to have a room that is completely identical to the other rooms.

 

You are also a hotelier, what action has you done to improve the accessibility of your hotel?

At my hotel we try to give proper attention to all guests. Some solutions are quite simple, for example for customers with food allergies, we have created a dossier explaining the origin of the products, besides the guests have the possibility to signal any specific needs so that the kitchen takes into account at the moment of the preparation of the meal.

Among our receptionists there is a girl who knows the Italian Language of Signs (LIS) and we are preparing for better accessibility even for the blind and visually impaired through the installation of multilingual maps in Braille and the adoption of contrast numbers for room numbering.

For people with motor disabilities, as I explained before, we have adapted a triple room that has two bathrooms, one of which is accessible.

 

Was it worth it?

People are happy, the feedback is good. For the near future we are planning to promote the structure on dedicated circuits to ensure that this first positive feedback turns into an increase in turnover.