CHICAGO – The Open Doors Organization (ODO) report that while the percentage of American adults with disabilities staying in hotels has remained steady, there has been a sharp decline in the obstacles they encounter during those visits. Over 75% of travelers with disabilities stayed in a hotel over a two-year span (2013 –2015), with 33% falling into the “heavy hotel users” category, staying 3 or more times.
Among the various hotel franchises visited by travelers with disabilities, the most frequently visited are Comfort Inn, Best Western, and Holiday Inn Express (in descending order of frequency). These findings are from ODO’s 2015 nationwide survey, conducted by Mandala Research, LLC, as a follow-up to ODO’s groundbreaking studies of 2002 and 2005 on the spending trends and market scope of U.S. adult travelers with disabilities.
On average, travelers with disabilities spend $100 per day on hotel accommodations, a $25 increase since ODO’s 2005 market study and slightly higher than the rate of inflation. The median number of stays declined from 3 to 2, the 2002 pre-recession level, reflecting the greater impact of the economic downturn on the disability community. The most positive and exciting news is that many fewer travelers are encountering obstacles during their stays. In 2015, 46% of hotel users reported major obstacles, down from 60% in 2005 (a 23% decline), indicating that hotel chains are on the right path to creating barrier-free environments.
While accessibility continues to be a work in progress, some of the most commonly encountered physical obstacles have become much less of a problem. Specifically, reports of “heavy, hard to open doors” dropped from 36% to 18% (a 50% decline), while “inadequate space in bathrooms” fell from 20% to 9% (a 55% decline) from 2005 to 2015.
Customer service is also showing marked improvement. “Customer service/personnel obstacles” overall dropped from 45% to 27% (a 40% decline), while “Personnel not aware of services” fell from 17% to 6% (a 65% decline). “This is a really huge change for the better,” notes Eric Lipp, Executive Director. “Too often properties have focused just on ADA standards and not on staff training, but it’s the human element that makes a hotel stay memorable. When employees are knowledgeable and aware, we all get to feel welcome, not like a burden or inconvenience.”
The 2015 ODO Market Study was conducted online in January and February 2015 among a national sample of 1,291 adults with disabilities aged 18 or over. In addition to travel frequency and spending, areas of focus include technology/assistive devices, airlines and airports, cruising, restaurants and lodging and accommodations.
The Open Doors Organization is a non-profit organization founded for the purpose of teaching businesses how to succeed in the disability market and make their goods and services accessible to people with disabilities. To learn more about ODO’s numerous travel and hospitality-related initiatives, visit the ODO website.
Mandala Research, LLC, who partnered with ODO on this study, offers a diverse range of travel market research products and services—along with expert analysis—to Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.