How can I make sure I do right by customers who have a disability?
I recently handled a group booking where one of the customers had a disability. Even though I was able to book them on a suitable holiday, which the whole party enjoyed, it was through a tour operator that really knew their stuff, I was struck by how unprepared I was to help them. There were questions they asked about accessibility that I just did not know the answers to. I have spoken to colleagues about it and they have admitted the same ignorance. How do I brush up on my knowledge and make sure I am better prepared in future?
This is not uncommon. However, awareness is now starting to grow about how best to handle the needs of customers with disabilities. Quite often people forget the basics: asking questions. This can be through a lack of confidence in knowing what you can and should ask. The most significant thing to remember is the importance of good communication, making sure you have that conversation with your customers so that you understand their needs, making sure that you book appropriate accommodation and activities and pass on relevant information to your suppliers. You will find a handy checklist of questions on ABTA.com to help you get it right.
It is important to take the time to find out whether any of your customers has specific needs. When helping a customer to book, remember that it may not be the person making the booking who is the disabled person. You need to make sure you cover the needs of everyone in the party. Many people, in particular older customers, may not think of themselves as being disabled, even if they may need assistance from time to time. It is also important to be able to give the customer accurate information on the different aspects of the holiday, such as the hotel and transfers, to help that customer make the right choice.
Airlines and airports throughout the European Union and many other parts of the world have a legal obligation to provide assistance, but it is very important that you ensure that they are notified in advance of any assistance requirements that your customers may have.
There are more than 11 million people with a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability in Great Britain. With an ageing population, this is likely to grow. Together with the family and friends they may be travelling with, this is a very significant market for the travel industry. In addition, your company also has legal obligations to ensure that it does not discriminate against people with disabilities. It is very important that you understand these obligations and how to offer good customer service. But help is at hand, as there is clear information on the Members section of ABTA.com. In addition, ABTA will be launching e-learning on accessible travel shortly.
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