Travellers with access needs see gold
At some point, most people will have an access need of some kind – be it parents with a pram, a temporary or permanent disability, or loss of mobility due to age. Planning a journey with accessibility top of mind can be a struggle for the 20 percent of Kiwis that have an access need right now.
For Terry Morris, a regular guest of Sudima Hotels and Resorts over the last six years, accessibility is a major deciding factor when planning accommodation.
As a result of a rock-climbing incident seven years ago, Mr Morris is now in a wheelchair. As a company director with business interests around the country, travel is a necessity. “I wouldn’t stay anywhere else – it’s become a family joke – I guess I’m predictable, but when you’re treated like family at the hotel, why would I stay elsewhere? I travel internationally and Sudima’s service is some of the best I have seen.
“The staff always go above and beyond with their service, even the new hotel staff are so well trained and know who I am. Anyone can make changes to make something accessible, but even before Sudima started this journey, they had a great attitude and willingness, where nothing is a problem.
“The staff are always right there and willing to help me. When I’ve stayed at other hotels I’ve sometimes had to travel quite a distance in my chair to get to my room, but not at Sudima, which is an accessibility feature that really helps me.”
Sudima was the first accessible hotel group in New Zealand with all four of its hotels having been assessed and rated by Be.Accessible. Testament to the group’s commitment, Sudima Auckland Airport has just had its accessibility rating upgraded to Gold.
Sudima Hotels and Resorts director of operations Les Morgan says, “We are proud of Sudima Auckland Airport for receiving a rating of Gold, and we will not stop here. We have huge goals for the future and strive to offer the best service we possibly can. It is important to us to understand our customers and cater to all their needs, so hearing Terry’s story makes us proud and motivates us to do more – we are always looking ahead.
“It’s not only about investment in the business and making changes, but education too. We educate all our staff will continue to respond and adapt to the social changes happening today.”
The relationship between Sudima and Be Accessible is well established; employees have participated in accessibility programmes, hotels have been rated for their accessibility, and Sudima Hotels and Resorts CEO Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala is a member of the Fab 50, Be Accessible’s collective of political and business leaders who are driving change toward a 100 percent accessible New Zealand.
Sudima Auckland Airport’s goal is to ensure all guests can enjoy every aspect of the hotel’s facilities regardless of their individual needs. To that end, it has undertaken a number of measures to achieve its Gold rating, plus taken a number of measures over and above this including:
- Special packs for assistance dogs including a dog bed and treats;
- Purchasing evacuation chairs that can travel up and down stairs, plus teams are trained for emergency evacuation;
- All frontline staff are trained via the ‘Be. Confidence’ programme to help staff identify and assist guests with any access needs;
- Ensuring all conference facilities and restaurant and bar areas are fully accessible. All menus at Sudima Auckland Airport are available in Braille, and reading glasses are available at the restaurant;
- Installation of a lower check-in desk; elevators with tactile numbering; accessible rooms that adjoin to additional rooms if required (most have lowered security peepholes). For those with hearing impairments, the hotel provides visual doorbells (a light flashes for those with hearing impairment) and a vibrating fire alarm that can be placed under the guests pillow to help ensure a fire alarm is not missed;
- Accessible bathrooms on ground and conference floors, with non-slip floors in those and all other accessible rooms.
Be Accessible, which runs the nationwide Be. Welcome assessment programme, has assessed and rated Sudima Auckland Airport in five categories for access, and given the hotel a new rating of Gold (close to the ultimate rating of Platinum).
Sudima Hotels and Resorts’ other New Zealand properties, in Hamilton, Rotorua and Christchurch, all currently have ratings ranging from Bronze to Gold.