A travel start-up which is aiming to create a new global standard for accessible hotel accommodation has gone live and is looking for hotels to sign up.
AccessAllRooms.com is the concept of wheelchair user James Price who was paralysed in a diving accident in 1999 when he was 21 years old.
A television presenter for the BBC Holiday Show and director for GB Wheelchair Rugby, Price is more active than many able-bodied people and is a passionate traveller.
His work with wheelchair rugby led him to be chosen as a torch bearer for last year’s London Paralympics.
Frustration at the inability to book specific types of accommodation to meet his needs led Price to create a new standard, GAAS (Global Access Award Scheme).
He told Travolution how he has been trying to work with operators and the hotel and tourism trade to get this off the ground for the best part of a decade without success.
So, he came up with the idea of doing it himself and after a meeting with hotel technology provider Pegasus Solutions he created a bookable website for this market.
Price calls this the TIME Market –Tourism Industries Market in Equality – which encompasses people with disabilities but also the elderly and long-term ill.
“What’s important to my mission is that hotels understand that what I am doing for the first time is a business-orientated approach to serving the TIME travel market.
“It is not a forced approach, therefore I am hoping hotels will embrace this. GAAS grading and AccessAllRooms is a method for any hotel that achieves a basic level of access to potentially attract a new revenue stream that previously no-one else markets to on their behalf.
“We are not forcing access laws onto them, we are not forcing them to be compliant – we are merely letting a potential new customer know if the hotel meets their individual needs or not, and if it does lets them book the room that suits their needs.
“For those hotels that have invested in accessible facility upgrades either by choice or through forced legislation we are the first hotel booking website actually trying to market and sell their accessible product specifically and return yield on their investment.
“For that reason I am really hoping hotels and chains will embrace this new way of tackling the TIME travel niche and really get behind us by bringing their hotel and product to our site.
AccessAllRooms offers a free listing and free GAAS grade. The hotelier pays 10% commission per booking.
AccessAllRooms.com is currently in the early stages of development with just one hotel, the Montage Laguna Beach in California listed.
But the trade launch is intended to reach out to hoteliers across the globe to add their content to the site via a self-assessment questionnaire.
This will form the basis of that property’s GAAS rating and for those using the Pegasus Connect XML API the rooms will become bookable online.
Pegasus, which boasts 100,000 hotel customers, is a key supporter of the venture as well as Preferred and Supranational groups that will be pushing the concept out to its members.
Preferred has 30 properties with accessible rooms already built into its CRS and has been working closely with AccessAllRooms on the integration.
Price said it will be easier to get US hotels on the site because they already have to be ADA-compliant and similarly in the UK and Europe where there are established standards.
And he hopes to have at least 100 before the launch of AccessAllRooms.com to the public later this year or early next.
“At the moment we are targeting the US because they are the most accessible country. We also want to target the UK around the main cities and then countries like France and Spain.
“We’re looking at Dubai as well because in the long term we want to be a hotel booking website but one that specialises in access.
“At the moment the only specialist tour operators are very narrow in terms of where they offer holidays, places kike Spain and Florida, but we want to get to places like Dubai.”
Price believes that this focus on being able to book specific rooms for disabled access should eventually be widened to all types of holidaymakers’ requirements like family rooms.
“One big bugbear with accessible rooms is you can request one but until you get there you do not know you are going to get one,” said Price.
The GAAS system will allow properties with rooms that are not necessarily officially designated accessible to be offered because they offer certain criteria, like extra floor space for instance.
This could require more management from the hotel side but AccessAllRooms offers the ability to have room graded and made available to book.
“Since I started this all I wanted to do was to create a grading scheme for hotels, but as time went by I was made aware of the lack of provision to be able to book accessible rooms in real time.
“This has been what I’ve wanted to do right from day one when I went to the US after I broke my neck for the first time and a travel agent had no idea where they could book me an accessible room.
“It’s amazing how in many areas the travel industry is so forward thinking but also how backward it is as well.”