An inspirational business venture which could revolutionise the hospitality industry in the UK is appealing for votes in the Virgin Voom Business competition. AccessChamp aims to improve customer service for disabled guests and provide hotels with an opportunity to gain part of a £12bn market*. Entrants have to battle it out in a public vote and then impress expert judges to be one of just six contenders who pitch their idea to entrepreneur Richard Branson.
In 2003, a life-changing accident made Arnold Fewell FCSI a permanent wheelchair user. As a former hotel general manager Fewell was shocked at how hotels and restaurants looked after him and other disabled guests and wanted to drive changes that would help others for generations to come. He created AccessChamp to give disabled people a more enjoyable hotel experience and provide hoteliers with a share of this vast growth market.
Fewell, founder of AccessChamp, said “Providing great customer service for all guests is key to driving sales and footfall to a hotel or conference centre, however many hotel staff have received little or no training on looking after disabled customers. I’ve worked in the industry for many years and can honestly see this from both sides which is why AccessChamp offers ideas that are easy and affordable to implement. From reception teams to housekeepers to food and beverage and hotel management, the training is valuable on every level and will make a real difference to the experience disabled customers receive.”
AccessChamp has been entered into the Voom ‘Growing Business’ category and people can vote for them to get through to the next stage online here. Voting closes on 23 May and at this point only the top 80 will be submitted for review by an esteemed panel of judges.
Research from BT in 2012 showed that 65% of the UK general public would not go to the help of someone with a disability. The reasons given were fear of doing something wrong or making the situation worse and concern that they might face litigation afterwards.
If ever there was a case for training, then this research defines it and this has been one of the driving forces behind Fewell’s passion and determination to make a real difference.
Commenting on the research Fewell said “Having the confidence to fully look after disabled guests is key to increasing revenue. Since my accident, I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels and if one has looked after me really well I’ll go back time and time again. It only takes one wheelchair user to sell a conference, dinner or wedding and that could lead to an event attended by hundreds of people. So providing appropriate accessibility training for all staff really can make a significant financial difference.”
So far the business has been based solely on Fewell’s knowledge and experience but the future plans involve creating a network of AccessChamp trainers who would be able to work with hospitality staff across the UK. Another area of further development is a dedicated website section where hotels, who have received AccessChamp training, are able to promote their venue including all accessible features and benefits. Disabled guests would then be able to search for hotels and have total confidence their needs will be met when they book and arrive.
If AccessChamp was to receive funding from the Virgin Voom competition, one of their trainers will run a free accessibility training course for up to 100 hospitality delegates as a thank you, so your vote really could make a difference to the industry.
Find out more about the difference AccessChamp could make in this video.
See how you can get involved and start training your staff by visiting www.accesschamp.co.uk and following @accesschamp on Twitter.
For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01609 775686 to speak to Arnold Fewell.
*Figure estimated by VisitEngland in 2015.