New ADA Compliance on Reservations Services

By Soy Williams President, Soy Williams Consulting, Inc. | July 03, 2011

The ADA has significantly improved the quality of guest rooms with features that are intended for guests with disabilities. The inventory of guest rooms that are designated "accessible" have also increased over time. As these improvements were being made over the past two decades, more and more individuals withe disabilities have joined the ranks of the traveling public whether it be for business or pleasure.

Challenges still remain in matching accessible rooms with guests with disabilities. The new ADA requirements for reservations services should come as no surprise to the lodging industry that has received a fare share of scrutiny from people with disabilities as well as the U.S. Department of Justice (the "DOJ").

The DOJ continues to receive may complaints concerning failed reservations. Most complaints involve individuals who, having reserved an accessible guest room, arrive at the place of lodging only to discover that the room they reserved is either not available or is not accessible. In response the DOJ has revised the ADA regulations to include new requirements for hotel reservations services.

Important Compliance Deadline

These new requirements become mandatory on March 15, 2012. By now each and every hotel, timeshare, condo-hotel and other lodging entities that are subject to the ADA should be more than half-way through evaluating and putting into place reservations systems that comply with these new requirements.

Five New Requirements

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.