Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission Discusses Increasing Ratios of Exclusion and Inaccessibility in Hotels

Canvas Town, South Melbourne in the 1850s

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"Unlocking Victorian Tourism : A draft report for further consultation and input" is a rhetorically balanced effort at rolling back inclusion that certainly does merit the further consultation and input it calls for.

Fundamental is the misguided assumption that utilization rates of stigmatized "handicapped rooms" is predictive of demand. Are we to assume that the travel behavior of those with disabilities would be the same under a policy of inclusion as it is within an environment of grudging minimal compliance to barrier removal standards? Does any other market niche respond positively when moderately adequate service is supplemented by regression to a substandard era?

Surfacing once again it is mere compliance as a substitute for informed marketing and a coherent strategy for winning the senior and disabled niche through adoption of Universal Design. You might say that Victoria is crafting a defensive strategy against the next tsunami - the Silver Tsunami of of traveling Boomers. This wave of "Easy Travelers" has little tolerance for merely begrudging architectural and attitudinal acceptance of the changes in ability that accompany their senior years. They simply avoid destinations that fail to invite them in.

From the report:

The Recommendation
Draft Recommendation 6.2

That the Department of Planning and Community Development, in consultation with the accommodation industry evaluate the accessibility ratio standards. The evaluation would assess the costs and benefits of this regulation, and examine the utilisation of accessible rooms and the efforts of the accommodation industry to better manage the use of these rooms. This evaluation should inform Victoria's position on the accessibility ratios and a decision to pursue potential changes to the accessibility ratios nationally.

Background
Short-term accommodation

Several participants argued national building standards and their administration in Victoria impede the development of major new hotel accommodation in Melbourne and regional Victoria. In recent years, the supply of serviced apartments in most major cities, including Melbourne, has grown more rapidly than the supply of stand alone hotel rooms. While participants argued federal and state policies supporting residential development may be driving this trend, they also considered the different building standards applying to these two types of short-term accommodation distort investment.

According to participants, building standards for serviced apartments and hotels differ in areas such as disability access and fire safety. These standards exist to deliver benefits such as improved access to accommodation for older people as well as those with a disability and reduced risks and damage resulting from fires. It was argued, however, that the standards also impose a number of costs, including:

lost revenue from the hotel floor space required for accessible rooms, which would otherwise have been used for additional non-accessible rooms with higher occupancy rates
higher costs of construction and greater lending requirements for hotels compared with serviced apartments
lost revenue to hotels competing in the short-term market with lower room rates because they do not have to cover the cost of providing accessible rooms.

A survey by the Tourism and Transport Forum and Australian Hotels Association on the requirements for disability access reported the 'average demand for accessible rooms was 0.47 per cent of rooms per night, per establishment' and 'occupancy for accessible rooms was 30.7 per cent compared to 71.4 per cent for other rooms' (sub. 44, p. 38). A review of the accessibility requirements, however, argued business could address this low use of accessible rooms by more carefully designing accessible rooms, educating staff and better marketing to older people as well as people with a disability.

On balance, the Commission considers the Department of Planning and Community Development, in consultation with the accommodation industry, should conduct an evaluation of the accessibility ratio standards. The evaluation would assess the costs and benefits of this regulation, and examine the utilisation.

Overview of ccessible rooms and the efforts of the accommodation industry to better manage the use of these rooms. This evaluation should inform Victoria's position on the accessibility ratios and a decision to pursue potential changes to the accessibility ratios nationally

Source:

Opportunity for further comment:

You are invited to examine this draft report and provide comment on it within 
the Commission's public inquiry process. The Commission will be accepting 
submissions commenting on this report and will be undertaking further 
consultation before delivering a final report to the Government.   
The Commission should receive all submissions by 12 April 2011. 
Submissions may be sent by mail, fax, or email: in electronic, paper or audio 
format.  

By mail: 

Victoria's Tourism Industry inquiry 
Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission 
GPO Box 4379 
MELBOURNE   VICTORIA   3001 
AUSTRALIA 
By facsimile:  (03) 9092 5845      By email:  tourism@vcec.vic.gov.au

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