December 02, 2006

Phuket, Thailand: Beautiful Sand Resort

Phuket is a popular vacation destination. Fortunately, inclusion has made progress there. Read about Beautiful Sand Resort.

Accessible Hotels - It's Not Rocket Science!

Phuket, Thailand, 1st December 2006 - A British man has swapped his job as a designer of rocket and satellite systems to concentrate on more down-to-earth challenges - building a hotel on the paradise island of Phuket which is fully accessible for wheelchair users.

Simon Luttrell, who emigrated to Thailand several years ago, spent most of his previous career within the ultraclean environments of satellite assembly laboratories. But a downturn in demand for 'rocket scientists' encouraged him to seek new opportunities in Asia.

'Unfortunately, there were no vacancies for rocket scientists in Thailand either' quipped Luttrell, 'but I enjoyed the climate and relaxed lifestyle so much that it was hard to return to the UK.'

Unlike many expat men in Thailand, who spend their declining years drinking excessively and frequenting the gogo bars of Patpong and Pattaya, Luttrell sought out new business opportunities.

A chance incident in a Bangkok hotel set him on his new career path. 'I watched a chap in a wheelchair trying to negotiate the steps leading up to the hotel. It was an impossible task and he had to be physically lifted by the staff. Having finally accomplished this, it then became clear that the entrance door leading to the toilets was simply too narrow for his wheelchair. The man was obviously upset and left soon afterwards'.

Luttrell immediately recognised a business opportunity in building an accessible hotel for both able-bodied and wheelchair guests. 'It struck me that wheelchair users were being denied the opportunity to visit this beautiful country, simply because they were unable to find suitable accomodation.'

Although Thailand has leglislation requiring hotels to provide accessible accomodation, these rules are not enforced. Major hotel chains do provide accessible rooms, but complete access to all hotel facilities is rare, if not unknown.

In Spring of 2006, Luttrell and his Thai wife acquired a suitable building plot, adjacent to Phuket International Airport. 'We needed a site that was absolutely flat, and near to the airport and beaches' Luttrell commented. 'No-one enjoys long transfers from airport to hotel, least of all wheelchair users.'

To ensure that the new hotel met international accessibility regulations, Luttrell followed the reccomendations of the American Disability Association (ADA). Their comprehensive guidelines covered all aspects of hotel construction, from specifying maximum step heights through to specific layouts and dimensions for accessible bathrooms.

'Initially, the large number of regulations that we had to comply with seemed rather daunting, but once we started the actual building construction, these regulations just seemed like commonsense.'

Luttrell personally supervised the local Thai labourers, explaining to them in fluent Thai why it was not allowed, for example, to use steps outside of the guest rooms to stop monsoon rainwater flooding the bedrooms. 'The monsoon rain problem was a challenge in itself' says Luttrell, 'but we overcame it by incorporating a slight slope on the external sandwash footpaths and using sunken flowerbeds to funnel the water away from the rooms.'

After 8 months of hard work, the Beautiful Sand Resort opened just in time for the Phuket high season. Wheelchair guests are able to use all of the hotel rooms and facilities. Luttrell tested accessibility using a friend's wheelchair. 'I trundled from my bathroom, through the bedroom and out onto my sandwash terrace. Then I scooted around the accessible swimming pool and into the restaurant. After a quick drink at the bar, (where includes a low-height section for wheelchair users), I wheeled myself out of the hotel and down to the nearby beach.'

Luttrell is understandably proud of his achievement, but his rapid success in building an accessible hotel begs the question 'why don't all hotels consider wheelchair users at the construction stage?'

ABOUT Simon Luttrell

Simon Luttrell graduated from University College London in 1986 with a Master's degree in Microwaves & Modern Optics. He worked as a senior consultant for companies such as Marconi, Alcatel, British Telecom, Cable & Wireless and several others. In 1998, he established Fonedata - an SMS text messaging company which he later sold to Psion plc. Simon emigrated to Thailand in 2002 and now lives and works on the island of Phuket.


Beautiful Sands Resort press release

Posted by rollingrains at December 2, 2006 03:04 PM