A couple I know has a son who has a severe form of autism. Yet, they recently traveled with him from Ohio to Florida. Chances are, you have hosted many people with autism at your property. The Autism community in the U.S. is approximately 25 million people. Did you know you can get your property certified as Autism Ready?
The name of the organization that certifies for autism readiness is called Autism Double-Checked (ADC). Stamford Conn.-based ADC was founded in 2014 by two travel industry veterans. CEO Alan Day has over 20 years of experience in retail travel and—as the father of an autistic son—he recognized the lack of special needs training in the travel industry. Co-founder is David Tait OBE, a career airline executive and author, who among other things started Virgin Atlantic Airways with Richard Branson in 1984 and ran the airline in the USA for 20 years. Together Day and Tait formed ADC with the mission of better preparing travel entities to receive autistic guests while simultaneously readying the autistic guest for what to expect at their destination—the latter is done by way of a customized Visitor’s Guide.
Earlier this year, Karisma Hotels & Resorts announced that most of its Mexico-based properties are now certified as Autism Ready.
Part of Sustainable Development Goal 10
“Karisma is highly committed towards responsibility as we have established in our company’s Sustainability Policy, where inclusion and acceptance of differences directly contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 10,” explained Daniel Lozano, VP of Operations for Karisma Hotels & Resorts. “We constantly work to exceed our guests’ expectations by adapting ourselves to their needs. This is the main reason why we decided to prepare our staff members to welcome our guests with autism, because we want all our guests to feel at home.”
“Inclusion is only possible if you understand the population that you wish to include,” said ADC Co-Founder and CEO, Alan Day. “It takes specialized training to understand autism, in general, and the difficulties of travel with autism. Karisma Hotels & Resorts have been tremendous with their dedication to undertaking this training, especially when done in the face of all the challenges of Covid pandemic and subsequent recovery. Karisma has been dedicated, and in fact truly amazing, in pursuing their vision of diversity and inclusion.”
Every member of staff at every resort who interacts with the public has completed the Autism Double-Checked Foundation Course in “Assisting Guests with Autism” and have now completed the more intensive stage of training on the Phase 2, that allows them to be certified as Autism Ready.
Input from Father of a Traveler with Autism
John Mason of Bedford, Mass., and father of a young autistic adult said: “Thank you. The work that you are doing is so important. Travel with our son can be difficult but it is not impossible. Some of our requests may sound strange to those who don’t understand autism but are perfectly normal to people who do know even a little about it. Your training will help travel and hospitality with that important knowledge. Lots of people with a basic understanding of autism would make travel easier for us and we would be able to travel more frequently.”
Karisma Hotels & Resorts will take a further, even bigger, step forward later in 2022. Preparation has begun for producing a Visitor Guide for each resort, which will include information that is uniquely sought by the autism community to allow them to plan a successful visit.
The online training is offered in English and Spanish and accessible 24/7 to accommodate work schedules. Hospitality staff who have received the training report that they feel enriched by their newly acquired knowledge to provide an extra level of service to travelers with special needs, and appreciation for the opportunity to increase their job training.