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Virgin Hotels the Latest to Commit to Accommodate Travelers with Autism

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Search on “autism” on Green Lodging News and you will find many articles detailing the efforts of individual properties or entire brands to better accommodate travelers with autism. One organization at the forefront of autism awareness and education in the travel industry is Autism Double-Checked. Autism Double-Checked is changing travel with autism by classifying travel companies into three levels of autism-readiness. At each successive level, the degree of commitment to inclusivity becomes greater but they all show that participants are actively looking to welcome guests traveling with autistic family members. Currently the Autism Double-Checked website lists 16 properties that have been certified.

Virgin Hotels just announced that it has forged a meaningful partnership with Autism Double-Checked, to create extensive training and resources for Virgin Hotels team members that positively impact the guest experience for neurodiverse travelers. Four Virgin Hotels are currently Autism Double-Checked certified—Virgin Hotels Nashville, Virgin Hotels New York, Virgin Hotels Dallas, and Virgin Hotels Chicago. Virgin Hotels New Orleans and Virgin Hotels Edinburgh will be certified this year, marking a milestone certification for the entire brand.

According to Autism Double-Checked, between 25 and 35 million people are parents to one or more children with autism and due to the current travel landscape, 87 percent of them currently do not travel or take family vacations.

Providing a Safe & Accessible Space

“There is a significant segment of the population missing out on the opportunity to create memories with loved ones due to barriers in accessible travel,” said James Bermingham, CEO of Virgin Hotels Collection. “It is so important to us to provide a safe and accessible space that allows all individuals the freedom to travel with ease and partnering with Autism Doubled-Checked was an essential step for Virgin Hotels to make a significant difference and impact for neurodiverse travelers. With the in-depth training and resources they’ve provided our team members, we can now confidently offer neurodiverse travelers the tools they need to create invaluable memories.”

Virgin Hotels’ commitment to ensuring safe and comfortable stays for autistic and neurodiverse travelers is extensive and intentional. The hospitality brand is implementing impactful practices to make a difference including:

  • Hiring: Through Virgin Hotels’ Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) program, the brand hires individuals that are reflective of the world and encompass a variety of racial backgrounds, genders and abilities. Each hotel partners with a local organization specifically to hire neurodiverse individuals.
  • Comprehensive Staff Training: Every team member at a certified Virgin Hotel property undergoes specialized training in partnership with Autism Double-Checked. They learn how to welcome and assist guests with autism or hidden disabilities, ensuring a respectful and empathetic approach. Plus, there are future plans to roll out ongoing resources for team members including unconscious bias training and beyond.
  • Visitor’s Guide: Virgin Hotels provides an Autism Double-Checked visitor’s guide for guests ahead of their stay that highlights sensory-friendly areas within the hotel. Here, guests can find information about quiet spaces, potential noise levels, and other considerations.
  • Hidden Disabilities: Virgin Hotels has also implemented a new partnership with Hidden Disabilities to allow teammates and guests to wear a sunflower lanyard that indicates that they have a non-visible disability and may need more time, assistance or care.

Accessible Chambers

Virgin Hotels’ chambers are uniquely designed to cater to the needs of travelers with autism so all guests can feel in control and comfortable with their accommodations. Important in-room touchpoints include blackout shades, the ability to control the lighting, large walk-in showers with a handheld function, two chamber design that allows for separation and noise control and temporary door alarms to alert travel companions should the chamber door be opened at any time. The brand plans to roll out additional inclusive accommodation add-ons this year.

Hotels with Heart: Reduced Rates for Practice Stays

To further increase accessibility in 2024, Virgin Hotels has recently launched Hotels with Heart. This initiative offers reduced rates for practice stays at all Virgin Hotels with Autism Double-Checked certifications. This opportunity provides travelers with a meaningful way to test the waters, ensuring a smooth experience before their actual trip.

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