HEWI MAG / Knowledge

Accessible planning of hotel rooms

An interview with Kornelia Grundmann | owner of gabana, the agency for accessible accessibility

Kornelia Grundmann is an expert in the field of accessibility in the hotel industry and advises the international construction and tourism industry. Since her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, she has been a wheelchair user herself. In this interview, the architect explains how to plan accessible hotel rooms.  

Kornelia Grundmann - architect and owner of gabana

Planning accessible hotel rooms: a worthwhile investment

HEWI: What makes a well-designed hotel for you, especially with regard to accessibility?

Kornelia Grundmann: Well-designed hotels create an unmistakable ambience, invite guests to feel good and inspire them at the same time. Attractive and reliable accessibility complements this multi-faceted offering of welcoming hospitality with true modernity.

Ideally, a hotel room that is optimally adapted to the individual needs of the respective hotel guest shows how naturally and attractively accessibility can be implemented. Because accessibility means more than just meeting normative requirements.

Thoughtful, accessible design and authenticity makes guests feel truly welcome. Much more, it also creates the conditions for the guest to feel comfortable and, above all, safe.

 

HEWI: Ms Grundmann, the focus of your consulting services is on the construction and leisure industry. As a qualified architect and expert in accessibleconstruction, what prompted you to write the book "Lust auf Barrierefreiheit"?

Kornelia Grundmann: As a wheelchair user, the decisive factor for me was my daily experience with superfluous and useless barriers in everyday life. When travelling, the problems already start with the difficult search for accessible hotels.

On site, it is found that only a few hotels offer accessible access throughout. In addition, there are the mostly lovelessly designed hotel rooms with wrongly equipped bathrooms.

As the latter is undoubtedly the Achilles' heel of accessible hotel rooms, there is still a lot of need for clarification and action in terms of accessible bathrooms.

 

HEWI: Where do you think the problem lies?

Kornelia Grundmann: Several factors certainly come together here. Accessible construction requires not only specialist knowledge and common sense, but also empathy for the needs of people in old age and those with mobility restrictions.

In addition, when building for the hotel industry, it is important to sensitively take into account the wishes of the hoteliers and to harmonise these with the needs of the guests in a harmonious and aesthetic way.

In plain language, this means that bathrooms should be functional, yet attractively appointed. And by no means be allowed to convey the charm of a bathroom in a care facility. This is easily achieved with an appealing ambience and contemporary comfortable elements.

The Lighthouse Hotel & Spa is an example of how hotel rooms can be planned to be accessible and aesthetically pleasing

Hoteliers, for example, find the long WC ceramics particularly annoying, as they remind every guest of a supposed disabled bathroom as soon as they enter. But there is another way.

Interesting on this subject are the results of a survey of wheelchair users. When asked if they would value a long toilet in hotels, the results were astounding. All respondents except one unanimously stated that they did not need a long toilet either at home or on the road, preferring the standard commercial sizes.

 

HEWI: What opportunities are there for hotel operators if they attach more importance to accessibility?

Kornelia Grundmann: The hotel landscape is currently undergoing massive changes. Hoteliers still live from fully booked rooms. In these rapidly changing times, future-oriented, sustainable planning would certainly not be a disadvantage.

What do I mean by that? If it were possible to communicate the market potential and the advantages of Universal Design to hotel operators, additional guest groups could be developed. This would also allow investments for conversion or new construction to be amortised more quickly.

As an example, I quote Christoph Hochfilzer from AktivHotel Hochfilzer in Ellmau/Tyrol, who puts it in a nutshell: "I knew that there was a demand for accessible rooms. I had no idea that it would be so big."

 

HEWI: How do you assess the market potential of accessibility in the hotel industry?

Kornelia Grundmann: Looking at the big picture could inspire architects, hoteliers and building owners to take a new look at comfortable accessibility in terms of socio-political responsibility as well as their own economic aspects.

This refers to the increasing life expectancy and the associated demands of this group that enjoys travelling: Generation 65plus. A generation that is in its majority financially well to very well off and knows exactly what it wants.

This group of guests expects the highest level of comfort in order to be able to continue to live out their usual desire to travel without restriction. In 2020, Germany will have approximately 18 million people over the age of 65, which is roughly equivalent to the combined populations of London, Barcelona, Berlin and Paris. If you want to inspire these guests and win them over in the long term, you should take their individual needs and demands for comfort in old age seriously and take them into account.

That's not all. With modern designed accessible hotels another 8 million Germans with mobility, visual or hearing impairments are addressed, many of whom would like to travel if there were corresponding reliable accessiblee offers. 

KORNELIA GRUNDMANN

Kornelia Grundmann studied architecture in Mainz. As a sworn and judicially certified expert for accessibleconstruction and owner of gabana, the agency for accessible construction, she lives in Ellmau in Tyrol (Austria). Since her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, she has been a wheelchair user herself. Ms Grundmann is an expert in the field of accessibility in the hotel industry and advises the international construction and tourism industry.

"Accessible construction requires not only specialist knowledge and common sense, but also empathy for the needs of people in old age and those with mobility restrictions. In plain English, this means that bathrooms should be functional, yet appealing."

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