All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak

All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak
All abilities trek to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko - Australia's highest peak - © Jennifer Johnson 2008

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Attitudes within accessible tourism research - tourism, customer service and hospitality

As outlined in the blog entry on leisure constraint theory, Smith’s (1987) the seminal work identified attitudinal barriers as a central constraint to accessible tourism. Darcy and Buhalis (2011) extend constraints through an understanding of social model approaches to disability, where 'hostile social attitudes’ are identified together with the disabling environments as foundation considerations for understanding the lived experience of people with disability. A great deal of research has been undertaken in the area of behaviour and attitudes towards disability across many industry sectors (Antonak & Livneh, 2000; Finkelstein, 1980). The importance of attitudes within accessible tourism is central to a customer service orientated industry (Buhalis & Darcy, 2011).

This is certainly borne out in the hotel accommodation sector, where Darcy (2010) identifies that across all disability groups a 'can-do customer service attitude’ is valued as part of the top five considerations for staying at a particular hotel. Within interviews for this research, it was suggested that while some hotel accommodation may not provide the level of access that a person requires, if the customer service attitude is right then adjustments to rooms are possible to make them workable for the individuals involved. As Darcy’s research suggests, good environmental design shown in Photo 1 needs to be reinforced through staff training about inclusive practices for people with disability to create a welcoming and hospitable service environment.

Photo 1: Height adjusted table provided for workshop participants - hotel staff provided a range of adjustments to ensure the smooth running of a disability related workshop at a major Sydney hotel  - Participants and research team from left to right: Peter Simpson, Greg Killeen, Bruce Cameron, Simon Darcy, George Laszuk, Glenn Bennett  & Emma Wong (© Fiona Darcy 2007)
Yet, as Groschl’s (2007) study concluded that in a review of human resource polices and practices in Canadian hotels identified no best human resource management practices regarding disability. Groschl further suggested that manager perceptions of people with disability were coloured by an industry discourse of aesthetics and self-presentation that adversely affected people with disability's chances of employment. This reinforced previous research that suggested that tourism marketing managers 'camouflaged' their true attitudes towards people with disability to provide a politically correct organisational response (G. A. Ross, 1994). This type of discrimination was further reinforced by a study on the ethics of treatment of people with disability by students studying tourism and hospitality (G. F. Ross, 2004).

The importance of a well structured measures to assess attitude toward and the delivery of disability awareness training across industry sectors is well established (Antonak & Livneh, 2000; Chan, Livneh, Pruett, Wang, & Zheng, 2009; Finkelstein, 1980). Daruwalla & Darcy (2005) study of tourism and hospitality students, and employees of a tourism marketing organisation examined the affect of disability awareness training on personal and societal attitudes towards disability. Their study suggested that personal attitudes were much harder to change than societal attitudes. Further, there is a greater impact to training when the intervention involves people with disability that could be considered the peer of those being trained. However, the effect of the training dissipates with time unless reinforced through workplace practices.

A new contribution to this area is the work of the Bizjak, Knezevic, & Cvetreznik (2011) titled Attitude change towards guests with disabilities: Reflections From Tourism Students. The paper identifies that no tourism based curriculum within Slovenia includes modules on people with disabilities as tourists. The method they employed involved designing an experiment to test whether attitudes towards disabilities could be changed through education interventions. They used a semantic differential scale to measure the changes in student attitude towards people with disability through a short education program and sessions about people with disability.

Abstract: (restricted to 10% of abstract due to copyright)…In our experiment, it was shown that the process of changing perception of tourism students towards people with disabilities was relatively simple…a range of topics on the disabled have the potential to improve attitudes of students towards people with disabilities as tourists.

Keywords: people with disabilities, tourism education, semantic differential, attitude change. 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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