By Shruthi Kuttipravan
Embarking on a global adventure is a joyous experience, but it can be especially challenging for guests with sensory needs. Sensitivity to noise, crowds, and disruptions in routine can turn travel into a daunting and stressful endeavor.
However, Dubai is paving the way for a more inclusive travel experience through a groundbreaking initiative. Dubai has initiated the movement with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to designate the first-ever Certified Autism Destination™ (CAD) outside the United States. Part of this initiative comprises providing comprehensive training programs for its tourism workforce, equipping them with the skills to cater to the unique needs of neurodivergent visitors. This commitment underscores Dubai’s dedication to ensuring that travel is accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Following the lead, The H Dubai is the First Hotel in the City to Earn the Certified Autism Center™ Designation.
In honour of the World Tourism Day, The H Dubai recently hosted a panel discussion on the topic “How Tourism Can Live up to Inclusive Growth Opportunity”.
Our expert panelists comprised of:
Sophie Blondel, General Manager at The H Dubai
Camille Proctor, Executive Director and Founder at The Color of Autism Foundation
Eman Abushabab, Community Outreach Manager at Dubai Autism Centre
Zahra Al Jasmi, Managing Director of Georgetown Early Intervention Center
The conversation yielded valuable insights into the efforts being made to enhance inclusivity in travel:
Becoming a Certified Autism Centre
With The H Dubai being the first hotel in Dubai to receive the Certified Autism Centre designation, Sophie emphasized on the significance of other hotels and attractions achieving the designation of a Certified Autism Centre. Beyond a mere label, this designation represents a genuine commitment to inclusivity and top-tier service standards. To attain this status, hotels and destinations must cultivate a sincere desire to be autism friendly. This commitment then extends to comprehensive training for all staff members and actively seeking feedback from experts and guests to improve the services and ensuring that the entire organization is well-versed in the unique needs of individuals with autism.
Core Values of Inclusivity
Becoming an autism destination means embracing the core values of inclusivity and serving as a trailblazer for others. Camille and Eman highlighted the importance of being a leader in this space and setting an example for destinations worldwide. Inclusivity should not be an add-on but an integral part of a hotel or destination’s identity. Based on her personal experience, Camille mentioned that Dubai is a destination which welcomes every traveller with warmth and understanding and she recommends it as an inclusive destination for travel to family and friends.
Informing Travelers about Autism-Friendly Offerings
Crucial to fostering inclusivity is the active dissemination of information about autism-friendly offerings. Destinations and hotels are taking a proactive approach, utilizing various platforms such as social media, websites, and travel forums. Actively seeking feedback from experts, professionals, and individuals with autism ensures continuous refinement of services, enhancing the overall travel experience.
Recommendations for Traveling with Autism
The discussion delved into the importance of recommending destinations to families with children on the autism spectrum. Camille and Zahra shared their personal experiences, underscoring the significance of finding destinations that cater to a child’s specific needs. This sentiment resonates with many families navigating the challenge of ensuring their child’s comfort and enjoyment while traveling.
Providing an Inclusive Work-Culture
Eman iterated the importance for establishments to be open to have an inclusive work-culture. She provided recommendations on how this can be achieved. One of the easiest ways is by providing vocational training and by asking individuals what their skills and interests are. Based on this they can nurture the right talent and offer opportunities to individuals on the spectrum to promote independent living.
Overall, Dubai’s initiative to train employees in accommodating inclusive guests is a commendable step forward. As we celebrate World Tourism Day, we hope that this commitment inspires cities worldwide to follow suit. By fostering inclusivity, we can ensure that individuals with sensory needs can revel in the wonders of travel without concerns of discrimination or insufficient support.