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Responsible Tourism by Harold Goodwin
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Employing the Differently-abled

November 2, 2020
Harold Goodwin
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At the heart of Responsible Tourism is the idea that tourism businesses look at the social, environmental and economic issues in the place or places that they do business and ask themselves whether they can address any of them, to make a better place for people to live in or visit. In that order.

Back in 2016 Lemon Tree Hotels won Gold in the World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM, London for their commitment to barrier-free employment – they were also overall winners that year. In January I needed to overnight close to Delhi airport and found that I had been booked into the Red Fox Hotel one of Lemon Tree’s. I am always apprehensive encountering one of the Responsible Tourism Award winners for the first time, I need not have been. I was met at the door by a young man who smiled, took my bag and ushered me to the reception.  Aircrew arrived behind me, and the bags got scrambled.  It was only then that I realised that he was profoundly deaf. On the corridor, as I went to my room, I noticed the small shelves with paper and pencils every 20m along and understood the lengths that Lemon Tree had gone to, to create an environment in which he could work.

Their barrier-free employment strategy is at the heart of their CSR programme., but not of their marketing strategy.  Patu Keswani, Chairman & Managing Director of Lemon Tree Hotels challenged his managers to find ways to employ the differently-abled and disadvantaged Indians because  “the brand should stand for more than ‘just profit’.” Lemon Tree is a large, successful and growing company encompassing several brands, 8,000 rooms in  91 hotels across 49 destinations; and it is committed to barrier-free employment.

The commitment to employing ODIs, Opportunity Deprived Indians, is clearly stated on the website – if you look for it, you have to hunt for it.

“We believe that persons with disabilities (which can be physical, social or economic disabilities leading to an opportunity deprivation) must be provided the same opportunities as others to realize their full potential and live with dignity. By creating a supportive environment in the organization that allows them to deliver their best, we are able to play a part, however small, in social inclusiveness, opportunity/livelihood creation and therefore nation-building.”

They have not compromised on service quality. They have demonstrated that by engaging managers and staff through the teams which deliver service, they can successfully employ: the speech and hearing impaired; the orthopedically handicapped; acid attack survivors; those with Down’s Syndrome and autism; those from below the poverty line; widows and abandoned or abused women; orphans and abandoned girls; and transgender people.

Their initiative started in 2007. By May 2018, approximately 21% of their employees were Indians who are opportunity deprived in some way.

In an extended interview Aradhana Lal, Vice President – Brand, Communications & Sustainability Initiatives explained why Lemon Tree addressed barrier-free employment and how they implemented the policy.

There is a brief account of their work on barrier-free employment here click on the CSR tab.

You may also be interested in the depth and breadth of their efforts Rest-Assured programme to ensure a Covid-19 secure environment for staff and guests.

© 2020 The Responsible Tourism Partnership 
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