A full 80% of all travel decisions today are taken by women. Sometimes they travel alone in business, sometimes they travel with the family and increasingly in search of adventure. However, most hotels don’t seem to get it when it comes to catering to women. Hotels should be paying attention, women want much more than just a place to stay.
In 2010 a Cornell University report showed that in the US almost 50% of business travelers today are women. In 1991 this figure was just 25%. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts says that 35 percent of their business clients are women, for the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco that figure us even higher, around 40%. Despite this surge in female business travelers, hoteliers have been incredibly slow to wake up to this demographic and have not yet realized the potential of this market, but it is a very attractive niche for hotels.
Most hotel designers and managers tend to be men, and are therefore clueless as to the specific needs of women. And it’s not that women want hotels designed exclusively for them, or that they don’t want men around, they just want some very basic things, like better makeup lighting, more diet-friendly options in the room service menu. They also appreciate cozy rooms decorated in pleasant colors and being able to wander around some common areas dressed comfortably without encountering male colleagues from work or the national convention. Women, and especially today’s super women can only completely relax from the pressures of corporate work and life in the company of other women.
Of course, Wi-Fi or express check ins are great, but other less obvious and simple things can make a world of a difference for women when staying in a hotel, like a shower cap for example, a shelf in the shower for women who shave their legs, quality shampoo and conditioner, and tampons. Looking perfect and feeling confident for a tough morning meeting or a presentation takes time and the appropriate tools.
Men and women use hotel rooms in different ways. When a man walks into a room, he might go to check the views, he will plug in his computer, open the minibar and turn on the TV. Women go to the bathroom and check if it is clean, if has a good bathtub and shower, and if it smells good.
Business women who travel alone will not necessarily visit the restaurant. First, they don’t want to look like they are alone and second, they don’t want to be the target of men hungry for new friends. Communal tables are a good solution so guests who dine alone don’t feel intimidated. And for those women who decide to stay in their rooms, there should be healthy food options in the room-service menu. Women are usually more health conscious than men, but increasingly, men are also embracing healthier habits. Intercontinental has even created a brand, EVEN Hotels, exclusively targeting healthy-conscious guests.
The Naumi, a luxury boutique hotel in Singapore’s business district, has a female-only floor. The staff is made up exclusively of women. The specifics include makeup remover, a yoga mat, fashion magazines, aromatherapy products and “flowery” wallpaper. (To see more pictures of the Naumi in Flickr)
In the Arab world, the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, in Dubai, has partnered with Swiss luxury watch, jewellery and accessories company Chopard to create a floor especially designed for traveling executive women. The initiative, launched in 2005, was the first of its kind in the Middle East. It is serviced only by female staff, and all the products, including bath towels, terrycloth bathrobe, Jacquard kimono and bath products, are by Chopard. Even the duvet and bed linens have been exclusively woven for this floor. The concept was introduced on a trial basis but the response was tremendously positive, showing there is a market for this type of concept.
At the Premier Hotel in Times Square in New York they understand that women shouldn’t need to pack absolutely every little thing they need. Their women-only rooms include curling and flat irons, bath salts and loofahs, nail files, vanity kit, yoga mats, women’s magazines. Bathtubs are bigger than usual and there is makeup lighting and a stool at the sink so you can be more comfortable.
The Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver says that the 18 rooms exclusively dedicated to female travelers -their Orchid Floor– which include flat irons, curling irons, ladies-olny emergency kits, upgraded Aveda amenities, yoga mats, additional satin-padded and skirt hangers, have been so successful the are considering adding a second floor.
Some hotels offer simply “female-friendly” rooms or floors, which means you can get fresh flowers, fashion magazines or ice cream, but many hotels know that many women also want to feel safe. Most female-only floors include extra security: a key-card door and female only staff. A recent survey by Premier Lodges found that 42 percent of female business travelers abroad are anxious about their personal safety. The Hilton in Colombo and the Novotel in Shanghai women-only floors include female security staff. Some hotels, like Inter-Continental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, offer rooms near lifts and even an escort to the rooms.
Expotel, a hotel reservation network established the Woman Aware campaign. Participating hotels had to fulfil 10 criteria to obtaining the Women Aware status. These included peep-holes on room doors, well-lit parking areas and full-body mirrors. Expotel has recently rebranded the campaing as Lone Traveller Initiative, to include all hotels that offer special services to guests traveling solo.
Hotels can offer other services to traveling businesswomen. Just as important as having the right amenities in the room, for example,is a concierge who is prepared to answer specific questions foreign women may have about culture and customs of the country, and who can arrange specific female-friendly activities. He should know and be able to recommend gyms and spas, but also where to experience a special wine tasting in a comfortable environment and should know if there are women-only networking events in the city.
Some hotels go the extra mile, like the Ellis Hotel in downtown Atlanta, which offers not only a secured entry, but also special amenities like slippers, a kiss cam to say goodnight to your loved ones, Bath & Body Works toiletries, chocolates, Red Bull and even Spanx.
In Europe, Lady’s First is a 28-room, boutique hotel in Zurich, situated in an elegant 19th century building in a quiet part of town, a stone’s throw from the lake. The lounge has an open fireplace and a rose garden. The upper floors of the hotel are for women only and include only-female staff. There is also an ambianced spa area with sauna, massage and cosmetic treatments.
Berlin has the Artemisia, the first hotel only for women in the city. Named after the Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652), who was the first female painter to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, the hotel has an art gallery with a changing exhibition by women artists. Also, the rooms are decorated with borrowed paintings.
The Bella Donna opened last year on the 17th floor of the the Bella Sky Comwell hotel in Copenhaguen’s Ørestad neighbourhood. According to the CEO Arne Bang Mikkelsen, the rooms on this floor were designed by women for women. Behind the locked glass door access is restricted and even the hotel manager Anders Duelund cannot enter. If a female guest wants to bring a man up to her room she must get a room on another floor.
The 20 special rooms (video), decorated in soft rose and burgundy, have fresh flowers, fresh fruit, chocolates, fashion magazines and full-body mirrors. Bathrooms include high-powered hair dryers, high-end shampoos, day and night moisturizers, creams and facial masks. The rooms cost on average about 40 euros (53 dollars) more than a regular room on another floor. Catering for women is big business because they are willing to pay a premium if they are being pampered.
You don’t have to make radical changes to tap into this market. At the London Dukes Hotel, management says bookings to their “Duchess Rooms” -which are standard rooms with fresh flowers, fruit, styling accessories, and other extras added — have surged 25% over the past year.
The Baglioni, also in London, doesn’t have a female-only floor, but women traveling solo (or with children) can request the Women Travellers program, which gets them a complimentary “lady butler”, use of a chauffeured Maserati for around town, the “best table” at the hotel’s Brunello restaurant, private check-in, a Laura Elos beauty box containing facial scrub and rejuvenating cream, a gift for the kids and a 20% discount on the hotel’s spa treatments. How is that for a treat? And it can’t be that difficult, right?
Hotel managers need to understand that it is not about the hair-dryer or the flowers, it goes beyond that. Women want and are willing to pay a premium for feeling safe, comfortable, empowered and pampered. More than focusing on specific amenities or services, they should really think about how to create a total experience that would meet the expectations of this growing market segment.