The lone woman traveller is no longer a curiosity. We live in an age where women are travelling almost as much as men. Whether travelling for business purposes or any other, the segment of the women travellers is quite a sizeable one. Research has shown that 70 per cent of decisions regarding travel are taken by women and over 40 per cent of business travellers are women. Surprisingly, travel companies, airlines and hotels have been slow in recognising this very important fact.
You may wonder if women have special needs in the first place! They certainly do! Research, while indicating the growing number of women travellers also reveals that while women are not looking for extra special treatment, they do want some deference to their needs as women. A few changes in infrastructure are definitely needed, but what is more crucial is a change in attitude and sensitivity towards solo women travellers’ and their needs.
General Security is undoubtedly the first and the major concern for women. Women travellers often complain of not feeling ‘safe’ in hotels and airports. If staff in airlines and hotels were ‘sensitised’ to recognise and have a helpful attitude towards a woman’s security concerns, it would go a long way in addressing the issue and gaining brand loyalty. Once the mind-set is in place, it is just a small step to show willingness to accommodate requests from women guests and be flexible enough to make a few necessary changes. They will be amply rewarded too, as women are habitually ‘loyal’ to the brands which make them feel safe and comfortable. Loyalty translates to numbers and numbers in turn to profits.
The top things women look for in hotels are security, courteous and helpful staff and those conveniences which make them feel cared for. Apart from these, small touches to acknowledge a woman guest will be met with pleasure, creating loyalty and a great image for the hotel. Having fresh flowers in the room, essential female toiletries and courtesy towards female guests create the special ‘wow’ factor.
Security in hotel: Women have reported ‘security’ as the primary concern in hotels. The hotel should have a definite commitment to make a woman guest feel safe in its premises. Good lighting in corridors and parking lots is important. A woman guest should not have security concerns in dining alone in the hotel restaurant or working out alone in the hotel gym. Staff should be well-trained to spot and defuse any potentially unpleasant situation that can make their female guests uncomfortable. There are many simple features that can be included in hotels to address the security issue.
Privacy of check-in: Staff at the front-desk should be trained to be discreet by not to announcing names or room numbers loudly. In several good hotels, key-cards are individualised making the female occupant feel much safer. The woman’s name or room number is not announced aloud. It is written down and handed over.
Room location: Women should preferably be allotted rooms with ‘safer’ locations. Allotting a room at the end of a dimly lit corridor definitely makes a woman feel unsafe. Allotting rooms too close to elevators or areas where renovation work is going on, or near public access areas should be avoided. An increasing number of hotels are introducing ‘women’s only floors’, which is proving to be a big hit with women travellers.
Room safety: Peep-holes, chain locks on doors, in-room safety deposits and emergency alarm buttons are all great women-friendly features. Room service by females is a great idea to beat the ‘let me make myself presentable’ pre-room service scramble and is a sure way to make lone women more comfortable.
Conveniences: Good bathrobes and towels, full-length mirrors, women-specific toiletries, sanitary napkins in bathrooms, cleanliness of room, hair-dryer and skirt hangers are all things which will earn big brownie points from women. A working phone for keeping in touch with family or call for help if needed is also an essential for a woman guest.
Others: After a tiring day, a woman will feel great unwinding with a relaxing massage, but chances are she may not want to leave her room to get one. An in-room spa treatment will be great under the circumstances. Similarly offering in-room free Wi-Fi access, a mini-bar and coffee-maker can take care of those times when a woman opts to go without a drink or avoid checking an email because she is not comfortable stepping out of her room at a late hour.
- The Crowne Plaza Silversmith, Chicago, makes an ‘all is well’ call after a female guest has checked in. Furthermore, it provides women detergents to wash delicate lingerie. Their 24-hour fitness room is strategically located opposite to the registration desk, which gives a ‘safer’ feeling to women. Now that’s thoughtfulness.
- Wyndham Hotels and Resorts have a special By Request program to cater especially to business women travellers who frequently stay there. Personalised service includes keeping tabs of their likes and dislikes and friendly alert calls before room service.
- Don Shula’s Hotel and Golf Club in Miami has a Patrician Floor with 18 rooms solely dedicated to the woman business traveller. The small details which ‘wow’ women include magnifying makeup mirrors, special toiletries and even special women magazines. It is no coincidence that the floor is 95 per cent occupied all the time!
- Hyatt Regency in Ft Lauderdale takes care that the parking spots allotted to its women guests are close to the hotel entrance.
- The Barbizon, New York offers escorts for women who wish to go walking or jogging to the nearby Central Park.
In Airlines and Airports
Now, what do women want from airlines and airports? Research shows that women choose airlines with frequent flights, convenient timings, friendly staff, cheap fares and prior seat allocations. Results from various surveys have revealed that women reportedly feel they get ‘second class’ treatment as compared to men during travelling. They feel short-shifted in terms of not getting upgrades or equal treatment as men, more so in some specific countries. Again, the play of attitude comes in. For instance, a man hogging the arm-rest is often taken for granted; or a woman’s request for a change of seat due to unwanted attentions from a male passenger, may not always get the attention it deserves. On the convenience front, amenity packs specially designed for women, courteous airline staff, help with luggage and customs, helpful attitude towards seat allocation (especially during long hauls) are all things that woman look for. More than huge infrastructural changes, change in attitude of staff will go a long way in making women comfortable during travelling.
Women reportedly find security inadequate at airports. Good transport facilities from the airport should also be organised. Adequate security and privacy in the lounge areas will make long layovers easier for women. Parking lots should be brightly lit and have security so that women feel safer while waiting for shuttle buses or driving in or out. Surveillance cameras in parking lots, women specific stores at airports, spas and massage centres, play areas for kids and clean washrooms are all women-friendly features. Safety, hotel or shopping tips issued by airlines or available at airports are also very helpful and much appreciated.
- Japanese Airlines has dedicated washroom for women with washbasin and large mirrors where they can freshen up and change.
- According to Lufthansa, over 180,000 women in Germany fly around ten times or more a year. The airlines have come up with the neat idea of a special woman’s magazine dedicated to their frequent women flyers.
- airBaltic has a Seat Buddy programme which allows people to choose the ‘type’ of person you sit next to (related to four moods ‘work’, ‘business talk’, easy chat or relax).
- KLM and Malaysia Airlines have ‘social seating’ systems whereby people can share their social networking profiles and choose seating partners beforehand. (Used with caution, this is a great idea!)
Give Me Wings to Fly
Woman all over the world are exploring new horizons and achieving goals to be proud of. We live in times where both men and women have equal rights to fulfil their dreams. Where those dreams require taking off from beyond home and hearth, the role of the travel and hospitality industry comes in. These industries have to take steps to empower the women of today so that they can truly excel and fulfil their dreams. It is no small responsibility but the rewards will not be mean either. If the service industries rise to meet the challenge, they can proudly claim its share in the success story of the modern woman.