Are Hotels Turning Sensitive in an Effort to Appeal to Women Business Travelers?
By Melanie Nayer ~ Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 27th July 2011
That's the premise behind a new study from Cornell that suggests hotel managers focus more on the emotional 'outcomes' of women who stay at the hotel, instead of the basic amenities that appeal to all guests.

The study opined that women business travelers base their hotel decisions on emotions, and said that managers should focus on how combinations of "services, amenities and facilities contribute to the desired affective responses sought by women business travelers."

Women business travelers have increased significantly over the past year, which drove the theory that if a hotel wants to win the business of women business travelers, the hotel will need to cater to a woman's desire to feel safe, empowered and pampered.

There's truth to that. As a woman business traveler myself, I can attest that I've returned to the same hotels in big cities like Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles because I feel welcomed and safe. But pampered? It's certainly a nice amenity, and the purpose of leisure trips, but does it justify a return for a business trip?

The study, conducted by a woman, said that if a hotel caters to the "emotional outcomes" women have from feeling safe, empowered and pampered, it's more likely the hotel will win the repeat their business. The solution: that managers focus on how a combination of services, amenities, and facilities contribute to the "desired affective responses sought by women business travelers."

Simply put it says: by pampering a woman - be it with spa services or extra attention - she'll have a better emotional experience at the hotel, and will likely return. Do women really require additional pampering to men in order to rate a hotel "returnable" for business reasons? Before I voiced my opinions on this study, I took it to women in hotels and on Twitter to get their opinions.

"The word emotion does not sit well with me since all too often it is associated with a woman's performance whilst men displaying identical behavior are described as being passionate," said Amanda Hyndman, general manager of the Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC. 

"Whether correct or not, the detonation in leadership terms is that being passionate about a cause is more professional than being emotional.  Therefore by associating "emotion" and "women," the survey is inferring that women are less capable and by making special accommodations to that description we are affirming stereotypes that woman have been seeking to erase for years."

I read, and re-read, the study and it's suggestions a few times, and I agree with Hyndman's reaction. When I travel for business, I need basic amenities: Internet service (free Internet will the hotel extra points with me) so I can get my work done, in-room coffee or tea is helpful for those late nights or early mornings when the caffeine is necessary to push through, and a warm welcome from a hotel goes a long way.

No different than the same things I suspect men require. Spa services and in-room magazines that appeal to women are a nice touch, but not a deciding factor when it comes to business travel. Productivity improves my work, not a facial.

I took the study to Twitter and was met with a 50/50 response. Some women responded with "Yes", extra pampering will make them return to the hotel in the future. One Twitter follower said, "Feeling relaxed and nurtured in a great biz hotel makes me feel ready to be more productive."

But many also questioned the reality of "emotional outcomes" saying things including:
  • "Efficiency + value for money are key components for return to hotel. Different to 'cosmetic' level of pampering."
  • "I think good customer service is good customer service. I don't think it is gender specific."
  • "Luxury in travel is really nice, but not essential. Depending on destination, a perfect massage can be $10 or $1000. So YES&NO
  • "Hotels which make me feel like they have been waiting for me to arrive, get me back."
  • "Not even sure what emotional outcome means?! Location + facilities are main priorities for biz travel"
So what's the right approach?

"As a hotelier, my objective is to provide a luxury and unique experience, giving every guest exceptional value regardless of whether they are male or female, whether traveling for business or pleasure, in order to ensure that they are delighted with their stay so that they will want to come back," said Hyndman.

"The article refers to the important recurring themes for women travelers are feelings of safety, comfort, empowerment and being valued. In my experience and continual dealings with and feedback from guests, with the exception of feelings of safety, I struggle to believe these are significantly different regardless of gender."

Hyndman went on to say, " We empower ourselves whether male or female – if you don't believe in yourself then no one will. Finally and emphatically, every single guest knows the value of their business and if we don't take the best possible care of them then there are plenty of other hotels willing to do so."

Well put. It's not about the "emotional outcome" of women, it's about the service and value for all clients and guests of the hotels, regardless of gender. While I agree with the study that women do value security and safety, both men and women value empowerment and comfort.

What does your hotel do to value all guests?

|1 - www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/pubs/reports/abstract-15679.html

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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