As more and more women travel solo for business, hoteliers are continuing to rack their brains to meet their specific needs.
Since my blog colleague Holly recently published a scathing and funny critique of the ‘women only' service at Duke's, I wanted to offer hoteliers some further thoughts on how they might cater to women's needs from a professional working female perspective.
Admittedly, business-oriented hotels have traditionally been very masculine places. Even the decor often showed that such hotels were designed primarily for men – sporting prints and a ‘gentleman's library' style design – with the only pastels in the entire joint often found in the ladies' toilets.Hotels sometimes use arbitrary cliches in trying to please female guests but the real solutions are more subtle - like providing clear information about dining options without pinpointing this specifically for women (many men are conscious of what they eat too)
It was once generally assumed that the business traveller was a man.
Nowadays, when the head of the IMF, the Prime Minister of Denmark and the Chancellor of Germany are all women, that's not a safe assumption; women make up roughly 40 percent of travelling executives and the number of solo women staying in four and five star hotels has more than doubled over the last decade.
But many women apparently still feel that hotels aren't really catering to them. They're not looking for patronising add-ons like pink furniture or handbag holders but just for a few fine-tunings – particularly better hotel gyms, more healthy and low-calorie dining options and improved security.Hilton on Park Lane opened a women only floor a few years back, but this initiative proved to be misguided
You can go too far – Holly's point about the "women only" rooms at Dukes.
The Hilton on Park Lane, which is ironically one of the most boring hotel buildings in London, famously opened a women-only floor in 2003. It quietly abandoned the concept a few years ago. One of the problems might have been that the women-only floor had an increased price tag of £265 against £180 a night and wasn't guaranteed to be "men-free" since couples were also accommodated on the ‘women only' floor when the hotel was full. Relatively few hotels since have adopted women-only floors and women themselves tend to dislike being corralled in this way.
Many women find the average hotel meal too rich. Of course men diet too, but women can be extremely aware of their calorie intake and want to see hotels offering them low-calorie and low-fat meals, or at least including the nutrition information on the menu. This would be a "quick win" for any hotel that wished to subtly increase its appeal to luxury female travellers.Gyms that cater to female guests will include plenty of cardio machines, like this gym recently visited by LHI bloggers at Radisson Edwardian New Providence Wharf
Women also tend to find the hotel gym a rather masculine place. I've certainly found that women-oriented gyms tend to include Pilates equipment, free weights, spinning equipment, yoga mats and treadmills; while male-oriented hotel gyms rather focus on weight centres and rowing machines – and are done out in macho black and chrome rather than lighter colours, making them a slightly unwelcoming environment.
Once again, this is about making small, subtle changes rather than loudly signposting amenities as being specifically for women.
The Grange City Hotel has decided to go down the Dukes route with its ‘female friendly rooms'. These are high-spec rooms that include all the usual business traveller needs, but also feature better bathroom facilities such as magnifying makeup mirrors and variable speed hairdryers.The Grange City Hotel is trying to appeal to the female traveller market with its 'female friendly rooms' concept
Red Carnation Hotel Collection also has a number of rooms intended for solo female travellers at its various luxury London boutique hotels. In fact, one of the world's most famous solo women travellers Janice Waugh recently stayed in one such hotel and you can see what she thought in her review of The Montague on the Gardens on the Solo Traveler blog.
Of course it's not just top businesswomen who need to be taken into account by hoteliers. Women travelling on a budget also need to be looked after – and the women-only Oasis Hostel in Southwark offers inexpensive female-only accommodation (though Tripadvisor reviews are rather mixed).
Some of what women want, though, is just basic consideration by hotel staff. For instance, I once attended a corporate, women-only training event where bar staff would not tell a rather drunk and extremely irritating man to go away, and suggested we should not be drinking in the bar but could go to our rooms. That hotel, incidentally, later lost the corporate account and I think our feedback might have had something to do with it. In this case, hotel staff seemed not to understand the issue – I'm sure it was down to poor training rather than deliberate policy.
There is, of course, another aspect that is changing.
There are now many more female hotel staff in senior positions, such as Lia Poveda, head sommelier at The Milestone (right, whom I interviewed), Anne-Marie Dowling, general manager at the Royal Horseguards and Angela Hartnett, who was chef-patron at The Connaught before setting up at Murano.
There's even Leading Ladies - a networking group of female execs at top London hotels (there are now eight 5 star hotel female GMs in London).
And this is reflected in other areas too – though pastry chef jobs historically went to women, more females are also penetrating traditionally male fields and taking on concierge jobs and other roles. So the next generation of women travellers will hopefully find they are better catered for, simply because they have other women looking after them.
Photo credits: herlitz_pbs, iRubÃ©n (flickr.com), Hilton on Park Lane, London Hotels Insight blogger Timea, Milestone Hotel.http://londonhotelsinsight.com