More women are traveling for business than ever before, but hotels have more work to do when it comes to catering to their needs, from safety to amenities, said speakers on a panel at ITB Asia.
SINGAPORE—The hospitality world has come a long way since the days of women-only floors and pink-tone accessories introduced some 30 odd years ago, but there’s more to be done when it comes to improving the travel experience for female corporate travelers.
Speaking during a panel titled “What do women corporate travelers want?” at ITB Asia, panelists said women want to be treated as every other guest is, although safety issues should be emphasized.
Kim Liew, regional director of sales and marketing at Mandarin Oriental Group, said women don’t want to be perceived as the weaker gender that need to be addressed.
“As a company, (Mandarin Oriental) does not provide a specific gender experience,” she said. “What we like to provide is the ‘soft product.’ Our front desk usually conducts intimate conversations upon check-in in order to find out our guests’ preferences.”
Vicki Parris, senior director of customer experience, Asia, at FCM Travel Solutions—the corporate travel division of the Brisbane-based Flight Centre Travel Group—said it was a mistake to presume to understand the needs of travelers, whether they are women or otherwise, and have one blanket approach to all.
Jennyfer Lacroix, director of design and construction at Langham Hotels and Resorts, said in a separate email interview that she took what she experienced as a corporate traveler back into her own role.
“As a woman who travels frequently for work, I can empathize and include what I think will work when I plan and design the hotels,” she said.
“From a design and lifestyle aspect, women are intuitive and more sensitive towards the design of a space. The designs of our rooms at The Langham are also more residential in style, which is reflective in our new hotels in Jakarta and Boston,” Lacroix said, referencing two assets, one a new hotel, the other a renovation, coming online in the summer and third quarter of 2020, respectively.
From a tech standpoint, women want plugs and charging stations in-room, but they should blend well with the design of the environment, Lacroix said. Female corporate travelers also appreciate lap cushion trays, which allow them to use their laptop on the bed, she said.
Traveling businesswomen also appreciate spacious wardrobes to accommodate full-length dresses for formal events, good hairdryers, steam irons instead of a flat type and healthy food options, Lacroix said.
Panel moderator Tina Di Cicco, CEO and co-founder of technology and travel consulting and investment firm Avaya Management, said having other in-room amenities such as hairdryers and yoga mats “create brand loyalty for women considering which hotel to stay with.”
Parris agreed that safety at hotels is the top consideration but that aspects of safety have to begin with airports, airlines and ground transportation.
“Safety is a growing concern with the rapidly rising number of women traveling for business,” she said. “Ensuring an arrival transfer is pre-arranged and the hotel is centrally located in a well-lit area are two ways to decrease the risk of issues women face while traveling abroad.”
According to the Global Business Travel Association and AIG’s 2018 report, “Perceptions of Safety for Female Business Travelers,” safety issues (78% of those questioned) ranked as the top priority for women, followed by sexual harassment and assault and travel to certain countries.
That report added that while the safety of a hotel’s location is the top key factor in accommodation selection, fewer than 50% of women are not as diligently mindful when it comes to confirming details of their drivers of ride-sharing services or following their companies’ safety advice during their leisure time.
It added that only 18% of companies had specific female travel safety policies, although 84% of women decried a lack of travel safety tips or resources to them.
Nevertheless, 43% of travel managers did say they are able to locate traveling employees within two hours or less in a crisis situation as compared to 34% who had no idea how long it would take to track them.
Flight-seat allocation is another growing concern, and Di Cicco said more needs to be done for female passengers.
“Where rail have female-only carriages to help ensure women safety, none exist in the airlines,” Di Cicco said. “Women-only seating can be helpful for solo female travelers, especially on overnight flights. Other initiatives can include female-only toilets, reserved window or aisle seats for women traveling alone and assistance on arrival in securing safe-ground transportation and other services.”
She added that while women do not necessarily want to call special attention to themselves on flights, they still require a platform in which to feel safe while flying.