By Françoise Mommens
Tourism Intelligence Network of the ESG-UQAM Chair in Tourism (University of Quebec at Montréal)
An increasing number of women are circling the globe on business, forcing hotels to change to keep pace. To please this demanding clientele, whose requirements include higher levels of comfort and security, hotels are offering fitness facilities, organic food, perfumed candles and much more.
A 2003 study commissioned by Wyndham International Inc. and conducted by the NYU Tisch Center shows that, in that year, 40% of people travelling to the United States on business were women.
Study authors confirm that, in 2005, this figure will increase by more than 10%; moreover the percentage of women occupying management positions is rising steadily. With distinct preferences and significant purchase power (they have an average annual income of between US$25,000 and US$70,000), women business travellers are opting for places that combine security, tranquillity and comfort.
The following list presents some important facts about women business travellers.
Are usually single;
Are younger and more highly educated (minimum B.A.) than their male counterparts;
Have an annual salary of up to US$75,000;
Prefer dining alone in the hotel restaurant;
Like to feel at home in their hotel room;
Are usually members of a customer loyalty program such as Frequent Flyers;
Consider business travel an important part of their job (75% of respondents);
Never travel with their children (80% of respondents);
Schedule free time during their trip (65% of respondents) to go shopping, visit historic sites or enjoy an outdoor activity.
As for their attitude toward technology, the study found that:
Most women use the internet to plan their trip (80% use it to book plane tickets and 75% to reserve accommodation);
25% of women like to have high speed internet access in their room;
42% have never used high speed internet;
They make calls from the hotel using their own cell phone;
68% do not use a Wi-Fi network;
80% never use the dial-up or high speed access service provided by airports.
From special pillows to silk pyjamas, with or without curlers
Hotels are becoming increasingly aware of this growing market and, in response, are providing products and services specifically geared to their female clientele.
At the risk of reinforcing certain stereotypes, a number of hotels now place perfumed candles in their rooms. Other perks include aromatic oils, women’s magazines, padded hangers, a sewing kit, special pillows, relaxation CDs, cook books and even curlers!
High-end hotels provide complementary extras such as shower gel and skincare lotions. Others charge a fee for luxury items like make-up or silk pyjamas, or offer a full range of relaxation services, such as spas, massages and facials. The fairer sex can also count on valet parking or a door-to-car escort.
For ladies only
In some European cities (London, Berlin and Florence for instance) women-only hotels are opening their doors.
In Zurich, Switzerland, the Lady’s First Hotel offers services that are important for women: fitness facilities, special menus (organic food), spas and wellness centres, and much more. Owned and operated by women, the hotel welcomes an exclusively female clientele.
Germany also has several women-only hotels:
* Hotel Artemisia in Berlin
* Intermezzo Hotel, also in Berlin, that operates as a B&B
* Harz Mountains - Arleta Pension, near Goslar, in north central Germany.
* Based on the survey results given by its female guests, in March 2003 the Hilton Park Lane Hotel in London opened a floor exclusively for women. Unaccompanied men are not allowed on that floor.
This was a first, both for Great Britain and the hotel chain. Surveillance cameras and reinforced locks provide added security. In addition to an Internet connection, all rooms on that floor are supplied with fashion magazines, make-up mirrors and health-food room-service meals served exclusively by female staff.
Some detractors see these hotels as a form of segregation, asserting they actually represent a step backward for women because of the isolation involved. The hotels counter with the claim that they provide a particular kind of environment where women can feel totally secure.
Will Canada follow suit?
Even though the trend has not caught on much in Québec or the rest of North America, it is clearly a primarily urban phenomenon. Could it be associated with the perception that our urban centres are unsafe? According to Christiane Germain (president of Groupe Germain and owner of several Québec, Montréal and Toronto hotels) safe, intimate accommodation has been a priority for women travellers for many years.
So, before you sink your profits into building a women-only hotel, you should definitely conduct exhaustive research on the needs and preferences of your current female clientele. Perhaps, like the London Hilton, you might prefer to test the waters by opening a female-only floor.
Vanzi, Sol Jose, “Suite Bliss for the Female Traveler,” Philippine News Online, November 17, 2003.
Wall Street Journal Europe, “Make Way for the Female Business Traveler,” July 6, 2001.
Andréani, Frédérique, “Hilton soigne ses clientes,” Le Point, No. 1593, March 28, 2003, p. 26.
Hotel News Resources, “Study of Women Business Travelers Reveals Their Opinions and Attitudes toward Travel,” October 28, 2003.
Gaboury, Louise, “Une chambre à soi, ” La Presse, February 23, 2002.
Preston Robert Tisch Centre For Hospitality, “Coming of Age: The Continuing Evolution of Female Business Travellers,” Tourism and Sports Management at New York University (NYU Tisch Center), March 2003.