Men Who Like to Cook - David Latt

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hotels Pursue the Female Business Traveler

Women are traveling more than ever and we're not talking about Thelma and Louise road trips.

Business not pleasure is getting women to pack their bags and travel to distant cities.  Web sites like Traveling MomThe Woman Road Warrior and Blue Suit Mom address a group seeking to balance work and family while being on the road.

Hotels recognize the trend. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts reports that 35 percent of their business clients are women.

Trisha Clayton at the Mandarin Oriental notes that the mix at their San Francisco property is even higher, with women accounting for 40% of their business travelers.  Their just launched "Perfect Pair" program offers a two-room combo where a woman can have a separate bedroom and office space or, if the kids have joined her on the trip, a second bedroom. Their bath butler service, featuring bath salts, creams, hot oils and body washes, offers "Romance in the Clouds" and "Escape to the Pacific," necessary indulgences for the hard working woman who wants to relax after a long day on the road.

When Novotel reopened their Amsterdam property after completing an extensive remodeling project, the front of the hotel was draped in a giant, 16-story pink bow, as if to say to women, "Come on down."  

To appeal to women travelers, hotel chains are upgrading to higher quality toiletries and deluxe shower fixtures. Whenever possible, baths have been added during a remodel. The front desk might have a supply of curling irons on hand to complement the hair dryers in every bathroom.

At the Hotel Monaco in Seattle, a yoga mat is waiting in the closet next to the leopard skin patterned bathrobe. In some hotels, exercise rooms have been rebranded as "wellness" areas, with smaller weights more appropriate for women.  Yoga classes and meditation sessions are offered, along with aromatherapy baths.

But appealing to women also means making the hotel family-friendly.

In the global market, hotels see that they can attract women business travelers by amping up their family-friendly quotient.  In Mexico City, the Four Seasons gives young children gifts when they arrive, a strategy also employed by the Novotel hotels where at check in, each child is given a special gift. Baby equipment and use of the Children's Play Area in the lobby are offered without charge.

When a woman wants to bring the kids along on the trip, staying at a Holiday Inn, she won't pay extra if they're under 19 and she doesn't mind sharing her room.  At Novotel hotels, the age is 16 years and under, with breakfast in the restaurant thrown in for good measure. If the kids want their own room and they're between the ages of 8-16, Novotel cuts the room rate by 50%.  Late check out up to 5pm on Sunday is available, also at no charge, so families can enjoy a full day before they leave.

In 2009, The Woman Road Warrior did a survey of women travelers, asking what they look for in hotels.  Kathleen Ameche, founder of the site, noted, "Interestingly the survey responses indicated that the amenities and other features that hotels are offering to appeal to women are less important than the hotel basics: safety, service and cleanliness."

At San Francisco's Mandarin Oriental, the short, well-lit hallways are pointed out to women who are concerned about safety.

A few hotels in the U.S. have created women-only floors.  And while that worked successfully for the Premier Hotel in Times Square and the Crowne Plaza properties in Washington, D.C. and Bloomington, Minnesota, when the Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan publicized that it was following suit, they suffered a serious backlash and quickly dropped the idea.

At the Novotel Amsterdam City, the appeal to women is reflected in the design of the building.  The recent remodel features a glass walled lobby and restaurant area, renovated with an open feel, "designed for natural living," decorated in a "clean, modern" style with vibrant colors--greens, reds, yellows.  The effect is to create a clean, well-lighted space.

Hotels understand that good service when combined with safety is very appealing to women travelers.  For example, when a meal is ordered from room service at a Wyndham hotel, a call is made to the room to say that the food is on its way.

Some hotels are taking extra efforts to accommodate women travelers.

A common lament of many women traveling by themselves is they feel uncomfortable eating alone. They don't want to be the object of unwanted attention or appear to be lonely. Being sensitive to that concern, as part of the remodel of its Amsterdam property, Novotel created a section of booths in the restaurant with a flat screen television imbedded in the wall of the booth so that when a woman wants to have a meal, she can catch up on the news or watch her favorite show.

As women business travelers become a larger segment of the market, expect to see hotels adding even more services and amenities designed specifically for the woman traveler.