Recently, Mary, an executive in Chicago, had to go to New York on business. Mary, who also happens to be a single parent, had quite a bit to do before she could leave. She had to make a trip home to pack her bag, but she also had to make arrangements with Mrs. Smith down the hall to look after her daughter Susie who is in elementary school. Mrs. Smith was a lifesaver because she would take Susie to school in the morning, walk her home again in the afternoon and stay in Mary's apartment until she returned from New York. What would Mary do without a Mrs. Smith to rely on in these rush situations?
By the time Mary arrived in New York on a late flight and got to her hotel, it was after midnight. When she opened the door to her room, she found chilled mineral water and fruit. Mary felt it was the nicest thing that happened to her all day!
A little tender loving care goes a long way, as all female business travelers know. That is why hotels are becoming more and more savvy about attracting women who travel for business. They offer everything from bath crystals to parking lot escorts. These amenities may seen like little flourishes, but to women they can be absolute essentials. The surprising thing is that guys like some of these features, also.
Christopher J. McGinnis, author of The Unofficial Business Traveler's Pocket Guide, says that women are making the business traveler experience better, more comfortable and user-friendly for men.
Let's look at how things were just a few years ago. In the 1960s, the Hilton chain offered "Lady Hilton" rooms with makeup mirrors, skirt hangers and "feminine touches" in the d?r. These were the days when some hotels even had women-only floors and female business travelers were more of a rarity. Today, women comprise 40 percent of business travelers as compared to 1 percent about 30 years ago. The positive realization that has come to light in the hotel industry is that it takes a lot more than "feminine touches" to attract women business travelers.
To figure out what women want, hotel chains are spearheading studies and forming advisory panels of female executives. A recent survey found that women choose luxury lodgings slightly more often than men and that their favorite cities for business travel are San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Boston (in that order). They also are much less likely to schedule a business trip on their anniversary than men are. Another study showed that other conveniences would be a Web site with travel tips for women, as well as a full-service garden hotel with doors locked to street traffic at 11 p.m. and quiet library areas of the lobby where women may do business rather than taking clients to their rooms or smoky bars.
SecurityEighty percent of women business travelers put this feature at the top of their list. Women look for hotels with secured, brightly lighted parking lots or garages and closely monitored lobbies, where front desk clerks assign them rooms fairly near elevators (to avoid long, lonely walks down the hall) and never say their room numbers out loud.
A brochure entitled "Tips for Today's Woman Traveler" includes some common sense safety measures, such as never opening your door without calling the front desk to confirm the identity of your visitor. Other suggestions: leave the "Do not disturb" sign on your door and call housekeeping when you want your room cleaned; and request rooms on floors three through seven - burglars favor lower levels and fire fighting equipment doesn't always reach above the seventh floor.
Business FacilitiesHere women are no different from men. They want all the technology necessary to survive and excel in the work environment. These include big desks, good lighting, nearby electrical outlets, a phone jack for computer modems and a telephone all in one area instead of confinement to the use of the telephone on the nightstand. A business center with copying and computer services is a plus, as is a lounge area for impromptu meetings.
Health ConcernsMost women are more aware than men that on the road it is all too easy to eat unwisely and skip exercise. For this reason, they have been influential in having hotels add healthy conscious choices to room service menus. Many women also choose facilities based on fitness facilities (it is better if there is an attendant) and are happy to find hotels that provide jogging partners. Spa services are available in many big chain hotels.
Children's ProgramsThese days 19 percent of business trips include kids. As a result, moms and dads need access to babysitters, food options for kids, children's videos and other perks for the little ones. Major chains have instated programs to help parents cope and kids have fun.
AmenitiesThe short list includes hair dryers, an iron and ironing board, good lighting and a big counter for makeup application, plenty of skirt and padded hangers, a full-length mirror, a robe, nice stationary, voice mail, lights in the closet, and all the free toiletries. One chain provides shampoo, hair conditioner and lotion from Bath and Body Works, and at another, you can get pantyhose and feminine hygiene products 24 hours a day.
On a recent one-month stay in Australia during the 2000 Olympics, my wife and I stayed almost exclusively at a certain chain because my wife enjoyed the fact that besides the hair dryers, irons and ironing boards, every motel had a washer and dryer for guest use, as well as an electric tea kettle with tea bags and cookies (they even handed you a small carton of chilled milk when you checked in just in case you take milk with your tea). Some washers and dryers were coin operated and a few were free. The motels were of excellent quality, but the amenities were what kept us at same chain for a month.