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What women want

Once upon a time the hotel industry steered clear of any gender-based segmentation policy. But since then, the standard mould has shown its limits.Today, the trend is towards understanding the specific needs of business women and women travellers in general, to better seduce a target that is growing as fast as its decision-making power is growing

Are hotels masculine? Are they too masculine? According to Travel Industry Association Research, the number of women among business clientele is growing. They now represent 43% of the segment (17 million globe-trotters) and 75% of them choose the hotel they stay at. Although they travel an average of 4.4 times a year versus 8.6 for their male counterparts, this figure is growing as number of women in key management positions increases. For example, in 1980 the proportion of women who travelled for their work was no more than 17%: there has been major growth! Moreover, the difference with regard to frequency of departures is partly compensated for by the average length of stay: women stay for an average of four days, for a total of 19 nights per year, while men stay only three days. A sign of the times is the recent work “The Woman Road Warrior” by Kathleen Ameche, a veritable survival guide for the travelling business woman, it became a best-seller in just a few weeks in the United States... Women are travelling more and more and, according to different studies, they enjoy themselves more than their male counterparts, but they are also more demanding. The image of the woman who travels alone is that of the modern and liberated woman par excellence, and this image is strong. So the hotel industry is keeping in step with the phenomenon. Not so long ago, however, the sector was reluctant to recognise any difference between the sexes. Business clientele was business clientele. Men or women: their needs are exactly the same. But the trend has since reversed itself and some very real particularities are being taken into account. This suggests major efforts in terms of both infrastructure and service. In London, since September the Grange City Hotel offers a wing of 68 rooms designed entirely for the well-being of women. This translates as more storage space in the bathroom and arrangements similar to a dressing room. Miami’s Sanctuary South Beach can even provide unaccompanied clients with jogging or fitness companions.With all the spotlights on businesswomen, it is easy to forget that not all women staying at hotels are there for professional purposes. Some well-inspired properties have also developed a sales pitch for women leisure travellers. In the United States, the White Elephant in Nantucket, Massachusetts, propose has offered a “Girlfriend’s Package” for groups of friends on a spree. The programme: champagne and relaxation far from the stresses of daily life. Originally launched to stimulate the occupancy rate during the offpeak season, the package quickly met with good success. In London, the Berkeley Hotel of the Maybourne Hotel Group has made its “Girls Night” offer the cream of the crop when it comes to weekend cocooning with in-the-room manicure, assortments of cosmetics by the brand Bliss, a selection of midnight snacks... At the Mandarin Oriental in New York, the “Girl’s Guide to Glamour” package raises the bar even higher by including a Chanel makeover and an afternoon of shopping with a chauffeur and limousine for budding “pretty women”! Tour operators, have launched a race for hyper-specialisation and niche marketing, and have also noticed the potential of offers created exclusively for women globe-trotters. For example, AdventureWomen or WomanTours offer trekking, kayaking and all-terrain bicycling tours for the real fighters, while Woman & Wine was created for winetasting amateurs through stays in the most important vine cultivating centres in the world from Bordeaux to the vast vineyards in Argentina. As for hotels and tourism, women are truly the ones who are building and breaking down the trends. The explosion of the notion of well-being and the fashion for spas was first encouraged by women. And the time has come to feminise society. Attention to decoration, aromatherapy, dietetics, a broader choice of welcome products... all these are becoming a growing concern for the men of 2005 as well. These are the famous “metrosexuals”, who sociologists say have a long life ahead of them and are on a par with their wives and women colleagues when it comes to taking care of themselves. Hotels have everything to gain by significantly “feminising” their rooms…But who are these women who travel around the making hotels their second home? Younger and with more advanced degrees than their male counterparts, the businesswoman of 2005 prefers to dine alone at the hotel’s restaurant rather than go out and more than anything she wants to feel “at home”. She belongs to one or more loyalty programmes and considers business trips to be an essential element to her work (whereas men are more mixed about this issue). In most cases (80%), she prefers, in as much as possible, to leave her children at home and schedule free time during her stay to do shopping or cultural tourism (65%). Finally, it must be observed that she is not scared of technology: 80% of businesswomen chose their hotels and book their rooms via Internet, and more than a quarter of them want to have wi-fi in their room.The chain Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has consecrated an entire section of its web site to its women clientele, who may go to the “women on their way” page where they find links to special offers, exclusive programmes and a wealth of practical advice for business women. These links are one of the best allies for hotels that want to improve their services. More sensitive to details concerning hygiene, refined details, their requests often lead to improvements that men appreciate as well — although it never occurred to them to ask — be it greater attention to decoration or a bigger bed. Even magnifying mirrors, which while they are certainly practical for applying and removing makeup also offer greater comfort for shaving. It is thus logical that reflection at each brand is growing more intense. The results of this new awareness: diet drinks and other light foods have invaded the minibar (when it’s not facial creams like at Kempinski Beijing). Some properties have scented candles in their rooms, others deploy a whole array of aromatic oils, women’s magazines, padded hangers, magnifying mirrors, sewing kits... but also specially adapted pillows, relaxation CDs, cookbooks and even curlers.Some might be indignant about so much stereotyping, but hotels are only meeting a demand that is increasingly persistent. While men are concerned first and foremost about a hotel’s location, their female counterparts tend to be more interested in the services it offered (for example they are twice as many to order room service). That said, most of the accessories constitute only additional services (which are greatly appreciated by the guest). The real challenges lie elsewhere in“security” and “comfort”.At the hotel, women want to feel at ease, reassured, protected. Particularly in countries where the cultural difference is significant, but in a broader manner than in all the large cities. This segmentation logic was pushed further by properties such as Mexico City’s??? Presidente InterContinental in or London’s Hilton Park Lane: they created floors “Only for ladies” that are simply out-of-bounds for unaccompanied men. Video surveillance is heightened there, as is access to rooms. As for room service, it is provided by exclusively female personnel. Everything is done to offer a feeling of maximum security. Such measures might seem a bit radical but they have their following. In Germany (Hotel Artemisia and Intermezzo Hotel in Berlin) and in Switzerland, there are even hotels that are 100% feminine – frauenhotels – that have opened their doors in recent years. Lady’s First Hotel in Zurich has created an outstanding reputation for itself with its all-women management and staff. It is a hotel made by women for women... Spas and well-being centres play a more important role there than elsewhere. The menus, meanwhile, are conceived with a special concern for diet.Throughout the hotel industry, the concern for properly hosting clients is developing particularly in terms of instructions given to personnel. For example, announcing room assignments as discretely as possible at check-in. Some have even set up check-in areas just for women travelling alone. Another initiative that is greatly appreciated: offering a female staff member to escort women to their rooms when they return late at night, when the hotel’s public areas are nearly deserted.A word of caution is necessary regarding caricatures and creating ghettos, however. The division between security and retrograde isolation is tenuous. Women want the freedom to chose. They want security yes, but not to the detriment of their freedom. And the majority of them don’t expect hotels that are closed to men, but normal hotels that take their specific needs into consideration. The best proof: some “frauenhotels” have diluted their position by reintroducing mixed floors. Many clients complained they could not return with their husband! In a similar vein, a few years ago Marriott wanted to offer restaurants that are 100% female in its hotels, but this initiative was not well received by women who saw it as a form of segregation.

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