Women in Business Class? the Travel World Wises Up
Beyond hangers. James McManemon, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, was surprised when he recently invited some frequent female guests to lunch. He was looking for suggestions, which he thought would include "image things like silk hangers," he says. Instead, he uncovered more serious complaints. "If the hotel was filling up quickly, women noticed that the staff was more likely to give them the smaller beds," says McManemon. He looked into it. "And I realized they were generally right about that."
The hotel retrained its staff. In response to the women's suggestions, it began including a small bottle of Woolite and makeup remover pads in the array of toiletries in the hotel bathrooms. "They're now the most popular items," he notes. The hotel also added nylons and tampons to the minibar and custom-ordered women's robes with lighter terry cloth. "Women were asking for robes that weren't as bulky," says McManemon.
Hotels are discovering that small touches can matter, as women appreciate personalized service. Westin revamped its hotel restrooms, installing better lighting and high-powered hair dryers. "In some hotel bathrooms, you get these terrible lights that make you look like a horrendous dead person," says Jill Angert, 31, a meeting manager with American Express from Pennsylvania. "It may sound like a trivial thing--until you put on all of this makeup and you go outside looking like a clown." Angert also appreciates the nail files and polish offered at places like the Sheraton Suites Le Soleil hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, which introduced "Elle Suites" for female business travelers in November, providing printers, faxes, and in-room copiers, as well as passes to the YWCA.
Buddy system. And special services, like companions for jogging, are a big hit with frequent female travelers. At the Argent Hotel in San Francisco, female guests meet in the lobby at 6:30 a.m. and run through the gardens of Telegraph Hill one day, across Golden Gate Bridge the next. Jane Davis, a 28-year-old meeting planner, jogs daily when she's home in Boston. "But when I'm away on business, I'd rather not run on my own and end up in an unsavory neighborhood." While staying at the Argent, she not only got a workout but met two business contacts.
Yet some female travelers have decided to eschew big hotels for the intimacy of smaller accommodations like bed- and-breakfast inns. Dan and Nancy Ward, proprietors of the Inn on Main Street in Weaverville, N.C., tout their accommodations to female business travelers, promising wine "without the pickup atmosphere of a hotel bar"--and even inviting guests' business associates to join them for a working breakfast.
Where To Learn More
www.journeywoman.com. For those road warriors with specific needs, such as finding hand-tailored clothes in Vietnam or communal tables in New York.
www.womenontheirway.com. The Wyndham Hotels chain shares its tips. Suggestions are welcome.
www.hermail.net. A network of women who will E-mail you savvy advice, such as what to wear to that last-minute "business casual" meeting in Singapore.