The Dedicated Women’s Traveler Rooms at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West offer upgraded bathroom amenities, manicure kit, lighted vanity mirror, curling iron, upgraded hair dryers and more.
GLOBAL REPORT—Finding hotels that accommodate the specific needs of the female traveler can prove arduous. Recognizing that gap in the market, a growing number of hoteliers are now offering women-only floors that provide a safe environment for guests as well as a few special flourishes.
But the move is not unprecedented, said Stanley Turkel, a hotel and franchise consultant, and author of “Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York.”
Starting at the turn of the century in 1900, women weren’t allowed to stay at transient hotels. “They were told by management that women traveling alone created risk for hotels,” he said. The fear was those women might “bring shame or temptation to hotels,” and to avoid this, women-only hotels were created.
The Martha Washington Hotel was the first hotel for women. Opened in 1903, the New York hotel stood as “a women’s hotel for 100 years,” Turkel said. There were shared bathroom facilities, a female-only staff and “men weren’t allowed in, except on the first floor.”
As times changed and women began traveling more, hotels created female-focused floors for women and children. New York’s McAlpin Hotel, which opened in 1912, offered a women-specific floor that allowed female travelers to bypass the lobby and check in directly on the floor. It also had an outdoor playground for the children and a hairdressing parlor.
“That’s how (management) solved the problem,” Turkel said. “They had a market and were catering to it.”
Women travelers in the 21st century
That market for a women-only hotel floor and female-focused amenities still exists as many women are traveling alone, especially for business.
“We have seen an increase in women-only floors offered by hotels,” said Michelle Grant, travel and tourism industry research manager for Euromonitor International. “They usually include amenities geared toward women, such as cosmetics mirrors, hair-styling appliances and women’s magazines. These creature comforts are coupled with additional security measures.”
She said hoteliers need to understand their hotel’s reputation to understand a woman’s perception of the property. “Acting on that insight will help your hotel capitalize on the growing number of female travelers.”
The women-only floor at the Wyndham Boca Raton in Florida, welcomes guests with a female-friendly basket.
Going live with the concept in June, Ron Balle, director of sales at Crowne Plaza Philadelphia West in Pennsylvania, said the hotel’s Dedicated Women’s Traveler rooms were developed because of feedback from female travelers. Forty-percent of their corporate travelers are women, he said, so it was important to listen to the women respondents who said they wanted an area in the hotel to themselves.
The women-only floor “started when we were reviewing our guest surveys, and we wanted to focus on moving our scores high and higher,” said Ken Kaylor, GM of the Wyndham Boca Raton in Florida, which launched its women-only floor in 2010. After reading the surveys, Kaylor and his team found the lowest scores were coming from their female business travelers—which hurt the hotel when “our business (travelers) are 50% female.”
Kaylor used focus groups to understand what female travelers wanted. They “were looking for something extra to make them feel special and make them feel safe,” he said, so he focused on adding those to the hotel.
The 30 guestrooms on Wyndham’s women-only floor incorporate bath sheets opposed to bath towels, a robe and slippers, makeup mirrors, women-friendly magazines, silk hangers, aromatherapy candles and more. Kaylor said he also had female-friendly channels such as Oxygen, TLC and Lifetime added.
Since its inception, Kaylor said satisfaction scores have gone up substantially.
The Duchess rooms in the Dukes Hotel in London launched in August 2012. The dedicated female-focused rooms are located throughout the hotel and offer a selection of female-specific amenities including magazines, flowers and “lots of luxury touches a lady can enjoy while away from home on business,” said GM Debrah Dhugga.
“Dukes previously had always had a male-dominated client base,” she said, mostly because the St. James area where the hotel is located “has always been known as a clubby and very male-dominated area.”
“Yet in today’s world, more females are joining the business sector and the boardroom, and Dukes is a beautiful hidden gem,” for female travelers. Women comprise 24% of Dukes’ clientele.
While added amenities make female travelers more at home, the most important aspect of the women-only concept is safety, Balle said.
“It’s a key access-only wing of the floor … When they get to that area, they need the room key to get in there. If you don’t have that room key, you can’t access those rooms.”
The women like the security aspect of the 19-room wing, he said. “They like the quiet of it, and they tend to think (the floor) is the quietest area of the hotel.”
Kaylor, however, said he’s careful about how he labels the floor. “We don’t call it a female-only floor. If we are sold out, we put gentlemen on that floor.”
“They love it,” he added.
Balle said Crown Plaza’s female floor is “always women’s only.” If the hotel is sold out, then the staff will seek out female travelers, repeat guests or priority club guests and upgrade them to the floor automatically. However, Balle said there is a $10 upcharge.
The floor will pay for itself, Balle said. “For us, it’s about increased guest satisfaction and retention.”
“There’s not a big cost to it,” Kaylor said. “Once you have the floor set up, the items are there. The little amenities—the candles, the makeup remover—all those things don’t add to the cost.” Guests who request a room on the women-only floor spend $10 more than for a standard room. “That covers the cost of soft amenities,” he added.
At Dukes, the Duchess rooms are free of charge and considered a service provided to the female guests, Dhugga said. “We have seen very positive feedback with the attention to detail that we have put toward our female guests.”
The number of women traveling continues to increase, she said, and the Dukes female clientele recommend the Duchess rooms to colleague. “Hence the growth in business we are enjoying,” Dhugga said.
The women-only floor, Kaylor said, is part of Wyndham Hotel Group’s larger goal to build more occupancy and driver better rates.
“It shows we’re taking care of everybody,” he said. “I think the women that experience this floor are always excited about it; we see it written in the comments that it’s liked and appreciated.”