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Today's Hotels -- Really Businesswoman-Friendly?


Evelyn Hannon

Thirty years ago, only 1% of business travellers were women. Twenty-five years later (in 1995), that statistic leaped to 38%. Now it is projected that by 2002 at least 50% of all business travellers will be female.

How has the hotel industry responded to these women-centered projections? To gain some first-hand knowledge, Journeywoman recently carried out a fact-finding experiment in the convention city of Chicago.

We sent a request to several downtown hotels asking for the opportunity to overnight at their properties, inviting them to show off any female-centered and business-centered services they've developed. We devoted four nights to this project. Candidates were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. They included:

1) The Park Hyatt Chicago
2) The Drake Hotel
3) Swissotel
4) Crowne Plaza Silversmith

Changes, changes, changes...

Have we come a long way, ladies? Yes, yes, yes! Fifteen years ago women were packing their own bulky bathrobes and shopping for lightweight hairdryers and trial size bottles of shampoo because they weren't always available in hotel rooms. We brought our own skirt hangers along as well since the powers that be didn't think they should be standard amenities.

And when we arrived at check-in counters along with a male colleague, we held our tongues as it was assumed that we were either his wife or his secretary. Hotel employees thought nothing of singing out a room number as they handed a female guest her room key. Today, the four Chicago hotels we visited proved to be shining examples and benchmarks for the female-friendly trends being established in the industry.

Safety issues...

Women's safety issues are definitely being addressed. Hotel keys as we used to know them have been replaced with newer and safer keycards that are programmed specifically for each individual guest. In the event that it might be lost or stolen, neither a guest's name nor a room number ever appears on this keycard. At each hotel the assigned room number was written into a folder and handed to the guest rather than spoken out loud.

Each check-in employee asks a woman if she needs help with her bags or whether she'd like to go to the room on my own. It is worth mentioning that the staff at the Crowne Plaza Silversmith generally takes this offer one step further phoning each new guest shortly after check-in to see if all is well and whether any further services are required.

Hotels now have a guest information book in each room which includes a section on safety tips such as instructing guests to verify any 'suspect' deliveries (from housekeeping or room service) by calling the front desk before opening their hotel door. Bravo for this new innovation.

Rooms contain safes so that valuables such as airline tickets and business files can be conveniently stored away. At the Park Hyatt (for example) in-room safes are now large enough for a woman to store her computer and these safes have built-in laptop re-chargers. A wonderful plus!

More about divine bathrooms, female conscierges and hotel spas...





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