The topic of business travel initiatives for female travellers has been a concern for some companies for as long as I’ve been working in the business travel industry. Questions often find their way into business travel tenders as organisations try to ensure their chosen travel management company has provisions for ensuring their female employees feel safe when they travel on business. However, in recent years, the needs and wants of women travellers have become much more widely publicised, so much so, that the need for separate business travel policies for males and females is a regular topic of discussion.
Maiden Voyage, the female traveller network, certify hotels as female friendly and create networking opportunities for women travelling on business. Inspired by business women who had spent most of their overnight business trips alone in their hotel rooms eating room service to avoid the embarrassment of dining alone in a restaurant or being the subject of unwanted attention, Maiden Voyage aims to liberate women and encourage them to get out and explore a new city safely.
Maiden Voyage now has 8,000 members, operates in more than 80 countries, and offers services including recommending female-friendly hotels and restaurants, as well as cultural training for women going to less familiar environments. Membership is free for individuals, but companies pay for their female employees to join.
The Alix Experience is another female travel network that launched in May 2016. The Alix Experience aims to create a sense of security, support and comfort for its members when they travel by providing a luxury concierge service that caters solely to the needs and wants of women. Women can join the Alix Experience by becoming a member, which costs from $2,000 a year for a single city.
As well as the hotels certified by Maiden Voyage, many chains and independent hotels such as Grange Hotels, now offer female friendly rooms and services. These usually include certain safety features such as a 24-hour manned reception and two locks on the door, as well as extras like a decent hairdryer, to attract more female travellers. In January 2015, when Richard Branson launched his first Virgin Hotel in Chicago, he commented, “I don’t think any hotel caters for the female traveller”. By emphasising safety with separate room chambers and features such as well-lit vanities, he hoped Virgin Hotels would have an edge when it came to female travellers.
So with the increase in female travel networks and female-focused products and services, is it time for businesses to apply the same attention to their female employees who travel on business?
An interesting article on BuyingBusinessTravel.com by an anonymous business travel buyer discusses the issue of having different business travel policies for men and women. The author acknowledges that women are often more vulnerable, and so perhaps more could be done to make sure they’re safe, but the buyer also points out that men can feel vulnerable too and to give special treatment to female employees could be seen by male travellers as discrimination. Similarly, many female travellers don’t want to be treated any differently to their male counterparts either. So how do you do the right thing?
We think the right approach is not to make special allowances for women, but to make sure you meet the duty of care requirements for all employees, regardless of gender.
The only way to ensure all your travellers feel safe, secure and valued while travelling on business is to listen to what they need, personalise the booking experience and consider their needs for every business trip.