A recent survey by a metasearch engine iXiGo on 'what women want' shows that Indian women travel as frequently as once in two months (50 per cent) with 44 per cent stating spending quality time with family as their common reason for travel. The survey also confirmed that women today have become tech-savvy, with 43 per cent booking their hotels online and 76 per cent agreeing they only read reviews to make their final choice. Women prefer hotels that incorporates features that are women centric. And with the growing concerns on safety of single women travellers, the hospitality industry in India is seen to be doing their bit to cater to the 'ladies' demand and ensure their security.
As per industry experts, 10-18 per cent of their guest comprise of single women travellers. Indian hotels have begun understanding that the single women traveller is a fast growing, niche market and has tremendous potential in India. Today, women are as big spenders as men have been and are willing to pay the money as long as they can see the value. Reaching out to them and satisfying their needs will be an important factor in translating marketing into sales for hotels. Hotels that often perceive their customers as only men could be losing a lot of clientele if their practices or facilities are not tailored to suit the female customers. “With the change in trends, where more and more women are now travelling for official work trips outside the comfort zone of their home and cities, safety and security is of utmost priority. Hotels have now started becoming more considerate towards this aspect and are adopting various methods to ensure good service to the guest. Hence specially designed Single Lady Programmes help hotels to assure their lady guests a safe and sound environment,” says Ajoy Balkrishna, general manager, Grand Sarovar Premiere, Mumbai. The good news is that these measures undertaken by hotels have been very well received by single women travellers so far. “Single women travellers are happy that we have allocated a room close to the elevator, and that a lady associate has escorted her to the room. Regular guests and extended stay guests have come to expect these services from Vivanta by Taj Whitefield, Bangalore. Their needs are evolving and we need to keep raising the bar,” expresses Sunil Taneja, general manager, Vivanta by Taj Whitefield.
P K Mohankumar, MD and CEO, Roots Corporation adds, “The single lady corporate traveller is the new segment who want general neutral facilities and not special things since they want to be independent, share the same space as men. Their main requirements are safety and security. It is fashionable for hotel brands to say they are focused on women travellers, but we as a brand are focused on her priorities – which is her safety and security requirements. For instance, when a lady traveller calls for room service, it is better to have a female stewardess attend to her.”
Well taken care of
After location, cost and security being the prime criterias for selecting a hotel, for 41 per cent of women surveyed in the report, facilities and services are also the top considerations. On the amenities front, 24x7 room service was named the most important one (24 per cent), while Free Wi-Fi (18 per cent), gym, swimming pool, spa and restaurants are some others that made their stay memorable. While 34 per cent women would prefer to have female hostesses for room service, offering call screening facility (20 per cent), women driven cabs (19 per cent) and separate floors for women (18 per cent) were some of the other suggestions given by women to make their stay comfortable and safer.
So how are our hotels making women's stay safer and more comfortable? Starting off with, JW Marriott has a separate/ quite section on a particular floor in the hotel dedicated to single women travellers. “Single women amenities/gifts are also given to single women staying with us. The list of the single women travellers is shared with our Loss Prevention team on a regular basis to ensure there is better patrolling and security. Also, we screen the calls which are made or received by all single lady travellers to ensure more safety. Additionally, we also have the facility of a lady doctor on call,” says Pavithran Nambiar, general manager, JW Marriott Mumbai. Facilities like in-room check in and call before servicing in the room in cases where a 'Do Not Disturb' button is activated in the room. All services including in room dining and housekeeping are carried out by lady associates, are also an added bonus to JW Marriott Mumbai.
DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Bangalore provides two tiered security checks at the entrance to enhance safety and security. Raghu Sapra, general manager, DoubleTree suites by Hilton Bangalore points out, “Single lady travellers are allocated rooms closer to the elevator and in one specific wing of the hotel. These floors have additional security patrolling on all floors, and are covered by CCTV cameras. A lady security personal is available on all shifts and on request a lady cleaning attendant is provided. The hotel also assists lady guest with necessary purchases from local marts or stores, upon request.” “We keep one month's data with us of the single women traveller who has stayed in the hotel. To ensure safety of women travellers, most of the places in our hotels like the elevator require a entry key card. The two important aspects that Keys Hotel has focussed on is to provide convienent and customer friendly services along with providing transparency in rates,” informs Partha Chatterjee, chief of sales and marketing, Berggruen Hotels. Adding to the same, Rohan Sable, general manager, ibis Mumbai Airport states, “Room numbers are not shared with anyone for safety reasons and calls are traced before transferring. Rooms are allocated near brightly lit parts of the corridor covered by CCTV camera.” Apart from these quintessential measures, express check-in and check out, staff access to the room has to be with a team leader / manager, female guest relationship executive etc are also seen to be followed by hotels chains in India.
“While taking a check-in the information of a female traveller is kept discreet. The information is however shared with hotel staff so that they are aware of the guest. Upon check - in, they are escorted by the guest relation executive or a female associate during late hours. The hotel makes arrangements for single woman guest such as special confidentiality on allotment or change of rooms and personal details; security keeps a special eye on the area during floor patrolling – manually and through CCTV; keep them near elevators – so they are secluded in a corner and are not inconvenienced by having to walk through a long corridor alone; avoid giving adjacent rooms to single male guests,” highlights Balkrishna.
To maintain privacy of a women guest's room number and identity, Pullman Gurgaon Central Park has introduced in-room check in for all single lady travellers. Another special service that the hotel offers to single lady travellers is screening of telephone calls for their room on request.
With these services being widely appreciated by women at large, are there any additional request which have been made by single women travellers? As per some hoteliers on occasions hotels are requested by lady travellers for special personal items or dietary requests. An outsourced taxi service is also selected after clearance of stringent safety and security standards laid down by us. Some hotels keep more female housekeeping attendants who service the rooms, making the guests comfortable. Also either the female guests relations manager or housekeeping female staff will make it a point to meet their guests once during their stay and give them their contact number. Apart from choosing rooms closer to the elevators, single women travellers also prefer to opt for lower floors.
Highlighting some trends, Mohankumar says, “Firstly, lady travellers are sensitive when it comes to food. There is a huge movement towards the breakfast menu as they are health conscious. Secondly, they look for affordable price points and style quotient in a hotel. We as a budget hotel are working with our own designers as well as international ones to enhance our design.”
Handling with care
Hotels are also making an extra effort to sensitise their staff when it comes to dealing with single female guests, some also conduct special training to cater to this segment. The staff is sensitised through training to the needs of all guests, particularly single lady travellers. This training involves making the staff aware of all the facilities offered and all procedures to be followed in case of a single female guest. The staff is trained in terms of eye contact maintaining ‘business gaze’, ‘2 feet distance’, ‘positive body language’, ‘ to address guests by their last name and salutation’ , empathetic concierge and prompt service to women guests. For JW Marriott Mumbai, Nambiar adds, “We train the staff to be more cautious and particular about the guests, ensuring that they are made to feel very comfortable. Daily briefing sessions are held where the in house single women traveler list is discussed.” DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Bangalore constantly imparts training on security measures to handle special requests. “For Keys Hotels, we operate with low manpower and hence everyone goes through serious training to be sensitive towards the needs of women travellers. There is a mix of people working across all departments for smooth functioning,” replies Chatterjee.
As per Mohankumar, city hotels have 25-35 rooms per floor and if less rooms are filled in a floor that is reserved for women travellers then there would be a sense of insecurity among them because of insufficient number of female travellers.
Hotels in India have now begun taking the Single Lady Traveller concept seriously and have introduced amenities to make their stay safe and comfortable like offering them rooms next to or near the elevator or stairway. With all the requisites in place for ensuring safety of women, have Indian hotels progressed in providing better women safety measures compared to hotels abroad? The general consensus among the industry is that as all hotels are getting increasingly aware of this fact, and in the future there will be a positive stride in this direction. “Lift access control, CCTV surveillance on each floors such technology has made women feel very safe at hotels in India,” states Sable. Many hotels now have defined procedures in place to handle their specific travel needs.
So is the Indian hospitality industry bullish on developing a brand only for women travellers? Maybe not immediately, as according to industry experts the idea, though it is a farfetched concept as of now and not commercially viable, maybe it could see the light of the day in the future. “I don't see that kind of segregation taking place in the hotel business since the percentage of single women travellers is about 10 per cent only. Hence this kind of demand could take sometime to materialise,” strongly opines Chatterjee. Agreeing to the same, Mohankumar says,”It would be an interesting marketing concept in certain contexts like during international woman’s conference, the entire hotel can be reserved for lady travellers for a week. However having a hotel brand solely for women may not be a commercially viable idea.” While Sable is optimistic about the concept as there has been a significant growth in the number of women in the corporate world who travel for work often.
With inputs from Steena Joy