industry responds to women's security needs
became quite an issue for me during a recent stay at a large hotel. As I entered
the hotel from the parkade, a man carrying a mop was getting on the empty elevator.
He held the door for me. Feeling somewhat rude, but concerned about my personal
safety, I politely declined to ride with him. As the elevator door closed, he
shook his head.
some may think I was being overly cautious, the reality is that in this day and
age, women have to take extra precautions to stay out of vulnerable situations
that could lead to physical or emotional harm.
didn't always concern myself with personal security issues. Like most independent
women, I believed I was capable of taking care of myself and never considered
the potential dangers of parking in hotel parkades or walking alone at night in
that changed several years ago when my stepsister responded to a request for help
in a Calgary parkade from a man who claimed his vehicle needed a boost. When she
turned her back to open her car door, she was attacked and stabbed repeatedly.
Although she survived the incident, it left her physically and mentally traumatized.
safety has become a major issue in the marketplace over the last decade as the
number of women traveling solo increases. A 1998 Total Research survey suggests
the percentage of women who travel on business grew to almost 50 per cent the
prior year from just one percent of all business travellers in the 1970s. And
of those, 78 percent were women travelling alone.
women have been outspoken about their needs, many in the travel industry have
risen to the challenge of addressing security concerns. Some hotels, car rental
agencies, airlines and travel providers have developed marketing programs aimed
at a female clientele, not just because their numbers are increasing, but also
because their allegiances are still forming. The Total Research survey found that
81 per cent of 217 female business travelers surveyed said they would be more
loyal to companies that address their special needs.
said JoAnn Hines, executive director of Women in Packaging Inc. "Once I have
found a hotel I like, I rarely change my routine." Hines appreciates hotels
that go out of their way to make a woman travelling alone feel comfortable and
said she travels light to avoid carrying heavy bags and appreciates the extras
like coffee pots, blow dryers and irons in the rooms.
should not be afraid to admit to travel agents, car rental agencies and hotels
that they have additional safety requirements. Valet parking or escorts to parkades
ease safety concerns at check-in or checkout times. Women should not be reluctant
to use the bell service -- women are more vulnerable when they're carrying luggage
because, with their arms full, the ability to defend themselves is limited.
Pan Pacific San Francisco offers female guests escorts to their rooms, among other
services and amenitites.
a security measure, most hotels insist that front desk clerks refrain from announcing
room numbers out loud. Many have installed electronic locks with numberless keys
and security codes that are changed after each guest leaves. In-room fax and data
ports, voice mail and exercise equipment in the hotel allow travellers to maintain
daily routines or keep in touch with the office without leaving the safety of
American hotels have already taken measures to meet women travelers' needs. The
Pan Pacific San Francisco supplies female guests with a personal escort to their
room, and each room is equipped with an easily accessed button to summon emergency
Hotels and the Wyndham Hotel in Itasca, Illinois are among those that set aside
networking tables in their restaurants for solo travelers who prefer to eat with
others. Also high on "frequented" lists are hotels that provide business
lounges with space for safe, neutral meetings.
also started giving guests a ring five minutes before room service delivery upon
the suggestion of its advisory council. Guests don't have to worry about being
in the shower or having to rush to get dressed for someone coming into the room.
guests can hire a jogging partner at the Omni Hotel in Detroit and at all Loews
hotels. Running escorts for joggers at the Luxury Collection Hotel in Houston
are provided on a complimentary basis and the service includes chilled bottled
water, fresh fruit and a plush towel upon return.
York's Barbizon Hotel (where
the majority of guests are women) has elevators that
strictly limit access to guest floors. The Barbizon also offers escorts for walking
or jogging in nearby Central Park. While these services were often developed in
response to women's concerns, they have also been a benefit to male business travelers.
say additional safety measures and onsite amenities benefit both genders. "You
ought to cater to women but (only) as an ongoing policy of meeting basic needs.
I'm not sure that basics, like having a hair dryer in the room, is catering to
women," said Kathryn Morrison, spokeswoman for the National Association of
Women Business Owners.
businesses respond to women's suggested improvements, including additional office
equipment in guestrooms, business lounges with meeting space and better security,
everyone benefits. It just makes good business sense!
· Request a room with a peephole, dead bolt and chain lock. Make sure it
has no connecting door to another room.
· Select hotels that take
extra measures to ensure personal security.
· Travel light. Women
should wear comfortable, flat shoes so they can move quickly through terminals.
· Read or work while travelling; you look less vulnerable if you are
· Use crowds to be inconspicuous. Stand in a group while
waiting for a cab or subway.
· Whenever possible, make arrangements
to arrive before dark.
· Before driving away in a rented car,
make sure the gas tank is full, the tires are properly inflated and all doors
are locked. Take a cell phone for emergencies.
· When booking
a suburban hotel, be sure it's in a safe neighborhood.
· Use valet
parking whenever possible. Self-park only in well-lit areas. Ask for an escort
to your car if valet parking is not available.
· Never give out
your room number. If a clerk announces it out loud, request a room change.
· Keep some money in an outside pocket to avoid fumbling through your
purse for tips and other expenses.
· If you're expecting take-out
food or a package from outside the hotel, have it delivered to the front desk
· Ask to have a five-minute warning phone call
before room service or other deliveries are sent to your room.
· When going out, leave the lights on and the closet doors, bathroom door and shower
curtain open. If you notice a change when you return, leave the room immediately
and request a security check.
· Do not invite strangers or acquaintances
to your room. Meet in a public location, such as the lobby or the hotel restaurant.
· Keep a clear head; restrict or avoid drinking alcohol.
· Make sure people at home have your schedule, hotel information and phone
Dawn McCoy-Ullrich is a business owner and writer based in Canada. Her business,
E-Lynx Web Concepts Inc. (www.elynx.ca) specializes in human resources,
business analysis and communications consulting. Dawn is writing her
book "Landing a Job for Canadians" for Dummies.