Among the 125 rooms at the Premier Hotel in New York City, seven are designed specifically for women. This means they come equipped with amenities like bath salts, individual hair straighteners or curling irons, yoga mats and access to a private co-ed lounge for breakfast.
The targeted deal mirrors a recent trend—also found in other global cities such as Copenhagen, Dubai, London and Vancouver—of hotels offering women-friendly, and sometimes even women’s-only, services. It’s a response to a growing niche market of traveling businesswomen throughout cities, and so far has been quite successful.
Take this recent New York Times piece: After the addition of 19 rooms with favors such as fresh flowers, women’s magazines and size-appropriate robes and slippers, the Dukes London Hotel reported that female guest reservations increased by 30 percent over the course of three months.
Premier Hotel’s decision to offer specific women’s-only services was in response to consistent requests by female patrons for better make-up, lighting and more diet-friendly meal options, and “so they wouldn’t have to worry about packing every little additional thing,” hotel general manager Patrick Davidson told Forbes.com. However, these additional amenities might not only be useful for women. Kendra Walker, a spokesperson for Hilton, told the Times that men found the vanity mirrors, initially installed for their female clientele, useful for shaving and dressing as well.
The emergence of these women’s only spaces in hotels stands in direct contrast to the lack of men’s targeted services rising in response, which suggests that hotels might not necessarily be as gender neutral as previously imagined. Unintentionally, a precedent may have been set where hotels are viewed as predominately male spaces. As a result, this outlook can effect how women view the cities they visit.
Understanding your clientele is never bad business, but are gender-exclusive spaces and additional hair products the answers for a more welcoming experience? Marybeth Bond, of National Geographic and founder of gutsytraveler.com, does not think so.
“I have seen the hotel industry cater subtly to women without being patronizing, for example by putting shower caps and nail files in the room, and adding a room service menu expanded beyond hamburger and fries to include a big salad,” Bond told CNN. “Why not have standard rooms and extras being offered at the front desk? We’ve lived through fighting for our equal rights and this is making us unequal.”
Increased safety and security also seem to be a big draw when advertising these services. The Crowne Plaza Hotel, located in Washington, D.C. as well as Bloomington, Minn., includes women’s-only floors, highlighting their extra security initiatives (like personal security escorts at the D.C. location). In Copenhagen, the 814-room Bella Sky Hotel emphasizes that the 20-room Bella Donna floor is only available to female guests and female staff by an elevator key card.
As previously discussed, traveling safely and un-harassed is still a major issue for women, and the rise of these women-targeted services by hotels highlights a larger urban issue—that safety for women in cities is still a concern. So should cities follow suit, and start creating spaces that target women only?