Growing Travel Market Segment Wants Special Care
ATLANTA — A recent survey among about 13,000 female executive business travelers from Fortune 1000 companies indicate women want more security, privacy and personalization in their hotel stays.
According to a survey for John Portman & Associates, the number of female business travelers has increased more than 70 percent in the past decade, making this the fastest growing travel segment in the nation.
Portman, an Atlanta-based architecture firm specializing in hospitality, education and corporate design, commissioned the survey to inform its work in designing hotels and in consulting with hotel operators.
According to the survey, more than 50 percent of all travelers this year will be female business travelers. And Ellis Katz, a Portman vice president and director of its hospitality studio, says women business travelers have special needs and preferences concerning their hotel stays.
When asked what was the most important factor in selecting a hotel, 23 percent of respondents said that proximity to clients was key, closely followed with 20 percent responding that security governed their hotel selection.
"Security was the highest priority that can be modified through the design and operation of the hotel," Katz said.
He said that while this segment of business travelers certainly seeks the consistency in service and quality that a chain hotel provides, along with the benefits of frequent guest programs, overwhelming numbers of women travelers disclosed that they would find more personalized lodging attractive.
When asked what would be most important in terms of personalization, 47 percent said they would want reading materials specific for them, 30 percent would desire a personalized menu, and 15 percent wanted climate controls that were specific for them.
"Hotels are increasingly improving their data collection in terms of guest preferences," Katz said. "What is lacking is the ability to utilize that information in creating a personalized experience." He explained that when a frequent traveler enters her room, she might find a basket of fruit and a small bottle of champagne, when what she really would prefer is a soft drink and a candy bar.
Katz indicated that hotel managers should make it their business to be up to date on the idiosyncrasies of their frequent visitors.
He said almost all female travelers report using the Internet while traveling.
"No doubt that is why in-room laptops were the most desired added amenity desired by those who responded," Katz said. "It is also why some hotel companies are now providing technology butlers for the guest who has computer-related questions."
When questioned on amenities that female business travelers would like to see hotels include, oversized bathtubs were most preferred. In addition, over 75% of the respondents reported that they order room service at least once or twice daily.
Katz said the two most popular meals respondents ordered — breakfast and dinner — reflected a desire for increased privacy or sense of security or both.
"The hotel room is their place to escape from the day," he said. "The popularity of in-room service among female travelers may be due to security reasons and a desire not to eat alone in public," said Katz.
He said designers and hotel operators should design rooms for easy and comfortable dine-in capability while providing an extra level of security. "Phone calls to alert the guest that room service is on its way would be much better than a knock on the door, with the guest unsure who is on the other side," Katz stressed.
When questioned if they would like to see hotels offer communal dining tables to ease the awkwardness of dining alone, 68 percent responded that they would take advantage of this amenity. Some hotels provide this service in their restaurants.
"The fact that so many women business travelers took time to respond to a survey that asked the most intimate questions concerning their travel shows that they have needs to which the hotel industry and design industry should consider and respond," continued Katz.
Additional information on Portman, which currently has projects underway on three continents, is available at www.portmanusa.com