Hotel Security Is A Good Move

June 11, 2007
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In a further attempt to set their high-end property apart from others, the management of the new JW Marriott-Grand Rapids that opens in September hit a universal raw nerve with its plans for a “women-only” floor for female travelers. The “controversy” was splashed across the airwaves and Internet sites throughout the country, bringing a cautious reassessment from hotel management, but in the end, no reason to change course.

The new 340-room, 24-story hotel at

Louis Street
and
Campau Avenue
near the Grand River is sticking to its guns in offering a fairly small block of 16 rooms exclusively for women travelers. The Business Journal commends this effort despite loud calls of discrimination — many from predictable sources — that have certainly been in the minority, as hotel officials pointed out last week. Amway Hotel Corp. President Joe Tomaselli told the Business Journal more than 90 percent of comment received after the concept made national news has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

George Aquino, general manager of the new hotel and former director of operations at the Amway Grand, said 51 percent of business travelers are female, “definitely an increase from what it used to be.” He cited security and comfort as prime considerations for the female business traveler, adding that the females-only floor also will have its own female-only lounge area, where guests can plug in laptops and make business connections. JW Marriott Director of Sales and Marketing Michael Lyman, who has worked for the corporation in major metro areas around the globe, said polling among female guests indicates they deliberately order room service rather than be seated as a single diner in the restaurant or venture into hotel lounges. “Comfort and security is not discriminatory,” he said.

In a more secure setting women can avoid unwanted — and uncalled for — advances from a segment of male travelers, some of whom aren’t at all bashful about “making moves” in a setting that is sheltered from home. Sneer and debunk this concern as much as they want, those who shun this reality and say the hotel is just setting itself up for significant discrimination claims are missing the point. Facing safety threats while traveling for an employer should not be a cost of doing business. It’s a societal concern that can be addressed — in this case — in a very effective way.

The establishment of the women’s floor is not the only method in which the hotel operators are recognizing safety concerns. The attractive cylinder-like layout of the hotel means no long, expansive hallways that offer opportunities for ill-will. The same reason that gender-specific dorm floors exist on college campuses is at the heart of why female travelers deserve, and would be attracted to, considerations that make them feel more secure.

The women’s floor is only one of many ideas that lead to the type of marketing that sets one property apart from the others and makes customers want to come back. Hotel operators are in the business of helping and serving their customers. This action is catering to the needs of women and likely will be welcomed by those who appreciate the accessibility of such options. And the widespread splash of publicity — positive or negative — regarding the JW plans here certainly put the place on the map well before it welcomes its first guest.

The JW is not the first hotel taking this approach. There are major hotels in Washington, D.C., and in Minneapolis that already have blocks of rooms restricted to female occupancy. Hotel operators in those locales report women appreciate the security features of the floor. They also are willing to pay a few dollars more to enjoy the other amenities that will come with these “special” rooms, just as males might not have a problem paying a higher premium for a cocktail or expensive glass of wine in a cigar bar.     

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