We all know it: men generally take a back seat when it comes to planning a holiday. Its women who most often make the decisions. They do much of the research, work out the cost options and lead the conversation about holidays and accommodation. And it’s not just in the leisure sector where women wear the trousers. In business travel women make up almost half of all bookings.

Businesswomen lead the way

Businesswomen make up one of the fastest growing demographics in the travel industry. Hotel brands have long been mindful of the importance and influence of women guests, but today more than ever before, marketing efforts are being targeted towards women in business. Hotels are reviewing their positioning and adapting their service offering to be more attractive to female business travellers.

In 1970, less than 1% of business travellers in the US were women. By 1979, it was 16%. Cornell University, a US hospitality industry centre of excellence, now reports almost half of all American business travellers are women.

Carolyn Pearson of networking website for professional women business travellers, MaidenVoyage.com, reckons that women make up almost half of all business travellers. And their experience on business impacts on future leisure choices. “A woman might choose a hotel for business travel and then, if she likes it, go back for a weekend stay, or book the room again with the family. When it comes to travel decisions, women are really influential.” Maiden Voyage checks and certifies ‘Female Friendly Hotels’ so its members can be confident of a safe and discrete stay.

Venus and Mars are planets apart… or are they?

Social and cultural changes affect the hotel market in the same way they do all parts of our wider society. But traditional hotels – are arguably a little stuck in their ways and reluctant to adapt – may not have grasped that what women want today is a far cry from the 90s or even last decade. Sure, both men and women think safety and comfort are important. It’s just that women travellers tend to put them higher up the list of priorities.

It’s these slight differences that marketing executives wrestle with when targeting the distinct female traveller ‘buyer persona’. Hotels are keen to find ways of transmitting key messages to women travellers but are at pains to avoid being heavy-handed or patronising. Women don’t want to be identified ‘en masse’ as a block that needs some kind of ‘special treatment’. The answer lies in offering a nuanced service that meets women’s needs. Transmitting the right message is a subtle balancing act and one at which brands are becoming more adept.

Top tips for marketing to women

As more women fill senior marketing roles within the hotel industry, brands are improving their appeal to women. The factors most influencing women’s hotel booking decisions are many and various; the list below collates those currently thought important:

  • A healthy, balanced restaurant menu
  • A friendly reception staffed day and night; plus women-operated room and customer service made up of respectful and honest communication
  • Good property locations with excellent transport access
  • Secure parking on the hotel footprint
  • Illuminated wardrobes and backlit make-up mirrors
  • Private hire and taxi firms that employ women drivers
  • Separate floors or blocks of rooms for women (although this trend is reversing)
  • Top of the range hair dryers, tongs and straighteners, women’s toiletries
  • Appealing interior design and furnishings with care taken over lighting and colour.

When Hyatt hotel group conducted a major, worldwide survey of women guests in 2013, it found that they make about 80% of all travel decisions: family trips, hotel choices plus business accommodation. It was a wake-up call and prompted a series of changes and improvements to its service at more than 500 locations worldwide, including:

  • Adding a particular skin care range to its bathrooms
  • Stocking ‘everything and anything a traveller might have forgotten’ including deodorants, phone chargers, toiletries and countless nail polish colours
  • All such items are available to be borrowed or bought at cost
  • A poll by hotels.com revealed that:
  • 35% of women would not trust their partner to book a ‘dream holiday’
  • 69% of women who are no longer married or no longer in a relationship would not trust a future partner to book a holiday
  • One-tenth of women said that when their partner booked a holiday it had resulted in an argument
  • Statistics such as these back up our common-sense knowledge that women are the real decision-makers when it comes to booking hotels. While much can be done by implementing the successful tactics that other hotels have rolled out, nothing beats real qualitative research with female guests. An ongoing programme of surveys-plus-focus groups, perhaps incentivised by discounts or premium freebies, can reveal very useful up-to-date trends that may not have percolated through to the general market, giving your hotel a chance to take the high ground with women travellers

    Article by: Ewa Maliczowska
    ewa@madisonmayfair.com

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