Are women travellers really any different to male travellers? Photo: Getty Images
What’s so special about female travellers? I keep seeing reports about catering for the burgeoning ranks of women travellers but I struggle to think of anything I need that a male traveller wouldn’t.
The only thing I can come up with is a chain or bolt on hotel room doors, so you can lock them from the inside.
I once had a very scary night in an airport hotel, arriving in the early hours of the morning to find a bunch of dodgy looking men hanging around the lobby.
The reception desk wasn’t staffed at that hour – it was a case of typing your reservation number into a kiosk to get the room key – and I was already feeling vulnerable when I discovered the flimsy lock on my hotel room door.
I jammed a chair under the door knob, although I’m sure that only works in the movies, and lay awake half the night processing every little noise through an overactive imagination.
It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I would never stay there again but it was one of the few occasions where I felt like a ‘female traveller’ rather than just a ‘traveller’.
Back in the nineties, I was taken on a tour of one of the first hotels in the world to introduce women-only floors, which were predicted to be a big trend as the number of solo female travellers started to rise.
The solo female traveller market has certainly boomed, with a survey of 1000 Australian travellers commissioned by Booking.com finding two-thirds of Australian women have travelled overseas on their own, with 60 per cent of those planning to do so again in the next 12 months.
On the corporate front, female business travellers are one of the fastest growing sectors in travel, with a recent report by Amadeus predicting a 400 per cent increase in international business trips taken by women from selected Asia Pacific countries between now and 2030.
Yet, women-only hotel rooms have not taken off, with very few hotels persevering with the concept.
Not only did hotel operators find it impractical to have rooms that could only be used by 50 per cent of the population, they didn’t exactly get knocked over with demand.
Women-only floors do provide some extra security, as the lift only goes to that floor if you swipe your key card, but I can’t help thinking they also make it easy to identify where all the solo women are staying.
Apart from security, the only real differences in the women-only floors I have seen have been a few ‘female touches’: bunches of flowers, women’s magazines and a few extra toiletries, none of which would make that much difference to me.
All I really want in a hotel is a clean, secure room, a comfy bed and a good shower; things that are presumably important to all travellers.
It does pay to exercise caution as a female traveller, especially overseas, but it comes down to common sense.
One of the best ways to avoid unwanted attention is to be aware of the local dress code and err on the side of the conservative.
It can also help to wear a wedding ring, real or otherwise, although in some countries this can raise questions of why you are travelling without your husband – shock, horror!
I never discuss details of my travel plans with strangers when I’m travelling alone, or I give the impression that I’m meeting family or friends at my destination.
Some women prefer to travel with other women and there are now some specialist travel companies catering for women-only trips, with emphasis on shopping, spa treatments and other activities that may not appeal to men.
I can’t imagine opting for a female-only holiday, unless it was a casual weekend away with my friends, but these trips are proving very popular, particularly with older women who don’t have partners or have partners who don’t want to travel.
For women travelling with babies, I can definitely see a need for lounges or other areas where they can breastfeed in comfort, especially in countries where it is not acceptable to do it in public.
The only other ‘female need’ I can think of is more women’s toilets in airports and other public places.
Why buildings continue to be designed with equal numbers of men’s and women’s toilets is beyond me; have you ever seen a queue for the men’s?
Do you think female travellers have different needs, or wants, to male travellers? If you're a female traveller, would you take a women-only holiday? Post your comments below.