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October 25, 2013 12:35 ET

Premier Traveler Asks; Women Answer

Women Road Warriors Tell It Like It Is

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - October 25, 2013) - Frequent travelers come in all shapes and sizes, but only two genders. And while the majority of the travel industry treats travelers as gender-neutral, there are some significant differences in the ways that men and women travel. In the current issue of Premier Traveler magazine (PT), award-winning writer Janet Forman takes a look at some of those dissimilarities. The magazine queried its female readership to get the personal perspective of women road warriors - their likes and dislikes; wants and needs; and what changes they'd like to see in the travel industry. The resulting report provides a fascinating peek into the world of globetrotters of the female kind.

Premier Traveler Special Report

Women Travelers Speak Up 
At the dawn of the 1970s Women's Movement, only a fraction of road warriors were women. Today, they account for nearly half of all business travelers; yet, just a few years ago, author and PT reader Lai Ubberud had a rather shocking exchange in a Delta first-class cabin: "My male seatmate leaned in over drinks to remark, 'You're very lucky that your husband could get you into first class!' I just looked at him and said evenly, 'I'm a Diamond and he's not even a Medallion.'" Ubberud laughed as she recalled the exchange: "His jaw dropped!"

While the gender balance at the front of the plane is more equal these days (despite the assumptions of one ill-informed first-class passenger), some important differences remain in the way men and women travel, so Premier Traveler has asked our female readers to tell us about their personal take on things.

Safety First
The contrast begins with the concept of safety. Although this is a first priority for both male and female travelers, men worry more about fire, terrorism and aviation problems, while women generally also think about personal security issues like assault, rape and harassment. Female readers say that they are cautious about leaving the hotel for an evening walk, navigating a dark hallway to an ice machine or even opening their hotel room door to an unexpected knock from someone who may or may not be a property employee. A university professor who travels frequently to developing countries told us that she's had problems keeping her room number private. (Due to the sensitive nature of this material, we gave readers the option to remain partially or fully anonymous.) "Clerks often carelessly shout it out," she told us, "whereas, simply pointing on the key-card envelope is a much safer option."

"Hotels need to be more careful about properly checking people into rooms," noted another reader who chose to remain anonymous but identified herself as a chief technology officer. "In the last year, I've twice been given keys to occupied rooms, and walked in on men," she revealed. "Just last week, someone tried to enter my room at 2 a.m., because I hadn't been properly checked in. And these were not cheap motels; they were four-star hotels."

A related problem is unwanted attention for behavior that's completely acceptable at home, but not within the context of another culture. "Just wearing gym clothes through the lobby of a Middle Eastern hotel can cause problems," noted the professor. "The guys just stare."

Even in the U.S., women may still encounter attitudes that went out with the bustle, as when Laura Giampino took a Detroit-area client to lunch and the man "felt that his wife and entire family had to attend the meeting in order to [avoid being] alone with me at the table."

While enjoying lunch in a public setting sans family hardly qualifies as taboo in most circles, it's still a fact that many women become more careful about propriety on the road. "Two gentlemen would think nothing of getting together in one of their rooms to go over notes before a meeting," observed a reader who preferred to remain anonymous. "I can't do that with [my] male boss: I'm married; he's married. It would be inappropriate," she said, suggesting that hotels add small conference areas off hotel lobbies. Hyatt Hotels heard this same request during its recent 18-month Women's Survey, and plans to add more of these spaces with each new renovation and opening.

Self-Defense
A few readers expressed the feeling that women may be targeted because they appear more vulnerable. For a time, travel companies felt that "ladies only" hotel floors, airplane bathrooms, even subway cars and taxis might solve the problem. But today, most of those have disappeared, as calling attention to lone women could prove even more dangerous.

Some of the cleverest solutions to security problems came from self-sufficient PT readers like Teresa Duncan of Centreville, Virginia, who takes a business card from her airport taxi driver so that she has someone to call, "just in case." Karen Kohl of Secaucus, New Jersey, occupies a seat near the bartender for her nightcap, a move that Dallas-based Jennifer Leonard seconds: She gets to know the bar staff at places she favors, feeling that "a good bartender can keep the stalkers away."

Above all, our readers said that homework is the best precaution of all. "Just as you know the unsafe neighborhoods at home, you need to know [them] in the town you're visiting," declared Irene Rawlings of Denver. "And in some places, like Cairo or Islamabad or even Marrakech, you should cover up before leaving your hotel - or expect some kind of heckling."

The peripatetic university professor alerts her hotel anytime she's being harassed, "So, speak up," she advised. "I've had the hotel clear all phone calls with me before forwarding them, post a guard on my floor, change my room... whatever it took to protect me after incidents started." In some dicey locales, she'll go even a step further: "I carry a stash of food, just in case of a revolution. [I've] been in a couple, where I had to stay in the hotel for several days!"

In the Loo
Another issue for female travelers can be hotel bathrooms designed primarily for male counterparts, with little counter space for women's beauty products; no magnifying mirror (or one that works OK for shaving but not for applying makeup); and showerheads that are too high to easily tilt away from hair that there just isn't enough time to wash and style with a too-weak hairdryer. And speaking of which, how many women on their way to dinner after a full day have time to play a rousing game of "Find the Hairdryer"?

The solution for no-nonsense reader Nickie Nelson of North Salt Lake, Utah, is decidedly DIY: She carries a Leatherman tool, "to fix things quickly, if I can do that," she revealed. "I've taken apart several hotel thermostats to adjust them!"

Complaints, Requests and the Forgotten Power Cable
"Momentum is a big issue for business travelers," Hyatt Senior VP Sara Kearney learned from the hotel group's Women's Survey. Yet both Hyatt's research and ours revealed that even the most independent female travelers (including Kearney herself) hesitate to call the desk for a forgotten item - like a power cable - that could break their stride, in part to avoid having a stranger enter the room. One reader said she doesn't call to request items or complain because she was raised to be "polite" and not make waves. And a few, like Katherine Smith of British Columbia, Canada, felt that "It's a waste of time; more of a hassle to wait for a toothbrush than to buy a new one. I do report dissatisfaction if I'm on my own," she maintained, but she admitted to hesitating to do so when traveling with a group of women who prefer not to rock the boat. "It's easier to complain," Smith confessed, "when nobody gets in my way."

Still, many PT readers do choose to speak up. "After spending over 200 nights a year in hotels for almost ten years, I know what's right and what's wrong with a property," said former hotel general manager Cella Baker. "I also know that if a guest doesn't complain, things that are wrong can slip by."

"Women travel as much as men," agreed a reader who preferred that we refer to her simply as "Cicely," of Schenectady, New York. "We spend our hard-earned money and deserve great customer service as well. Heck, this isn't 1955!"

At the Airport
Today's airline baggage and security restrictions also impact women differently than men. One reader observed that women often carry more bags, since men tend to "cram belongings into every available pocket." And let's face it: Men generally have more upper-body strength for heaving heavy cases into the overhead. Unless we plan to ask for help, women can only carry a bag small and light enough that we can lift over our heads.

Our plastic baggies are fuller, too, many readers observed - packed with hair products, makeup, cleansers and moisturizers. Jennifer Leonard solves the problem with a trip to the drugstore upon arrival. (She also avoids wearing underwire bras or only a camisole under a suit on flight days, as "security requires you to take off the jacket or succumb to the dreaded pat-down.") Perhaps we could all take a page from chemistry professor Jen Sorenson, who told us that she attacks the challenge of filling that baggie to the brim as if it were a Tetris tile-shifting puzzle.

The Next Step
"Things have gotten better for women," observed one reader, who reported sending male subordinates to Japan in the 1980s when male clients would only deal with other men. Now that she can operate comfortably on her own, she finds her job "much more straightforward."

Yet, the chief technology officer who told us of her experiences still has one big item on her wish list: "I like cool cars," she declared. "My male companions get cool cars all the time [when renting]. I get upgraded to oversized sedans and minivans. I never get the cool car." Perhaps with more female architects, designers, pilots and hotel GMs getting onboard, we'll get those full-strength hairdryers, along with overhead-bin equality, solitude at the bar when we want it and the cool cars, too. How's that for maintaining momentum on the road?

About Premier Traveler:
Premier Traveler (PT) was created as an outlet for its readers' voices to be heard. Perpetually on-the-go (both domestically and abroad), with high expectations and a taste for luxury, Premier Traveler readers always have something to share - a personal experience, an opinion, a suggestion, a question - and PT was designed to listen and to get the answers they need.

The open dialogue doesn't stop with letters and emails from readers. Premier Traveler goes one step further by creating frequent questionnaires on a variety of topics, allowing the editorial team to inject the magazine's content with valuable and relevant insights.

As perennial global travelers, PT readers demand premium products and services but can still appreciate a good deal. That's why they turn to Premier Traveler for the latest travel news and information, while also learning about exciting promotional offers and losing themselves in candid hotel and flight reviews. This is part of what makes Premier Traveler more than just another magazine, but one that shares a personal connection with its readers.

Premier Traveler AWARD WINNING JOURNALISM 
2013 "Best Magazine Article: U.S. Travel
2013 "Best Magazine Article: Foreign Travel
2013 "Best Business Travel Media Award

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