Friday, March 18, 2011

Women Traveling Solo

Independent Traveler: On a recent trip to Atlanta, I learned that one of city’s newer boutique properties, the Ellis Hotel, offers a women-only floor. “What a cool idea,” I thought. As a woman who often travels solo — and who hasn’t always felt safe doing so — I liked the idea of a keycard-secured area just for female travelers. Why hadn’t I heard of this before?

After I got back home, I did a little research. Turns out that there are a few other hotels around the world that offer women-only floors — and there are even places where men are forbidden throughout the entire property. I was intrigued and impressed by many of the hotels, like the woman-owned and -operated Lady’s First Design Hotel in Zurich, which reserves 12 part-time staff positions for local unemployed women in need. The Luthan Hotel & Spa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, gives female travelers, particularly Saudi businesswomen, a comfortable place of their own within a country that still has fairly rigid gender roles. The hotel is staffed entirely by women, so Muslims can remove their veils when they arrive. And I love that the female-only Artemisia Hotel in Berlin has a gallery featuring work by women artists.

But as I looked into other women-only hotel spaces, I didn’t feel quite as inspired. Take the Naumi Hotel in Singapore, which offers a “ladies floor” with “feminine touches of pink hues and flowery wallpaper,” according to its Web site. “For a total immersion of the senses, the discerning lady traveller can enjoy the range of female magazines over a cup of coffee, pamper herself with premium amenities or even indulge in a refreshing spa session.” Flowery wallpaper? Girly magazines? Swoon!

On one hand, I’m encouraged that hotels seem to be trying to respond to what women want. But to what extent are they simply pigeonholing us into tired old stereotypes? Sure, some female travelers do read fashion magazines and appreciate frou-frou bath products … but assuming that all of us do, just because we’re women, feels a little reductive to this particular “lady” traveler.

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