It is the year 2018 and unfortunately I have to write such an article to educate hotels on how to treat a solo woman traveler. More and more women are traveling. Be it on leisure or backpacking or business travel, the need for women to be out there has increased. We talk almost every other day about women safety, women feeling comfortable, women empowerment and in so many ways we try to spread awareness only to be in vain. Every time some topic comes up on women and their equal rights, at least one man in the audience would blurt out something stupid like ‘why should women be given special preference?’ Because the world is not yet ready to accept women doing things like that of men. And so the world needs to be constantly reminded that ‘hey women are just human beings, they do not bite you. Just treat the way you would otherwise treat a man, another fellow human being.” A simple example being, a man traveling to a different city for business / travel and checking into a hotel as the only guy is never looked down. How many of you and especially how many families are okay to let the woman of their house go book a room for herself and stay alone for the night? Even Urban India is still not happy and acceptable with this subject. At least the hotels should make this transition easy and be more open and inviting to women travelers. Am going to share an incident that happened very recently just to show how a small misunderstanding could lead to an embarrassing moment.
As many of you know, I did a central India trip hopping national parks and my last stop was to fly out of Nagpur. I usually prefer AirBnBs for its budget friendly and you are in the comfort of a family. But when I do not have much option I look for hotels which have good reviews and book good ones, even if it pinches my pocket. The sheer reason being, hoping that at least these hotels might have staff trained to expect women travelers. The hotel I chose in Nagpur was of three star and close to the airport. My flight was in the evening at 4pm and I had the whole of morning to kill. With this running in mind, I made arrangements to visit Umred Karhandla for an early morning wildlife safari and it is a two hour drive from Nagpur. When I arrived at the hotel it was late night about 9pm and I informed the staff about the next day’s plan and negotiated for a late checkout of 2pm. This to avoid any confusion, I clearly mentioned that I will leave early in the morning around 3:30 to Umred and might return only by 12pm or so. However, morning around 4am when I was about to leave the premises as my cab had arrived, the person at the reception stopped me. On short exchange of dialogue I realized his worry was that whether I was leaving the room and hotel without a proper check out! Slightly taken aback but still felt that they might have had bad experiences that he thought safe to check, I explained again that am going to Umred, will be back late and the staff who was there the previous night had agreed to give me a late check-out. He went on to check the room number details and came back with, “Room number X is a single occupancy under name MR.Chittra. Did you join? Who are you?”. I totally lost it at this point. I moved off saying, “Am a Miss and not Mister, correct your records”. But the very question and mentality of the staff looking at me as probably the woman who joined a guy in his room at night and leaving the premises early in the morning, got on to my head big time! That is certainly not a way to question a guest of the hotel.
This is not a one off incident. There was this hotel in Amritsar which again was a good business hotel and at night 11pm when I had already changed into my nightwear and all set to sleep, the staff comes knocking at my door cos they had a complaint to repair the TV. The complaint was not even from my room! The hotel in Bhuj where they thought okay to ring at night 11:30pm to get some bills signed because they are closing their accounts and need some signature. The hotel manager who thought it is okay to constantly send messages to my personal mobile number! With such people around I sometimes wonder, is it even safe to handover copy of my ID card and write down my address while checking in. There are three issues to be addressed here;
- The Hotel Staffs have behavioral and hospitality issues irrespective of the gender of the guest.
- Hotels are not equipped and not open enough to accept women travelers, that they do not know the right thing to do to make their guests comfortable.
- The mentality of Indian men that single woman are easy.
The third issue, it is gonna take years and years to bring about the change. It will happen at a slow pace and we have to wait it out. But the first two issues need attention by the hotels. Five star properties are now coming up with keeping aside an entire floor only for women travelers. But we cannot afford that kind of a luxury all the time. It is not really necessary for a hotel to set aside an area for women and cordon them. However simple tweaks in their hospitality would bring a big smile to the weary traveler and would make the woman recognized. It is not the argument of why do we need preferential treatment to women, it is about being inclusive. And remember that women travelers are a huge but close knit network and word of mouth is what a lot of us rely on, right from choosing destination to place of stay. When one says this is the best place of stay and I felt safe as a solo woman traveler, she is going to get you a lot of business.
1. Know your guest. When a booking comes in check who your guests are and on the date of arrival be prepared to host a lady. That includes just as simple as addressing the woman as Mam or Madam and not ‘Sir’. You are so used to hosting men that even when someone calls your hotel you say, “Good evening Sir, we are so and so hotel how can we help you.” Put in that conscious effort to change this pattern and be gender neutral. When you hear a woman, start addressing as Mam or Madam.
2. Check with the guest about arrival time. Call up the guest, check for the arrival time and keep the room ready. Please don’t make her wait at the reception endlessly. When the lady checks in asks if she wants to upgrade her room. Not really asking you to be generous, let it be for the additional cost. Most of the woman would agree to upgrade as a lot of them prefer comfort. This is a benefit to the hotels.
3. Offer to pick up if the arrival time is late or very early morning. While of course they will find their way, as a good gesture offer to pick them from the railway/bus station if they are arriving late in the night or early in the morning. It takes off the tension of finding the place, bargaining with auto/cab and calling up the hotel for directions. Often the availability of public transport will be less or nil late night.
4. Don’t drag me to a room in the very corner of the corridor. Is your corridor well lit? Even then could you please give me a room that is close to the stairs or lift. Definitely don’t want to walk up and down the corridor drawing attention. Especially when some people think its cool to have their room doors open and watch people. Also always the single rooms are pushed to the dingy corners which are definitely not a very inviting place. Is my room next to the house keeping storage place where your housekeeping boy gonna stay all the time? Please don’t do that.
5. Always have the lady staff at the front desk call the room for any queries or anything to be addressed. You want to check if the guest needs wake up call or remind for breakfast or any communication to the room, keep it through the lady receptionist. Can you provide room service also through woman? That will be awesome.
6. Does your room have a lock? Definitely you will be having the front door lock. Do you have a latch inside the door? Is there a double lock? Do you have a peephole? Do you have a chain door fastener? We all know that you have multiple keys for the outer lock. So do you have extra locks inside and do they work? How about your window locks, are they working?
7. When any information is being exchanged at the reception, please do not say that loud. That include specifically my room number and phone number.
8. Have a table set for one in your restaurant. If your restaurant is not crowded that is okay. But if your restaurant is crowded and the woman walks in, please don’t ask her to share the table with others. Neither keep her waiting. Have the table ready. Even it is a high chair facing the window or a seat by the bar, have single seats set for her.
9. Train your hotel manager and restaurant manager on how to talk to a lady. They need to check on women travelers too just like how they would check about the stay with families and men. Three kinds of men. One, they are scared to talk that they think avoiding altogether is a brilliant solution! Two, these are the ones who believe you will not bring further business and so don’t care about you. Three, the ones who don’t know that they have crossed the border and started flirting. So on a serious note giving a training helps.
10. Maybe am adding this just to make it to the tenth point! But the serious problems I have seen in home stays or hostels run by men is that they do not keep a mirror in the room! Whyyy. I mean why? Do men don’t see their face at all? Hotels have mirrors.. Maybe too much to ask but at least on lending basis you can keep hair dryers and accessories..
Do you have anything to add to this list? Or have you had any incident that you would like to share? Do add in the comment section. Did any hotel make you feel special? Give a shout out to them too 🙂 Happy traveling.
Note 1: Building a business is tough and because of one unfortunate incident am not going to name shame the hotel nor write bad reviews. Their services and cleanliness quality was otherwise good. I wrote to them later and the management apologized.
Note 2: Some of the pics are from Pixabay.