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 women 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!
In the guestrooms on its women-only floor, New York City’s Premier Hotel provides a yoga mat, straightening iron, curling iron, lighted makeup mirror and “women’s magazines.” And the aforementioned Ellis Hotel in Atlanta offers, among other amenities, a “kiss cam to say goodnight to your loved ones.” Hmm. Wouldn’t a male traveler ever like to call home and get a little face time with his kids?
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.
Of course, some will also raise the question of fairness. If there’s a women-only lounge or floor, why shouldn’t there be one just for men? And do women really want or need to be segregated in their own section of a hotel?
Personally, I believe there’s value in the safety and camaraderie fostered by women-only spaces, and I’m glad there are hotels out there that offer the option to female travelers who want it. Just make mine without the fashion mags.