There was a time (25 years ago, to be exact) when women traveling alone could spend the night in hotels with female-only floors. Not surprisingly, this special treatment eventually came to be seen as sexist, and ceased to be—until now. The New York Times reports that the new Crowne Plaza Milwaukee-Wauwatosa hotel has turned its seventh floor into a Women’s Executive Level. Here women will have access to a variety of girlie amenities such as Victoria’s Secret bathrobes, blow dryers, and vanity mirrors. The great equalizing factor is that men can book rooms on this floor too—if they want to. The Times points out that, in a sense, the Women’s Executive Level is an answer to most hotels’ concierge or club floors, which have traditionally been aimed at men.
Bill DeForrest, president of Lane Hospitality (which oversees three Crowne Plazas), maintains that the “Women’s Level isn’t really an exclusive woman’s floor. It’s simply designed to cater to the needs of women travelers, who are growing faster in numbers than male travelers. One of the things we’ve changed is to keep our fitness facilities open 24/7. So much of what we do, by the way, is applicable to both men and women.”
The Crowne Plaza isn’t alone in its efforts. Hotels such as The Millenium chain's Premier Hotel
in Times Square has “Women Travelers Floors” that provides yoga mats, a
spa-style room service menu, and bath salts. And the Hampton Inn in
Albany has a special floor—that’s women-only except on weekends—with
cookies, flavored coffee, lotions, extra-soft socks, and half-hour
sessions in a massage chair. Girlie amenities aside (because let's face
it, not all females need extra-soft socks and cookies to feel taken
care of), the main purpose of this floor is to give women travelers a
greater sense of security and privacy. It also allows female business
travelers (USA Today estimated that women now account for about 43% of business travelers) the opportunity to meet other females in transit. According to Bizwomen,
women who don’t want to eat dinner by themselves can reserve a seat at
a networking table in either of the Hampton Inn's two restaurants.
Of course not all agree with the promotion of gender separation, be
it voluntary or not. Bjorn Hanson, a hotel analyst and faculty member
of New York University’s Tisch Center,
recalls how by the mid-1980s, the idea of separating floors by gender
was ultimately offensive. “They [women] were trying to be CEOs but were
looked on as the weaker sex. Women’s floors became a kind of sexist
thing instead of a polite offer.” Indeed the new Marriott hotel in
Grand Rapids, Michigan, had plans to create an exclusively female floor
last year but decided not to due to a negative response from customers
As far as the hotel industry is concerned, it’s all about what the customers want. Lobbyist Rosslyn Hooten has stayed at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza a number of times, and she admits that it isn't the plush bathrobes and frills that keeps her coming back but the added security of staying on the women-only level, where the elevators open only for guests with room keys for that floor.
Are women's floors a good or bad idea? Tell us what you think.
Photo: Christianisthedj via Intelligent Travel Flickr pool