We women want things men don’t when we step off a plane and into temporary digs—like a hair straightener or a copy of the latest gossip rag. And now that we make up close to half of all business travelers, some hotels are working hard to accommodate us. But not all. How do you find one of the good ones in advance? Enter Maiden Voyage, a social network that ranks hotels based on female friendliness. Are there high-powered hair dryers? Check. Full-length mirrors? Double check. A receptionist who announces the room numbers out loud? Uh-oh. If you’re a lone traveler, the site can even connect you with other women on business trips at the same time.
At present, Maiden Voyage ambassadors have vetted about 300 hotels worldwide, although none are in the U.S. CEO Carolyn Pearson hopes to add at least that many to the site in 2014, including some in American cities. More asked her to detail her criteria and divulge her top hotel picks.
More: What makes a hotel female friendly?
Carolyn Pearson: We have a checklist of about 30 things. First, we really focus on safety because there has been a history of women business travelers being sexually assaulted or just disturbed by people entering their rooms. Our No. 1 requirement is double-locking doors—an extra chain or deadbolt that will prevent anyone with a master keycard from entering your room. It’s also important for a hotel to be located in a safe area, man the reception desk 24-7 and have a spyhole in the door so women can see who is knocking. Those are positives; one big negative is if the person who checks you in says your room number out loud.
Then there’s comfort: We look carefully at the hairdryers (they should be salon-quality rather than the type that requires you to hold down a button to keep it running); whether there is a full-length mirror with an outlet nearby; coat hangers; room service menus with healthy options, rather than the usual steak or club sandwiches; and most importantly, good brand-name toiletries. I don’t know anyone who likes those two-in-one shower gel and shampoo products. We prefer Ren, Molton Brown, Jo Malone, L'Occitane, Elemis, and of course, Bvlgari and Hermes. If you know you’ll find that level of product in the bathroom, you won’t have to pack as much. Hotels that invest in these products earn more loyalty from female guests.
More: Does price play a factor in your rankings?
CP: No. We tend not to go for the palace-type places that are ridiculously priced, but our hotels are usually 3.5 stars and up, so they aren’t cheap.
More: The site names only the hotels that have met your criteria. How can people avoid the ones that didn’t ace the test?
CP: If we inspect a hotel and it doesn’t meet our criteria, we make sure to keep the inspection sheets. So our members can email us and ask about a specific hotel they are considering, and we can tell them not to stay there.
More: Can you tell me about a hotel you visited that didn’t make the cut?
CP: I checked into a London hotel this week and the receptionist gave me a ground floor room. It’s bad to put a woman there because the room is accessible from the outside through the windows. I asked for something higher, and I got a second-floor room—which would have been fine had the elevator been working. Luckily, the receptionist helped me with my bags. When it came time to check out, I attempted to call reception for help again, and I realized my room phone wasn’t working. I went downstairs to inquire, and I found a note explaining that reception closes at 6 PM and no staff or authority stays in the hotel after that. So anyone could be lurking around. Also, the heat control on my hair dryer was broken, so I felt like my hair was burning when I dried it.
More: What are your top hotels?
CP: 1. QT hotel in Sydney is my favorite at the moment. It’s a stunning boutique hotel with fantastic art, nice toiletries and a great dining area.
2. Four Seasons in Riyadh has dealt with women’s security by creating the Pearl Floor, a women’s-only floor with express check-in. There’s also a family area where women can dine alone, a lounge with free WIFI and a new Ladies Gym (so you won’t get yourself in hot water for making cultural mistakes).
3. Georgian Court in Vancouver has a ladies-only floor, too, with 18 rooms for female travelers. We’ve got fantastic feedback from our members about it. Each room has a flat iron, a curling iron, upgraded Aveda spa products and copies of fashion magazines.
4. K+K Hotel George in London is great. We’ve actually educated them about being more female friendly, and they went up a star partially because of that. If you book with the Maiden Voyage code on our website, they offer a free female-business-traveler package that includes in-room flowers, sparkling wine and chocolates. The hotel also has onsite secure parking, a wellness center and massages available upon request.
5. Sofitel Luxembourg Le Grand Ducal was recommended to us by members. They liked the chilled-out vibe, the lady-friendly atmosphere and the welcome cocktails on the panoramic top floor. Female staff delivers room service, and each room is equipped with a full-length mirror, high-powered hair dryer and Hermes toiletries.
6. The WorldHotel Grand Winston in The Hague has created a ladies-only business room. Female business travelers stay near—but not right next to—the elevator and the rooms have extra bolts. They also have step machines, extra slippers and satin coat hangers in each room.
7. The Intercontinental in Geneva has an outdoor heated swimming pool and a massive Clarins spa. Not to mention free WIFI and 24-hour room service.
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