It's the twenty-first century, and I wouldn't say I like that I have to write an article to educate hotels on treating 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's 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
Should A Solo Woman Traveler Get Preference?
Because the world is not yet ready to accept women are doing things like that of men. And so the world needs to be constantly reminded of 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 is a man is traveling to a different city for business/travel and checking into a hotel.
How many of you and especially how many families are okay to let the woman of their house 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. I have the experience to share that happened very recently to show how a slight misunderstanding could lead to an embarrassing moment.
Personal Embarrassing Experience
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 many options, I look for hotels with 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 three stars and closed to the airport. My flight was at 4 pm, and I had the whole 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 a late-night, about 9 pm, and I informed the staff about the next day's plan and negotiated for a late checkout of 2 pm. To avoid any confusion, I mentioned that I would leave early in the morning, around 3:30, to Umred and might return only by 12 pm or so. However, morning around 4 am when I was about to leave the premises as my cab had arrived, the person at the reception stopped me.
On a short exchange of dialogue, I realized his worry was whether I could leave the room and hotel without a proper checkout! Slightly taken aback but still felt that they might have had bad experiences that he thought safe to check, I explained again that I am going to Umred, will be back late, and the staff who was there the previous night had agreed to give me a late checkout.
He went on to check the room number details and came back with,
"Room number X is a single occupancy under the name MR.Chittra. Did you join? Who are you?".
I lost it at this point. I moved off, saying, "I 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 11 pm when I had already changed into my nightwear and all set to sleep, the staff came knocking at my door as they had a complaint repair the TV. The complaint was not even from my room!
In Bhuj, the hotel thought it was okay to ring at 11:30 pm to get some bills signed because they closed their accounts and needed some signatures. The hotel manager thought it is okay to send messages to my mobile number constantly!
With such people around, I sometimes wonder, is it even safe to hand over a copy of my ID card and write down my address while checking in. There are three issues to be addressed here;
- The Hotel staff 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 make their guests comfortable. The mentality of Indian men that single women are easy.
- The third issue, it is going to 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 luxury all the time. A hotel doesn't need 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 many of us rely on, right from choosing a destination to a place of stay. When one says this is the best place to stay and I felt safe as a solo woman traveler, she will get you a lot of business.
- 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 her 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 women would agree to upgrade as a lot of them prefer comfort.
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 at night.
- 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? I don't want to walk up and down the corridor drawing attention. Especially when some people think it's cool to have their room doors open and watch people. The single rooms are constantly pushed to the dingy corners, which are not very inviting places. Is my room next to the housekeeping storage place where your housekeeping boy will stay all the time?
Please don't do that.
- 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 a wake-up call or reminder for breakfast or any communication to the room, keep it through the lady receptionist.
Can you provide room service also through women? That will be awesome.
- Does your room have a lock? You will have 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 includes 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 filled and the woman walks in, please don't ask her to share the table with others. Neither keeps her waiting. Have the table ready. Even if it is a high chair facing the window or a seat by the bar, have single seats set for her.
- 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 don't care about you.
Three, the ones who don't know that they have crossed the border and started flirting. So on a severe note giving a training helps.
- Maybe I am adding this to make it to the tenth point! But the serious problem I have seen in homestays or hostels run by men is that they do not keep a mirror in the room! Why. I mean, why? Do men don't see their faces at all? Hotels have mirrors... Maybe too much to ask, but at least on a lending basis, you can keep hairdryers and accessories...
Do you have anything to add to this list?
Or have you had an 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.
Note 1: Building a business is tough, and because of one unfortunate incident, I am not going to shame the hotel nor write bad reviews. Their services and cleanliness quality were otherwise good. I wrote to them later, and the management apologized.