women-only floors at hotels

No boys allowed: Hotels bring back women-only floors

Women-only floors at hotels — an amenity discarded by the hotel industry at the dawn of the feminist movement — may be experiencing a comeback.

You won’t find them everywhere. But, as I discovered in a story for msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin, women-only floors at hotels aren’t as rare as you’d think.

A "Bella Donna" room at Copenhagen's new Bella Sky Comwell hotel

In a focus group study conducted by the 812-room Hotel Bella Sky Comwell in Copenhagen, Denmark, more than half of the “influential and well-traveled Danish women” surveyed said they’d stay on a women-only floor because “it provides a sense of security; it feels more hygienic to know that the previous guest was also a woman and they prefer rooms tailored to women’s needs.”

Armed with that data, the hotel opened in May 2011 with a secure-access floor for ladies only. “Bella Donna” floors cost an additional DKK 300 (about US$55) and offer extra-large showerheads, extra clothes hangers for skirts and dresses and a minibar stocked with items such as smoothies, champagne and high-quality chocolate.

The Naumi Hotel in Singapore, the Premier Hotel in New York City, and Crowne Plaza properties in Washington, D.C. and Bloomington, Minn., are among the hotels that also feature floors strictly for female guests.

For the past two years, the 180-room Georgian Court Hotel in downtown Vancouver, B.C., has been offering the 18 rooms on its Orchid Floor exclusively to woman at no extra charge.

“The rooms are definitely not pink,” said general manager Lisa Jackson. “But women seem to like the additional amenities we offer, such as a flat iron, a curling iron and an emergency kit with nylons and some other amenities they might forget at home.” The rooms also feature upgraded bathroom amenities, a yoga mat, satin-padded hangers and fashion magazines.

“Rooms on the Orchid Floor are often sold-out,” said Jackson, “and now the hotel is considering adding an additional women-only floor.”

“I thought women-only rooms were a trend that came and went,” said Katie Davin, an associate professor and director of hospitality education for Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. “When it first came back around, in the early 2000s, it was more about what hotels thought women wanted — pretty rooms, good hairdryers, things like that. But it sounds like they’ve been talking to women instead of just guessing.”

At the 318-room Hamilton Crowne Plaza in Washington, D.C., one floor has been set aside for women-only for the past five years. While the hotel’s average occupancy is about 80 percent, rooms on the women’s floor are often sold-out. Available Sunday through Thursday, when most business travelers are on the road, rooms on the secure-access floor offer upgraded amenities, bathrobes and slippers and an invitation to join other women for a networking dinner in the hotel restaurant. This year the hotel added complimentary concierge service to guests on the women-only floor as well.

“The market dynamics have changed. Women business travelers are traveling more than ever,” said hotel sales and marketing manager Regina Willson. “And that’s our target.”

Tonya Harris-Hill of Atlanta is right in that target range. On the road regularly for her job as a nurse manager, she’s been a regular at the Crowne Plaza in Bloomington, Minn., for months. As a frequent guest, she often gets upgraded to a suite, but at the suggestion of a co-worker gave the hotel’s secure-access, women-only floor a try.

Harris-Hill said she initially chose the women-only floor, which has a $30 surcharge, because she was new to the area and felt more secure. But now she likes it for the upgraded bath amenities and the gathering area in the hallway with magazines, fresh fruit and flowers and a fridge stocked with complimentary refreshments and snacks such as yogurt, ice cream and chocolate.

“I can put on a bathrobe and go out there and grab a snack and it is fine because you know you won’t run into a guy. And it is kind of pretty,” said Harris-Hill.