Skift Take

Making business travel more inclusive for women would go a long way in helping the sector make more progress in its recovery. But companies still have a lot of work to do help female business travelers overcome the challenges they face.

Skift Research examined how female business travelers were shaping the industry in a 2014 report, noting that companies were increasingly taking steps to address the needs of this growing segment.

The “Rise of Female Business Travelers” addressed how travel brands could facilitate corporate travel for women, including improving security and designing female-friendly spaces. And as female-owned businesses were projected to expand worldwide, Skift Research said, “Women are determined to move forward in business and make their mark.”

Here’s a look at what’s changed and hasn’t changed for female business travelers over the past decade.

Security Still an Issue

Skift Research said in 2014, “Society has not yet evolved to the point where women can feel as safe as men in like circumstances.” A 2018 survey by the Global Business Travel Association, in partnership with AIG Travel, found that 83 percent of women had experienced at least one safety-related concern or incident in the previous 12 months.

“That impacted their well-being and what they did in their spare time,” said Carolyn Pearson, CEO of Maiden Voyage, a Leeds, England-based company that provides consulting services for corporations seeking to make inroads among female business travelers.

“But it also impacted their performance when they were away on business.”

The Global Business Travel Association found only 18 percent of corporate travel policies specifically address the safety and security of female business travelers. In addition, a 2023 survey by Toronto-based insurer, World Travel Protection, found 19 percent of female business travelers feel their employers should “act with women’s safety in mind,” including ensuring flights don’t arrive late at night.

While Pearson believes the travel industry has enacted measures to help women traveling on business, she said travel brands aren’t clear about those intentions.

“What they’re now referring to is solo travelers,” Pearson said, citing as an example hotels not allocating solo travelers rooms on the ground floor.

“Quite often, women who experience issues on their business travel don’t report these to their organizations,” said Person, who added that travelers should ask themselves if they’re comfortable going to a certain destination on business as well as how their employer can help them.

“So sometimes, they’re hearing these things for the first time. And if organizations don’t hear about the issues, they can’t take steps to solve them.”

What else can companies do? “The number one thing that companies can do to address safety concerns for women traveling on business is to provide accurate, up-to-date intel so that women can make the decisions that are right for them,” said Kim Callender, CEO of SoloTrvlr, a platform for female travelers.

“This includes data around neighborhoods where crime or sexual assault are high, advice regarding the safety of various transportation options, details on local customs so that it’s easier to blend in, and other safety intel from trusted sources.”

Considering Female Business Travelers in Hotel and Airport Design

Skift Research said in its 2014 report that many airport lounges were still a very masculine domain and designed accordingly — even after Korean Air introduced a dedicated area for female travelers in its Prestige Lounge at Incheon International Airport three years prior. A group of female business travelers said in a February 2014 Skift article that they’d like, among other features, more rooms for nursing mothers in airport lounges as well as massage chairs.

In addition, Skift Research mentioned that some hotels — such as the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — had dedicated floors for women. Other properties worldwide, including Dubai’s TIME Asma Hotel, have floors and amenities reserved for female travelers.

While Pearson said she hasn’t noticed hotels and airports make changes in designs to suit female business travelers, Callender cited the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act. Enacted in 2018, it requires all medium and large U.S. airports to provide private spaces in each terminal for lactating mothers. The act has also resulted in Mamava pods being installed in airports across the U.S.

“This is a godsend for women traveling on business after a maternity leave,” she said.

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Tags: corporate travel, safety, women, women travelers

Photo credit: A business traveler about to catch a flight Pxfuel

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