Hotels are forever being urged to innovate, to think outside the box, and to implement novel ideas which can lift the average property above and beyond its competitors. Creativity is an asset where gaining customer attention is concerned, but inevitably one or two of these ideas, though well-intentioned, will miss the mark. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to be sure in advance exactly which ideas will be the winners, and which will leave guests shaking their heads in bemusement. After all, behind every terrible innovation stands someone who thinks it’s going to turn out great, while every triumph confounds a host of pessimists.
Here at Hotelintel.co, we have just learned of a new idea from a large and luxurious hotel in Singapore that absolutely appeals to our sense of pessimism. The hotel in question has introduced a ‘Ladies’ Floor’ for female visitors to the city, with business travelers particularly in mind. Access to this floor requires a special pass and is strictly for ladies only, with male staff permitted only if accompanied by a female colleague.
We’re probably all familiar with those countries where trains must have separate carriages for female passengers only, and personally, as a man, I feel this reflects rather badly upon those male passengers who cannot be trusted to behave appropriately in a mixed environment. However, I am not aware that Singapore is a country where the men have a reputation to be ashamed of, and I doubt very much that the hotel’s male staff would pose a significant risk to female guests unless there are shortcomings to their recruitment and vetting system that we don’t know about. If we are to assume that the hotel’s male employees are in fact all respectable gentlemen, might they not feel rather slighted by the notion that some of their guests object to their presence in certain parts of the property? And is it really the case that female guests are safer on a floor which has no male security presence?
In the world of stereotypes, it is a well known fact that men are necessary in order to remove spiders from ladies’ bathrooms. I could flippantly suggest that one huge problem with the Ladies’ Floor is that the ladies will now have to remove their own spiders – unless the hotel’s ban extends to creepy-crawlies as well as men – but stereotypes never work well as the basis for a persuasive argument. Except that the hotel itself has applied every female-related generalization they can think of to the Ladies’ Floor concept, by offering activities and tours based on arts, culture and cuisine, and making sure that the slippers and bathrobes are pink. The manicure and pedicure sets provided are also tinged with pink, just to reinforce the point.
Of course, it doesn’t actually matter what a man thinks, since the target market should be ladies, so I decided I should try to find a professional young businesswoman and ask for her opinion. Finding one would be easy if someone could just gather them all in one place, maybe all on one floor, for convenience, but eventually I remembered that I work for one, and duly tracked her down. Now I admit the sample size is small, and maybe the fact that she was willing to answer questions from a man means she isn’t the type of guest this hotel is looking for, but the response wasn’t favorable.
It turns out that as a woman who is successful in business she tends to work with men quite regularly, and thus doesn’t really see them as a threat when they have a room along the same corridor. Furthermore, she isn’t alarmed when she is served by men in the restaurant or the front desk. In fact, she sees herself as a guest first and foremost, and expects that the service she receives will be based on her humanity rather than femininity. The lure of amenities in pink wasn’t sufficient, in itself, to change her mind. She did, however, suggest that as an increasing number of hotel housekeeping staff are now male, hoteliers should be aware that such staff can inadvertently enter rooms while guests are in varying states of undress, so perhaps men should not generally be assigned to rooms containing solo female guests.
To my mind though, the Ladies’ Floor rather raises eyebrows. Unless I’ve entirely failed to understand the target market here – and I’d love to be informed if that’s the case – there just seems to be something not quite right about the whole idea, so I decided to run it past The Wife to see if there was something I’ve missed. Apparently not. “No way!” she immediately exclaimed. “I wouldn’t stay there. It’s supposed to be a luxury hotel, not a car park!”