The status and safety of female business travellers in 2020

As we will celebrate International Women’ day in March, I thought it appropriate to divert from my usual line of articles to turn attention to what I believe is still a genuine issue as we go into this new decade. It is something I have touched on before, but I think as we are looking at trends and changes in 2020, it deserves revisiting.

International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day was set up to create a call to action to accelerate equality for Women. International Women’s Day (IWD) has been around for over 100 years, with the first one being in 1911 – and over a million people supported it!

So much for the facts, but sadly, as much as one would assume ‘equality’ for women would encompass respect for women, it appears that where international travel is concerned, there are still some real issue facing women business travellers, not the least of which is sexual inequality and harassment.

What do Women face?

Whereas dangers like accidents, natural disasters and terrorism threaten all travellers, female travellers face more prevalent threats of sexual assault, theft and harassment than their male colleagues.

In a study, conducted a while ago by ‘Maiden Voyage’ it was found that “sexual harassment accounted for over half (51.2%) of all incidents encountered by female business travellers in the United States.” In many other countries, these figures are very possibly escalated by even less sophisticated cultures in terms of Women’s equality.

Just one sad example of this is, having canvassed many of my female peers and clients, we have all experienced harassment when dining on our own and generally choose to eat alone in our hotel rooms.

The wake-up call for big business

A recent Skift survey said “Female business travellers make up a large share of the Business Travel Market, controlling 60% of U.S. wealth and influencing 85% purchasing decisions. They are high-tech, connected and social and represent 58% of online sales. To maintain their competitive edge, travel brands must start focusing their campaigns to better target women.”

Surely the first step in targeting more women travellers is to ensure their security – as this is the greatest issue that they face? Those TMCs that take real steps to assist international female travellers with the problems they face are those who are most likely to grab a greater slice of this ever-increasing cake.

Some security solutions

Both big business, who have an obligation to protect their female employees when travelling and TMCs, who wish to tap into this lucrative market, can consider some of these obvious safety solutions:

  • Avoid booking Airbnb or apartments through Bookings.com or similar, as a lone female traveller is often not comfortable to make use of such applications or sites for legitimate security reasons. They prefer the comfort of being in a secure environment, with proper security systems in place and knowing the actual physical location of where they are staying, so that they can research the area as well
  • Consider the location of the hotel if the lone female traveller is checking in or out over the weekend. There are many central business districts that are simply ‘vacant’ over a weekend and one feels isolated if you find yourself in a property in such an area.
  • Provide better transportation services than standard taxis and airport transfers, which are known to present women with high-risk circumstances, to book cabs for their female employees via verified travel operators
  • Provide apps that can be used by the organisation and the corporate traveller alike to track vehicles in real-time. In the case of adversity, the information of the traveller can be immediately sent to TMCs or colleagues, and prompt action can be taken to curb any dangerous situation.
  • Provide apps that provide immediate connection and advice from embassies, medical assistance, local policing authorities etc. Maintaining 24-hour traveller’s assistance hotlines.
  • Educate women, before travelling, on cultural, behavioural, apparel and religious differences and restrictions in the country to which they are travelling. Also provide alerts on their local weather, possible political dangers and terror threats.
  • Provide lodgings that provide extra safety measures for Women – 24hr security, sound lock systems and limited access to the rooms
  • Finally – and this applies to TMCs primarily, provide 24hr assistance on a personal level with global partners who can assist on the ground immediately!

These are just obvious, available and unfortunately not always employed security solutions that every female business traveller should have at their disposal. No doubt rapidly advancing technologies will come up with more and the sooner, the better.

Let us not underestimate the influence that businesswomen are having in every industry and at every level of society as we enter this new decade. As a woman myself, I salute you as we celebrate this important day.  We represent a massive amount of Travel and business professionals, so let’s ensure that we all, in the years to come, can enjoy safe, respectful travel.LIDIA FOLLI



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