Travel Safety Tips for Lone Female Travellers
Travel Tips to Help Lone Female Travellers Stay Safe
At the 2016 GTMC UK Conference we attended last month one of the standout sessions was undoubtedly Carolyn Pearson’s one on serving lone female travellers (LFTS).
Carolyn set up Maiden Voyage in 2008 after a lonely business trip to LA inspired her to improve the situation for LFTs. Maiden Voyage is now a thriving global support network of thousands of female travellers, and she has spent the past few years educating businesses about the many issues facing women traveling solo on business.
Individuals can join Maiden Voyage for free, network and trade safety tips with other female travellers across the globe. They can even volunteer themselves to become hotel inspectors and do their bit to continue to improve standards in the hospitality industry.
We were so inspired by Carolyn’s pioneering work in this area that we thought we’d summarise her main tips for travel businesses in helping female (and really all) business travellers stay safe when travelling solo.
The reality of solo female travel
It seems ridiculous to say so in 2016, but the fact is there are certain privileges which male travellers probably take for granted but which are sadly not always a given for women travellers, such as being able to dine or drink alone on a trip without being hassled or hit upon by strangers or worry about being followed to or from their hotel.
Then there is a slew of cultural issues to factor in, depending on where you’re going. LFTs need to be made aware of cultural differences, such as how a polite kiss on cheek may be interpreted in some countries.
Did you know that women who have reported sexual assaults in some countries have found themselves incarcerated under adultery laws, or that in Saudi Arabia it is frowned on for women to drive a car, for example?
A little research and insider knowledge before you depart on your trip can go a long way.
With 51% of Love Female Travellers (LFTs) reporting that they sometimes feel vulnerable in their hotel rooms this is clearly a key area for concern.
There have been several high profile cases where a female traveller’s privacy and security has been seriously compromised, such as that of American reporter Erin Andrews, whose stalker not only managed to book the hotel room next door but even install equipment to spy on and film her changing in her room.
Andrews subsequently sued the hotel to the tune of $55 million, which should bring home the grave consequences of failing to take appropriate duty of care.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple things hotel staff can do to offer full peace of mind.
Room numbers should never be announced out loud at check-in, in case of eavesdroppers. Incidents have also been reported of suspicious men lingering outside hotels and offering to give directions to female travellers.
Travel bookers should allocate rooms intelligently and thoughtfully whenever possible. This means things like not allocating LFTs to potentially less secure rooms, such as adjoining rooms, ground floor rooms or rooms near fire escapes, where space allows them to do so.
Unfortunately rooms do sometimes get double booked, so special care should be taken with issuing duplicate room keys.
Sometimes partners will join female travellers after they have already checked in, if they're coming along for a leisure extension for example. Hotel staff should always ask to see ID if someone claims to be a partner arriving to share the room booked by a female traveller and check with the customer that they’re expecting a visitor.
If you’re booking travel on behalf of an LFT, you should also consider where the hotel is located and how comfortable they might be with your choice. This means not just avoiding notoriously sketchy parts of town, but also avoiding hotels which are too far out of town and away from essential amenities.
Consider how they will actually get to their meeting or conference venue (how far a walk is it to the nearest public transport, for example, and what's that like) and what sort of food and drink outlets there are nearby, so LFTs can make the most of their visit and don’t end up confined to their rooms every evening, having to rely on room service rather than make the most of their destination.
Training & Culture
Hotel managers need to train staff adequately and give them full policy support, so that they know what the dangers are and what appropriate protocols they should follow.
Some travel professionals might worry they’re being overprotective and patronising by giving basic safety advice about the local area, especially to seasoned business travellers, but it’s always better to give this advice, even when it might seem obvious, rather then risk the consequences of not exercising full duty of care.
In the fledgling sharing economy these safety issues are only magnified, as the industry starts to grapple with solutions in a less regulated environment. As Carolyn noted at the conference, no doubt this is one area where innovative startups will work to provide solutions in the coming years.
Transfers & Transport
Private transfers are often less well regulated than hotels and unfortunately it’s an area where shady opportunists can operate, even if you organise it all before you arrive. Helpful suggestions to guard against this include using only licensed taxis, or if you prefer to have a transfer booked agreeing a password with your transfer operator in advance.
And here’s a useful tip for those using public transport in the UK. If you witness anti-social behaviour on a bus or train you can simply discreetly text 61016 to alert the British Transport Police and summon someone to investigate.
At the panel session there were concerns raised over the attitudes of corporate travel managers, who some felt were ultimately more concerned with their company’s budgets and legalities then the actual well-being of their travellers.
This suggests that there needs to be more education on these issues at board level so that companies can adapt their corporate cultures accordingly. Having a well considered business travel policy in place can help with this and there is also a strong argument for establishing a dedicated female friendly travel policy.
After all, everyone should benefit from these safety measures and the more confident women feel traveling solo the more often they’re likely to do so.
To learn more about research in this area, please see Maiden Voyage's white paper on Women in Business Travel.
Did you know?
There are hundreds of blogs run by solo female travellers, which offer tips, advice and encouragement. Take a look at this roundup of solo female travel blogs to see some of the best ones currently on the web.