The gender bias in leisure travel

Thinking on the topic of gender bias in travel, I pose the divisive question: which of the two sexes more heavily influences which destination, hotel or resort is selected for an upcoming vacation? Or, is it an equal split?

All arrows point to women as the clear leaders in this travel sector. Rest assured that I am not pondering these questions with some hidden sexist agenda, but rather, as any good marketer already knows, you must consider the data and then adjust your strategy accordingly.

Even in the more patriarch-dominant regions of the globe, women en masse are surmounting their traditional (and archaic) sole roles of mother and caregiver with disposable income per capita experiencing a 6.1% real growth over the 2007 to 2012 period with an 18.2% growth projected for the next seven years from 2013 to 2020, according to Euromonitor International.

In developed nations, the salary gap continues to narrow, helping to further erode any entrenched glass-ceiling effect and propelling us towards more female-driven consumption. According to Road & Travel Magazine, women are already the trailblazers. They purchase more than 50% of all new vehicles, own nearly 40% of all U.S. businesses and comprise 40% of all business travelers. Importantly, they are said to influence 80% of all sales and travel expenditures, albeit often through more oblique processes. This is most exemplified through the “grocery list” male shopper — men making the actual purchase, but acting on behalf of a spouse, mother or girlfriend.

At this point, I’d like to pose a couple hypothetical scenarios as they pertain to leisure-centric travel. First, what would happen if all your advertising efforts and promotions were geared entirely to women? That is, if you know your hotel or resort caters more to women than to men, can you generate a better revenue stream by “doubling down on your core demographic,” so to speak? Next, when considering a new cycle of renovations to a resort (note I said “resort” and not “hotel” for this), would you be more inclined to opt for spa upgrades or a refurbishment of the golf course or other sports facility? With the abovementioned lead-in of statistics and other anecdotal evidence, the supposed answer to both these questions may seem rather obvious.

The latest literature and surveys speak to two common characteristics: women are now more time-pressed than ever before, and they desire unique experiences. You must appeal to a new age of incredibly harried consumers — who also happen to be women — seeking an exceptional, memorable trip above all else. Go beyond the simple “girls getaway” or “spa pampering” style of packages — that’s what everyone else is already doing.

To offer something a tad more memorable, the buzz phrase that percolates most to mind is “authentic local experience.” Terms like exotic, adventure, sightseeing, life changing, thrill seeking, travel treasure, hidden gem, bucket list, cultural enrichment, ecotourism and voluntourism can go miles towards expressing the right type of experience-led travel. There’s also the wellness route, as many women yearn for active relaxation where they can focus on self improvement, encompassing fitness, rejuvenation of body and mind, introspection and learning a new skill.

The other broad category of purchase drivers deal with the hard-pressed and rushed nature we live in these days. Convenience, and everything that leads to it, is key. This can be articulated, for instance, through copy denoting how close your property is to the nearest airport or city center. This can also be conveyed through perks that reduce stress and wait times — free Wi-Fi, flexible check-in, complimentary meals, spa offers and so on.

With that, I’ll end with a few tips I’ve gathered through numerous conversations pertaining to pet peeves and grievances as seen through a woman’s eyes, whether you recognize them or not:

  • Poor bathroom lighting
  • Lack of magnifying makeup or vanity mirror
  • Shampoo or cleanser bottles too small (I’m bald, so this has never occurred to me!)
  • Cheap or skimpy bathrobes
  • No nightlight directing guests to the bathroom
  • Overly complex TV remote control
  • Overly complex lighting controls (Ensure that some controls are beside the bed)
  • Hard-to-access electrical outlets for recharging devices
  • Pay-for water bottles
  • Insufficient hangers in the closet
  • Jammed windows or ones that are difficult to open
  • Flaws in housekeeping