Women travellers, especially solo women travellers, often have an overriding concern – safety. If that wasn’t enough, they very often have to worry about the availability of washrooms while on the move, easy access to reliable transport, and comfortable and clean accommodation.
Over the years, the number of women travelling, especially those travelling solo, has seen a steady increase, and this has pushed the travel and hotel industry to address their concerns: How do we make travel for women safe and comfortable? How do we ensure women have fun while travelling and stay safe, and all this at a cost that does not burn hole in their pockets?
Apps for women’s safety, apps that point to the closest washrooms (e.g. Pee Provider) and hotels that are exclusively for women are some initiatives we have seen emerge over the years.
One such initiative is OYO WE (Women’s Exclusive) by OYO Rooms, a budget hotel chain that recently raised $100 million in funding led by the SoftBank Group. OYO WE is a chain of hotels run by women, for women – the guests and the staff all are women.
A hotel exclusively for women is not a new concept. The first one started way back in 1903 (The Martha Washington Hotel in New Work) where male guests were only allowed on the first floor. Most five-star hotels, not just in the US and Europe but also in India, have floors dedicated exclusively to women.
In the budget segment, though, women travellers have had hardly any options. This is the segment comprising the biggest chunk of women travellers and the one that OYO WE has tapped into. “It was the large number of queries from our customers for women-only properties that made us cognizant of the demand and thus led us to the start of OYO WE,” says Deepika Gupta, the Category Head of OYO Women’s Exclusive.
The first OYO WE started operations in Gurgaon in January 2015 as a pilot, and the business model worked really well. This led them to open OYO WE in New Delhi and Nodia too.
Comfort and facilities
Given that the number of women travelling solo has increased manifold in the last few years, the women’s-only option has received great response. “Most of our current women guests comprise those working in PR and event companies, freelancers, bloggers and other working women, but we aspire to make OYO WE the first choice for any woman traveller to stay at when she is travelling, be it on work, a pilgrimage or a holiday,” says Anuj Tejpal, Chief Business Development Officer, OYO Rooms.
Hotels and accommodations exclusively for women are often fashioned to provide amenities, comfort and facilities. Women travellers often appreciate small touches, and speaking from personal experience I would say that good quality toiletries, a hair dryer, and a salon or a spa close by come in handy and are much appreciated.
Deepika shares how they have paid attention to such small details, both in terms of aesthetics and amenities: “Rooms have full-length mirrors, hairdryers, bathrobes and slippers, along with other items of daily use. Women staying at these properties have access to beauty parlour services, doctors, and cabs on call. Moreover, there is also a small collection of books at each property and women can also order home-cooked food. We also have a special Nykaa pouch that contains a shampoo, a conditioner, a shower gel, a moisturizer, a lip balm and a sanitary napkin to ensure women guests have everything they need.”.
Since the business model and the concept has worked well with their audience, OYO WE is looking to set up shop in the near future in metros and key cities like Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad.
Safety first and last
Since the hotels are for women and run by women, security for staff and guests is the topmost priority. There are security guards on the premises 24X7, as well as constantly monitored CCTV cameras. “We have automated locks on the main gate that can only be opened from the inside. OYO WE properties are also centrally located, and hence are easily accessible. All the rooms in the property can be locked them from inside,” explains Deepika.
Though currently catering to budget travellers, they also hope to attract women from the corporate sector who are travelling across the country for longer periods to check into OYO WE.
Though the concept of women-only hotels is a fairly new one in India, it could turn out to be a great boost for the travel and hospitality industry, given India’s dismal ranking in terms of women’s safety, especially for solo travellers.