Almost one out of two business travelers on the road today is a woman, usually single and traveling solo, but most hotels, airlines and car rental companies are run by men with tin ears and few clues, says Teresa Rodriguez Williamson, a California marketing adviser to the hospitality industry and a “travel strategist” to corporations. Williamson is not 100 percent on the money, but she’s close. Wyndham Hotels has long catered to women travelers. Westin turned the plain-Jane hotel bed into a lap of luxury, and more women are managing five-star Ritz-Carltons than no-star Economy Lodges.
But Williamson also contends that most women don’t like to travel by themselves and many don’t like to vacation alone. “What guys don’t realize is that a woman has to have a purpose in everything she does and at first they often—certainly not everyone but many—see traveling solo on a vacation as very selfish,” says Williamson, who also runs an online magazine for women travelers, www.traveldiva.com.
She is quick to point out she’s talking generalities because many women love nothing better than getting away for a week or two and “doing absolutely nothing except what they want to do when they want to do it.” She even wants to see more women do so. “If every woman would take a solo vacation, sans the man, sans the kids, sans the dog and cat, and leave all their personal logos at home and be invisible—even for a day or two if they can’t get away for a week—it would be a life-changing trip,” she says. Her soon-to-be-published book, The 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone, advises: “Go on a vacation by yourself and learn something new, or sit on a beach and chill out with a mai tai, or go to a yoga camp, or drink champagne in a Paris café, or go to Barcelona, where you meet everybody, or Prague, where you are invisible.”
What about the woman business traveler? Williamson’s advice: Take charge. For example, if you’re looking for a new customer or a foot in the door at a new company, don’t just fly there for a meeting and sit in a waiting room for your 25-minute pitch or a sandwich at the desk. “Create a daylong miniconference in another city with people your prospect would like to meet or hear from, or with someone who is an expert in their industry,” she advises. “If your prospect is in Phoenix, have your conference in Napa Valley. If they’re in Detroit, meet in Chicago. Have it in a nice, small, reasonably priced hotel. In fact, invite your other customers and clients and make it a learning experience, not a new-business pitch.”
Her point is well taken: You have their full attention and you come across as creative, collaborative and a problem solver. But keep your miniconference mini—invite a dozen people at a maximum. “Don’t cover too many topics or give them too much stimulus or you’ll lose them,” says Williamson, a former conference planner.