On the Safe Side

How to ensure the safety of female travellers 

By Connie Jeske Crane

On a recent trip, Meagan Rockett, associa­tion ambassador at Greenfield Services Inc. in Alexandria, Ont., was fast asleep in her hotel room—where her husband was to join her after some meetings. Awoken past midnight by a man tiptoeing around her room, Rockett was relieved to discover this was indeed her spouse. But the experience still left her irked. “My husband told me, ‘They didn’t even ask me for my ID at the front desk. When I asked for a key to your room, they just gave me one.’”

According to a 2011 Cornell University report, women are the fastest-growing segment among US business travellers: But while these numbers are growing and industry surveys rank safety as female travellers’ top priority, as Rockett’s experi­ence (with a major North American chain) indi­cates, mistakes happen.

The good news is planners can play a huge role in mitigating such risks. How to do it right? We asked the experts to weigh in:

Seek hotels with best practices
Many hotel chains, like Hyatt and Wyndham, have designed female-friendly initiatives. Do your due diligence and look for sites that pro­vide well-lit hallways, elevators with key card access, security escorts, discretion with guest room numbers, and careful room assignment (near elevators, off the ground floor, etc.). And, Rockett adds, “I would ask for references from other event professionals.”

Don’t patronize
Anne Thornley-Brown, president of Executive Oasis International in Richmond Hill, Ont., says planners should present options like valet parking or women-only floors matter-of-factly without singling women out as vulnerable. “Let people know their options and then they select what’s most comfortable for them.”

Communicate, communicate
With event staff, Evelyn Hannon, CEO and editor of Journeywoman, says planners should stress discretion around personal data. Ask staff to limit who sees attendee lists, and to list attendees by initial and last name only. Provide information briefs to travellers beforehand and include general safety information. Upon arrival, follow up with an orientation including local safety tips.

Address harassment
Besides dangers from the “outside,” Thornley- Brown says women also face harassment from fellow attendees, or discomfort with local cus­toms. Briefings, she says, can be used to help empower women and inform them of their legal rights. “Canadian law protects people from harass­ment…That applies whether you are in Canada or you are at a company function overseas.”

Further Reading:
Her Own Way, A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide, Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

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