ASATA Column: When women travel

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The glass ceiling is finally shrinking! And, with the very welcome addition of more women in leadership positions, female business travellers have become a powerful and important travel market segment, influencing the way travel products market and offer their services.

Gender neutrality is the obvious choice. But,  the truth is that when it comes to corporate travel, women may tend to face more complex security risks than men. Travel managers and their business travellers need to sit up and take note of this reality.

Duty of care for women travellers needs to be adjusted with an even greater focus on safety and security. Women are simply more at risk of discrimination and harassment and, in more severe situations, sexual violence, crime, human trafficking, and kidnapping, according to association such as Women In Travel.

Your ASATA travel agent can help mitigate these risks and make sure that the hotel in which you stay is located in a safe part of town and, if possible, features a ‘women-only’ floor. If this is not available, he or she can request a room that is not on the ground level, is close to the elevators and has locks on the doors and windows.

Your ASATA travel agent will also be able to bring you up to speed on the local laws and religious and social norms.  Not understanding local customs can pose serious security risks.

Think back to incidents you’ve heard of women being convicted, sentenced and imprisoned when reporting cases of sexual assault while travelling instead of being assisted. If these travellers had received pre-trip counselling or advice, they would have known to talk to a diplomatic representative before reporting the crime. 

The way in which women are perceived in different parts of the world is also important information every female business traveller needs to know. In some cultures for example, it’s not appropriate for a woman to initiate a handshake. Dangling earrings can be perceived as unprofessional and direct eye contact with a person of the opposite sex can be viewed as flirtatious. Knowing some of these common pitfalls can go a long way in ensuring a successful business meeting.

Otto de Vries
ASATA CEO