Hunting down female executive rooms in Shanghai

Hunting down female executive rooms in Shanghai

Shanghai looked like it was one city willing to cater to female executive needs. The reality is very different
female executive rooms
It's the small accents that make female executive rooms at the Four Points by Sheraton Shanghai Daning stand out from the pack.

Special ‘lady traveler’ rooms (aka female executive rooms) have been an increasingly common option in Asia. And while this trend has met a slow response on mainland China, Shanghai appeared to be one city embracing it.

We wanted to see if that was true. Do hotels here truly care about female travelers?

Sadly, with one notable Pudong exception and its runner up, we have to declare a resounding “no!”

The quest

Our search for lairs of sisterhood that are female executive rooms and floors quickly became a frustrating goose chase, leaving us with nothing but a bunch of disappointing fakes.

With seven distinct Shanghai hotel properties offering clearly marked ‘female executive room’ listings on their own websites and/or travel sites (including Ctrip profiles) I was astounded when only two delivered on their marketing promise.

After an exhausting round of phone calls (see an example below), not even a weak copycat could be found among them. Chat in point (conversation attempted in both English and Chinese):

Me: Yes, I’d like to inquire about your female executive rooms?
Reservations: I’m sorry?
Me: Your rooms specifically for female travelers? Do you have them?
Reservations: [laughing] Of course women are allowed at this hotel.
Me: That’s not what I asked. I’m a female traveler coming to your hotel and want to book one of your special ‘women’s rooms.’
Reservations: We don’t have such rooms.
Me: But you have a listing on several websites for special female executive rooms.
Reservations: We have special smoking rooms.
Me: I’m not interested in those rooms. I’ll be traveling alone and want to stay in a room that’s safe.
Reservations: Why would you worry about that? Aren’t you coming with your husband?
Me: Sigh.

Rinse and repeat with several similarly painful conversations thereafter, adding a tone of impatience here, an annoyed tongue click there and the infamous flow of “mei you.”

If at first you don’t succeed …

Most would have given up at this point, but still beaming with optimism, I armed myself with notepad and camera and arranged a few drop-ins. My ruse was clearly no match for these data dodgers.

One PR office had me waiting so long I basically gave up and left, and the second, after correcting me on their non-listing, showed me several standard rooms that I’d already viewed off the website.

Do hotels truly care about female travelers? Sadly, with one notable Pudong exception and its runner up, prepare for the resounding “no!”

When I asked yet again about special women's features, I was given the ‘Barker Beauty Price Is Right fingers,' again, to the same tired and standard room, as if the gentle sway of a well-manicured hand would magically transform the room before me. Nope, didn’t work. Come on guys, at least throw on a cheesy, pink bedspread or put out some flowers. Make some sort of effort if you’re going to market this.

There is hope

Just at the point where I was ready to throw in my lightly-perfumed towelette, I had found the mother lode -- The St Regis Shanghai. This gorgeous Pudong property puts imposters to shame, rightfully laying claim to the city’s one and only ‘ladies-only’ floors.

“After doing extensive research in 2003 on the needs of female business travelers, The St Regis Shanghai designated three Ladies’ Floors to provide a safe, private and reliable home for female travelers,” explains Joan Pan, director of marketing communications at the St Regis Shanghai.

Going beyond decor with round-the-clock security, ultra-luxurious girlie goodies and a bespoke female butler service, their highly-trained-to-anticipate staff has served a steady and loyal flow of patrons since 2003.

And notable runner up in the city’s north, Four Points by Sheraton Shanghai Daning offers female guests a Cherry Floor stay (although they might want to rethink the name) featuring special flower and fruit arrangements, complimentary mini massage and spa discount, plus other girlie touches including a yummy turn down apple pie snack.

Now that’s worth a crumb on your pillow or two.

And as for that ‘liar list’, we’ll spare them the shame with anonymity, but they know who they are. Whether they even care is another matter.

So my hope has been officially restored, however while ladies do have a few choices when deciding on female executive rooms, I’m afraid this is not going to be a take-off trend in Shanghai any time soon.

Stephanie Thomas is a freelance writer of all trades based in Shanghai.
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