Dubai hotels catering to female travellers with segregated facilities

TIME Hotels Management plans to build a four-star property in Barsha with two floors set aside exclusively for female guests. Women will also make up 80 per cent of staff at the TIME Asma Hotel.

Debrah Dhugga, managing director of Dukes Hotel in Dubai, says there is a market gap for women-only areas. Anna Nielsen for The National
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DUBAI // A hotel with women-only floors and 80 per cent female staff is set to open amid growing demand for such services.

Time Hotels is to build a four-star property in Al Barsha, with two floors reserved for female guests.

Taxis driven by women will be on hand and female guests will get dedicated parking spaces.

The hotel chain is the latest to embrace segregated stays and tap into an industry worth tens of millions of dollars.

“The hotel will offer a truly unique experience for women. We want to make them feel special,” said Time Hotels chief executive Mohamed Awadalla, who said the opening of Time Asma was in response to the increase in single female travellers.

Women travelling alone aged between 40 and 60 account for more than $125 billion (Dh459bn) of tourist spending globally, according to travel website’s Solo Travel Report.

Mr Awadalla said he hoped the new Asma Hotel would help to attract more women into the hotel workforce, with about 100 jobs available.

“We see almost equal numbers of male and female graduates leaving hospitality schools, but fewer women enter the hotel workforce, which shows the industry must do more to attract and support female professionals and their aspirations for career development,” he said.

With Dubai seeking to build up tourist numbers to 20 million a year by 2020, it makes sense to cater to all types of visitors, said Ghada Mahgoub, Time Asma Hotel’s general manager.

“Unaccompanied female travel is on the rise. Hence women-only facilities at hotels would attract the growing number of female visitors to Dubai, whether travelling with their families, friends, or alone,” said Ms Mahgoub.

On the Palm Jumeirah, the five-star Dukes Dubai hotel has dedicated its entire fourth floor to female guests. The Duchess floor offers women-only public spaces and private access.

“As somebody who travels regularly either for business or for leisure with friends and female relatives, I could clearly see a gap in the market for a women’s only area in a luxury hotel,” said Debrah Dhugga, the hotel’s managing director.

Dubai residents said the city should make an effort to cater to all manner of travellers.

“Honestly, if I had the option to stay in a women-only hotel I’d pick it over a mixed hotel,” said Zaineb Hameed, 25, a Canadian.

“I’d consider it especially if I’m travelling alone. And facilities like swimming pools, gyms would be more appealing if they were exclusive to women.

She said that such hotels made sense in cities such as Dubai, Istanbul and countries such as Morocco, which attract more Muslim tourists.

Maria Khan, 35, from Pakistan, said more hotel chains abroad would consider same-sex hotels.

“I would love to stay in a women-only hotel in cities where crime is high, like Johannesburg,” Ms Khan said. “But in cities like Dubai, which are safe for everyone, there is no need create extra segregation.

“Compared to Asians and Europeans, perhaps Arab women would prefer women-only places.”

Leila Almaeena said the idea of segregating the sexes in hotels was not necessary.

“Personally I feel that by creating more segregation we are playing more into the power differences between male and female, and further driving the misconception that women need protection,” said Ms Almaeena, 39, from Saudi Arabia.

“Nevertheless, I do see where there might be a need for such a set-up, particularly in environments where women may be less independent and shy to deal with men.”