WHEN THE queen of Sheba traveled to Jerusalem to visit King of Solomon 30 centuries ago, she came, we are told, "with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. . . ." All those servants and other solid evidence of affluence meant this lady traveled in style, with nary a care - except, perhaps, what the desert air might do to her hair.
Her modern-day counterpart, the woman business or pleasure traveler, generally doesn't have it quite so good. In a world that until recently catered almost exclusively to the needs and whims of the male traveler, the woman traveler confronts a multitude of problems that she only now is starting to resolve with a fair measure of success.
Just who is the woman traveler today? She is the researcher and initiator of family travels; she is the vacationer; she is the business executive who has begun to transform the world of business travel.
As more and more women - many in their mid-30s - enter middle-management positions, they also will be joining a new force in the travel market. This experience will present each newcomer with many concerns, ranging from such questions as how much tipping is required for given services, will she have a problem with personal safety, and how will she be treated by flight attendants, restaurant and hotel service personnel, to such considerations as the "moral code of the road" - especially when she travels with a male business associate. If she is married, she may have additional qualms regarding the needs of her family during her absence.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 59 percent of all women over 16 years of age are in the labor force, and 20 percent are holding managerial positions. These women contribute an annual $250 billion to the economy with their paychecks. This means that women now have more money to spend for travel - be it for business or pleasure.
The businesswoman traveler made up 20 percent of all travel in 1978. American Express reports that the largest growth in AMEX card membership is among women, who in turn contribute heavily to the hospitality, entertainment and car rental businesses. Eastern, United and American Airlines each carried 3 million businesswomen last year, according to their figures.
"They tote briefcases, sport tailored clothes and take 10 business flights a year, usually to attend conventions (39 percent of women air travelers attend conventions, compared with 12 percent of men who fly). The woman business-travel sector is growing faster than any other segment of the market," reports Fred Heckel, United Airlines vice President of advertising and promotion.
"There's a definite increase in the number of businesswomen travelers," reports Naomi Robins, a certified travel counselor and vice president of Washington's World of Travel. "Especially among those in their 30s and up," she explains. Among her clients are many professional women - doctors, lawyers and consultants whose specialized practices take them around this country and the world. And the availability of credit cards has certainly facilitated travel by women.Estimates indicate that between 30 and 50 percent of all businesswomen book their trips through travel agents.
These facts have not escaped notice by the industry. Just recently, Eastern Airlines, in cooperation with Working Woman magazine, held the first of a nationwide series of seminars entitled "Women on the Go" at George Washington University. It was conducted by veteran travelers June Farrell, regional public relations manager of Eastern Airlines; Gay Bryant, executive editor of Working Woman; Joan Cutlip, convention sales manager of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau in Washington; Georgeann Sharp, sales manager of Dulles Marriott Hotel, and Elaine Taylor-Gordon, fashion/beauty/marketing consultant from New York. The purpose of this 3 1/2-hour seminar attended by 65 participants was to provide, through discussion and printed material, a better understanding of what a woman should expect and look for when traveling so she may enjoy a profitable and happy travel experience.
"It's impossible to look at the women's travel market without looking at women's liberation," June Farrell asserts. And it is precisely through the efforts of the women's movement that there are so many predominantly young women now entering the field of business travel. These new opportunities present the same familiar problems faced by all working wives and mothers - though they may loom much larger. What do you do when your career demands a business trip? How do you resolve your domestic problems?
"I have a husband, three children, three cats, a dog, a puppy and a brand new house," says Joan Cutlip. "The conflict is never resolved. It's an ongoing process of rescheduling, reshifting. I have a 'Plan B,' as well as 'Plan C' and 'Plan D.' You have to judge your own needs, your own priorities, your own criteria. See what works for you.
"I maintain duplicate calendars. I keep two on my desk. And when something comes up, I put it on both books. One goes in my briefcase, one stays home," Cutlip says. Her calendars include business appointments as well as family functions. In addition, she keeps lists at home for everybody to assume specific responsibilities. She requires neatness of the children, but is realistic enough not to expect the house to be in perfect order.
Elaine Taylor-Gordon confesses, "I couldn't manage without a housekeeper," but adds there's no need to be a superwoman. "We're all trying to be mothers, we're trying to housewives, we're trying to entertain for our husband's business. We're trying to be terrific on the road, and beautifully dressed, to have our hair cut and colored, do the shopping, take advantage of sales. You don't have to do all that. You have to discover which are your top priorities. Remember to be kind to yourself first. Remember that we are persons, too. That we don't have to excel in everything. . . . When you travel, you are the one everything is expected of. So the first person you want to look out for is you."
Of course, there's the question of the jealous husband. "The trouble is that most men who travel know what they do," says Taylor-Gordon, "and they're a little suspicious of us." Whenever feasible, take your husband along or have him join you for the weekend, those at the seminar were told.
Surveys have given the working woman high marks for being self-assured and confident. Not so with regard to travel. She has had no peers - though businessmen have compared notes for years - to educate her about the business-travel experience. Thus, she tends to feel insecure, ill at ease, too timid to speak up - as do other unexperienced travelers. This lack of confidence prevents many women who could take business trips or have expense accounts from asking for them.
"It goes back to our childhood when we were asking our mommy or daddy if we could have this money to spend," explains Taylor-Gordon. "We're afraid to be criticized. When we hand in the expense report our boss is going to think we spent too much money, or that we didn't spend it wisely. And we have to grow up. . . . You are supposed to take people out for dinner. You are supposed to be out using that money."
Gay Bryant notes that many women assume only men have the right to travel. In the case where women have to initiate business trips, they need to study the company's budget limits and the type of legitimate business expenses allowed (hairdos for women?). One of the reasons women tend to have lower expense accounts is that they eat in their rooms. "Remember, if you eat hamburgers and don't wise up, you won't get more money later" and in addition you make the others in the office look bad, Taylor-Gordon warns.
There are a number of things the unescorted woman traveler can do to make herself feel more comfortable and secure. Taylor-Gordon, who is working on a book ("Woman on the Road," a survival guide to America's top 30 cities, due out next spring), stresses the importance of the Hotel/Motel Red Book, which offers a nationwide listing of all hotels and motels, their locations, prices, and type of services (drugstore on premises, room service availability, etc.).
Obtain a map of the city. Read any city magazine (if available) to check out restaurant listings, cultural and sightseeing opportunities.
"I think one of the reasons that women are staying in their rooms after the conclusion of their business meetings is because they are afraid to leave them," Taylor-Gordon says. "They don't know where they can go or where they are welcome, whether they can go alone. If we're going to grow up and if we're going to be professionals, we have to stop thinking of ourselves as little girls and start thinking of ourselves as female professionals."
Women can check with the stewardesses who visit the city for the places one can go to; they can check with the hotel concierge and learn through the "old-girl network" what the city offers. They should try to get names of people they can contact ahead of the trip, which helps prevent a traumatic travel experience. Know ahead of time if the city you're visiting has health clubs or other clubs which offer short-term memberships.
When checking in at your hotel, try to arrive early, the seminar-goers were told. Give your name and the name of your company. Pay be credit card. This will provide you with more authority and is less of a hassle. Hang on to your cash because traveler's checks are not accepted everywhere in a city. Travel light. Bring with you only as much as you can carry yourself.
"There are hotel bars you can go to, but don't go to some dark, enclosed place where some traveling salesman thinks you are dinner," cautions Taylor-Gordon. It is best to check beforehand which places are least likely to expose the woman to unwanted attention. A good source of information is the local chamber of commerce or the hotel concierge.
Another matter of concern for the unescorted woman is restaurants. Often the woman traveler is looked upon as a "poor tipper" who rates poor service and is shoved into a dark corner, near a swinging kitchen door or next to the restroom or some other undesirable location. According to a survey conducted by American Express, the service personnel may just be "testing" her. She must assert herself if she is dissatisfied with the restaurant service or with an undesirable hotel room. The best results are usually achieved by speaking directly to the manager.
What does the woman traveler do when she entertains a male client for dinner and wants to pay the tab? "It's always helpful to advise the maitre d' ahead of time," explains Muneer Deen, general manager of the Hotel Washington. "Of course, if the waiter doesn't know who the host is, he just places the bill in the middle of the table."
If a businesswoman travels with a male companion, she encounters another problem: gossip.
"I like my privacy regardless of men or women," observes Taylor-Gordon."I always ask for separate floors when I make my reservation. I do not want anybody next door, or even down the hall, scratching at my door at night." When men make passes, it is best to put them off without putting them down. When a man escapes with his dignity intact, he will be grateful. If he is put down, he may be your enemy, she suggests.
Cities such as Washington, Chicago and San Francisco have experienced a significant rise in business travel by single (or unescorted married) women, according to Klaus Reincke, general manager of Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. "There's a big increase, especially among the 35- to 45-year-olds," he adds. "We are very concerned to make these visitors comfortable."
This is being done in a number of ways at Hyatt Hotels. When an unescorted woman checks in she shall receive a call from the assistant manager who welcomes her and informs her about the various services available - such as arranging for dinner reservations, purchasing of theater tickets, etc. "We try to personalize our service, but we can't push one group," Reincke explains. "We offer choices in accommodations or seating arrangements, for instnace, but it is difficult to define the best way. Many women don't want any special services or special considerations."
Where can a businesswoman meet with a male client? This is one concern that is also being dealt with, albeit slowly.
Some hotels (Chicago's Whitehall is one example) have carefully planned layouts in which the king-sized bed is hidden by a wall. Some properties offer rooms with a table and chairs set up in a separate area. Still other properties provide screens to separate public space for work sessions from the private space. Wall beds (Murphy beds) that retract out of sight also are gaining wider popularity.
Some airlines (for an annual membership fee of between $30 and $40) offer special report meeting facilities, such as United's "Red Carpet Room," Eastern's "Ionosphere Club," or TWA's "Ambassador Club." In addition, about 60 cities have city clubs offering limited memberships for an evening or a few hours.
Many of the larger hotels, especially those that cater to the convention business, now provide such amenities as skirt-hangers, additional outlets for the use of hair dryers, better lighting on mirrors, full-length mirrors, vanities, telephones in the bathroom, and items such as irons, ironing boards or hair dryers on loan.
The International Women's Federation of Travel Organizations of Executive Women Travelers - with 40 member organizations from North America to Australia - is conducting a survey on the needs of a woman traveler. The findings will serve as a guide for the construction of future hotels and the remodeling plans of as a guide for the construction of future hotels and the remodeling plans of old structures.
It has also been suggested that hotels ought to provide women business travelers, with a list of professional services available, such as secretarial help, the use of a copy machine, and names of printers and suppliers of audio-visual equipment.
Some safety precautions are just common-sense measures. It is best, for instance, not to take any extra jewelry or leave money or important papers in your hotel room. Many hotels and motels provide double-barrel locks and observation ports, so there is no need to open the hotel room door when someone knocks. Some hotels, such as the Drake in Chicago, have installed closed-circuit TV systems which permit monitoring of all entrances and floors from the lobby.
Greater efforts are being made to provide well-lighted halls and parking lots.Many women travelers opt for rooms, when available, near elevators or on lower floors. They should make their preferences known at the time of their reservation. Most women travelers prefer hotels located in the downtown area near restaurants and places of entertainment. This helps make the newcomer to business travel feel more comfortable and confident.
Muneer Deen, explains: "We make our front desk, our dining room personally aware that the ladies are just as important guests as any businessman who comes to our hotel. It's continuous training, from day to day, with every day's job."
Last year, a group of predominantly young, Washington-area women travel executives founded PROST, an organization for businesswomen who have been in executive positions for at least three years. Among its 35 members are the president of Transaire Travel and the Washington bureau chief of Travel Weekly.
It is interesting to note that PROST, which will limit its membership to 65, has not yet been able to fill all the openings. For instance, there aren't any women executives in shipping, according to Joan Cutlip. By the same token, there are many women working in the travel field who might be producing most of the revenues for their companies, yet they are not in decision-making managerial positions and thus are not eligible for membership in PROST.
"Still, the outlook can only be good from a purely economic point of view," asserts Cutlip. "When companies like Hyatt, Marriott and United Airlines are looking at it (the businesswoman traveler market) as a separate market, there's just no way that it can do anything but improve."
Within the last five years the number of women managers in the travel industry has risen by 20 percent. Admittedly, some cases are merely tokenism. And in some cases (as in many other fields) women have to be far more prepared than men to obtain the same job.
Most women don't want special treatment - some even resent it, surveys have shown. But if the businesswoman traveler has the potential clout for change, all other women travelers will benefit. And they are legion - from the young, single girl on her first travel adventure to the ever-growing number of senior citizens who make up 70 percent of bustour travelers.
The woman traveler, then, seeks for herself - no less than for her male counterpart - consideration as a person in the nation's hostelries and on the nation's carriers. By every indication, she seems to be well on her way to winning that distinction.
Michelman is a free-lance writer and photographer who lives in Alexandria. CAPTION: Picture 1, Women travelers: From top, Fran Kajfasz of Toledo, Ohio, registers at her convention hotel, the Hyatt Regency Washington; Picture 2, Sameera Hartsough of Chevy Chase checks vacation plans with travel counselor Renee M. Colin of Thomas Cook; Picture 3, June Farrell uses the hotel courtesy phone at National Airport. Photos by Dorothea Michelman for The Washington Post; Picture 4, For less affluent senior citizens and elderly women who don't want to travel alone, bus tours are extremely popular. Photo by Dorothea S. Michelman For The Washington Post