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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 16:50 GMT
Female-friendly hotels arrive in Leeds
An Italian-style room at the hotel
The rooms are designed with women in mind
Sarah Toyne

First there were pubs designed with women drinkers in mind and now there is a purpose-built female-friendly hotel on the horizon.

Women business travellers often pull the short straw when it comes to accommodation.

Trouser presses and lecherous approaches at the bar are not what a girl needs when she has got skirts to iron and a hectic round of meetings and conferences to attend.

Radisson Hotel in Leeds
Radisson is expanding in the UK

Radisson SAS, owned by US company Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, is expanding in the UK and one of its hotels due to open this March in Leeds is firmly holding women traveller's within its sights.

It still looks like a building site, but Tony Costa, the general manager, a fast-talking charismatic Scot, has already chosen the brand of eye-make up remover for the hotel's bedrooms.

He has just come back to the UK after spending three years in Helsinki, Finland, where they know how to treat female business travellers.

Finland boasts a large number of senior businesswomen, such as Sari Baldauf, president of Nokia Networks.

Inspired by this, he is out to convert the UK market, and make it friendlier towards "females".

Fruit infusions

Female friendliness is not limited to eye make-up remover.

There will be "fruit infusion" teas to keep the female business travellers awake and sooth their stretched vocal chords; and there will be an ironing board and iron in every room.

Tony Costa, general manager of the Leeds branch
Mr Costa has chosen the eye make-up remover

More radically, the hotel will have tight security. Accessing any of the bedroom floors will not be possible without a swipe card.

"You cannot go below or above lobby level. It will be very, very secure," says Mr Costa.

But perhaps the most female-friendly feature is that the hotel will not have a restaurant - and what food is served on site will include a healthy option.

Apart-hotels - which offer apartments rather than rooms - have done well with female travellers over the last few years for the same reason.

Research has shown that women prefer more relaxed, informal, secure and self-contained accommodation and few women enjoy dining alone.

Mr Costa is developing the idea for a traditional-type hotel.

Instead of a restaurant, there will be an informal lounge, with comfy chairs.

"We have a different concept," he says.

"We feel that hotels are traditionally not people's first choice to dine in. So, we have gone for a lounge with sofas, relaxing chairs and coffee tables."

Like to gossip

Mr Costa's mission is simple.

Women pay a greater attention to detail, talk more and, if they have received good service, are likely to tell people about it.

He says that paying attention to detail will be essential to make the concept work.

Females appreciate good services while guys are perhaps a little bit more blind to it than females

Tony Costa

"Females tell everyone, males don't," he says.

"Females appreciate good services while guys are perhaps a little bit more blind to it."

Following the 11 September attacks, the travel industry has been having a tough time.

Being female-friendly is not just about stocking eye make up removers and ditching trouser presses, it also comes down to hard economics.

Appealing to the women's business market is one attempt to give the hotel a competitive advantage in a rapidly expanding hotel sector in the city.

Mall concept

Healthy option, or no healthy option, some people will want more than snacks - and breakfast.

There will still be room service in the hotel, and the lounge area will serve "light" meals.

The Light Centre
The hotel uses the shopping centre next door

But the hotel will also make use of facilities in the mall that it is attached to.

The hotel adjoins a new complex in Leeds, called The Light, a new shopping mall and leisure centre.

The hotel has been integrated within the design.

Guests at the hotel will have breakfast at Browns, a café on site, and for supper they can choose one of the restaurants in the complex.

Mr Costa is currently negotiating a deal with Tiger Tiger, a restaurant and club on site, to set up a direct booking line from the hotel rooms.

Sue Anderson, director of the Light Centre
Ms Anderson: We appeal to men as well

The guests can also use the gym and cinema on site.

The shopping centre, which is owned by HBOS and is based on a site once occupied by the Leeds Permanent building society is also female-friendly.

There is a well-lit car park with 24-hour security, and security guards, or a customer service team to escort women around the complex if they wish.

Sue Anderson, the centre's director, designed the uniforms herself, ditching khaki and peaked hats in the process for blue pin-striped suits.

While being female-friendly is central to the idea, she is quick to reassure men that they are still welcome.

Sue Anderson, centre director
"In a lot of major cities, females get a raw deal"
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