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Viewpoint: why do hotels ignore female sanitary needs?

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Viewpoint: why do hotels ignore female sanitary needs?

With hand cream and sewing kits considered a necessity across the hotel sector, Hannah Frances asks why women’s basic requirements are universally ignored

A s a hotel reviewer and consultant, I have noticed the absence of female sanitary products in bathrooms. Regardless of star rating or price point, hotels rarely provide tampons and pads as part of their standard amenities, despite them being an essential bathroom product.

It would be encouraging to see more hotels accommodating the basic, and often urgent, needs of female guests by making these products available. Everyone has their preferences in terms of absorbency, and some prefer reuseable products, but it’s a ‘just in case’ measure that I know most women would appreciate if they were caught out with an early period.

To better explore the market need, I put together a short survey to collate the experiences and opinions of female travellers. One person that completed the survey wrote: “Tampons and sanitary products are a necessity, NOT a luxury, just like toilet roll.”

It’s clear that hotels are lagging far behind the needs of their guests. Of the women who completed the questionnaire, 92% have never stayed in a hotel that provide these products and one interviewee commented: “I think it’s embarrassing for a lot of women to have to call housekeeping to ask for tampons. Having sanitary products readily available would make a huge difference – especially in certain countries or where the housekeeping staff are male.”

If my period started early in the middle of the night, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling reception to ask for a tampon. I’m more likely to venture out of the hotel to find a shop, but if I were staying in a rural location I’d be stuck. As a society, we are conditioned to feel ashamed of our periods, and there isn’t enough discussion to help normalise them. Hotels can play their part by providing a basic selection among standard bathroom amenities.

“I understand that many women have their own preferred products, but I think this survey will show that, when in a tight spot, we’d all use what’s available and appreciate it massively,” said one of the survey’s respondents.

“Having tampons/pads available is just as much a ‘just in case’ thing as the needle and thread kit often provided in upmarket hotels,” said another. “Guests are probably unlikely to need them, but if they need them, they really need them!”

Luxury hotels work hard to accommodate their guests’ every whim and requirement, yet this essential is rarely considered. A quick search through TripAdvisor proves that when these products are available, guests are inclined to comment on them. In a crowded market, these thoughtful touches can be the difference between a guest booking and looking elsewhere. A recent report, The Rise of Female Business Travellers, published by Skift, found that, “women influence 85% of all purchasing decisions and account for 58% of online sales”.

“I think that it would reflect on the attitude of the hotel extremely positively,” said one respondent. “Forgetting your tampons can be most devastating. I can wait 30 minutes to buy toothpaste, but cannot last 30 minutes without sanitary products. Also, it would help promote the normalisation of sanitary products to the wider public, which is imperative for a healthy and fair society.”

I am campaigning to make a range of eco-friendly tampons and pads a standard part of bathroom amenities in hotels across the UK. A full list of participating hotels will be published at www.hotelpalette.com/project/checking-in-when-youre-on.

Hannah Frances is co-founder of creative 
hospitality consultancy Hotel Palette and reviews hotels for international design magazines and national newspapers.

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