LONDON BUSINESS TRAVELER
ALIX for ONE Founder + CEO will be included in an in-flight video for London Business Traveller magazine discussing our app. Here she is being interviewed by journalist Juliet Hindell during the taping.
TIPS FOR WOMEN TRAVELING SOLO, FROM DINING OUT TO HOTEL SAFETY
By SHIVANI VORA, 7 August 2017
Amsterdam, an ideal destination for women traveling alone. Credit lvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times
Suzanne Randolph, 60, knows firsthand that it can be daunting for women to travel on their own. In her more than two decades of frequent solo travel, Ms. Randolph, a former art adviser, says she has encountered her fair share of challenges. “Finding a place to eat and getting plugged into the local scene of your destination isn’t easy when you’re alone,” she said.
Her new venture, a membership club called the Alix Experience, addresses the lack of resources for solo female travelers and is currently available in New York City and London, with Paris and San Francisco debuting this fall.
For an annual fee, ranging from $750 to $2,000 per city, depending on the level of service, women have access to a concierge staff that assists them throughout their trips; the staff suggests welcoming restaurants and will help travelers book services such as yoga classes and manicures. The Alix Experience also gives women travelers the chance to connect with each other during events like wine tastings and art gallery tours.
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Randolph.
Q: You say that the idea for the Alix Experience was inspired by your own solo travels. How?
A: No matter what city I was in, it was hard to find a place to eat on my own. A lot of popular restaurants weren’t necessarily inviting. In Paris, for example, I remember going to a French seafood restaurant, where I had awful service, and many of the diners stared at me.
Beyond dining, it was also hard finding where to get my hair done early in the morning when most salons are closed or where I could take a great spin or Pilates class.
Can’t a hotel concierge help with these needs?
Hotel concierges are great, but they often have set relationships with restaurants and other service providers, which can influence their recommendations. The local Alix concierge doesn’t play favorites. Our recommendations are based on blind trials using our own money.
Also, unlike a hotel concierge, we host events for our members. Our event in April in New York, for example, was a private tour of the Whitney Biennial with an art curator, followed by cocktails at Untitled, the museum’s restaurant.
How are the needs of female travelers different from those of men?
I find that women want alternatives to dining at their hotel. They also feel more of a need to maintain personal routines such as their yoga classes or manicures.
What kinds of hotels should solo female travelers look for when it comes to safety?
They should pick a smaller boutique property where they are known to the staff because in larger properties, they can be anonymous, and the sense of security and personalization is not as strong. Also, that hotel should be near good public transportation because you want to be in an area that’s busy, not remote.
Are there certain cities you think are more suited to solo female travelers?
New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Paris would top my list. They are all walkable, which is nice because it’s easy to get around and take in the sights.
Also, they are cities with late-night activities such as theater in New York and London and museums in Paris like Palais de Tokyo, which is open until midnight. With options to entertain yourself at night, you can have a very full day and never feel alone.
Any tips for dining alone at a high-end restaurant?
Some restaurants have beautiful bar areas — a good option for those who want to have an elegant meal out.
But if you don’t want to eat at the bar and want the full pomp and circumstance, go for it. I’ve often gone to high-end restaurants when traveling because I really wanted to try the food. The staff will pick up on your interest and usually respond with warmth and extra attention. When I was at a restaurant in Düsseldorf last year, the owner was so welcoming that he even had a glass of Champagne with me.
What’s the best part of traveling without anyone else?
You set your own tempo because there’s no negotiating with another traveler. Women — me included — often have anxiety about hitting the road solo, but once they actually do it, they will realize that it’s worthwhile adventure.
IS THIS THE ANSWER TO THE HOLIDAY HORROR OF TRAVELLING ALONE? THE NEW TRAVEL TREND CONNECTS SINGLETONS WITH LIKE MINDED SOLO TRAVELLERS.
By LIZ HOGGARD, 11 June 2017
Where on earth does a single woman visiting New York go on a Saturday night? I don’t want to stay in my hotel room and, while the local diner is great for breakfast, I don’t want omelette again or pitying glances from fellow customers.
Suzanne founded The Alix Experience, a membership organisation for professional women who travel globally for business and leisure
- An art consultant for 25 years, Suzanne often found herself travelling alone
- She later realised she could use her expertise to set up her own business
Every time I travel solo, I vow to have a night out. I plan to dress up, linger over a martini in a cool bar, then try out a new restaurant. I rip out reviews from glossy magazines. I make lists. But I always lose confidence.
My default position is to find an anonymous bistro, retire to a corner with a novel, and be in bed by 10pm.
Where on earth does a single woman visiting New York go on a Saturday night?
Not this time, though. On this trip I have Suzanne Randolph to help me.
Suzanne founded The Alix Experience, a membership organisation for professional women who travel globally for business and leisure. She emails me a choice of woman-friendly venues. ‘I’ve made reservations at two places downtown,’ she says airily. ‘Just choose the one you like best.’
I decide against the ironic-sounding Wallflower restaurant, but Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria looks gorgeous — and it is, with communal tables so you’re not so conscious about dining on your own.
‘Great choice,’ I tell Suzanne when she joins me.
An art consultant for 25 years, Suzanne often found herself travelling alone: ‘I was always pressing my nose up against a restaurant’s window to see if it was a good place to eat as a solo woman diner. If I sat down in a restaurant and felt uncomfortable, I’d leave and try somewhere else.’
She spent years keeping lists of the best spots and making recommendations to friends before she realised she could use her expertise to set up her own business.
VIP business travellers can pay $29.99 (£23) a month to join a more exclusive tier that offers profiles of vetted members. If you’re in a city and fancy company, you simply switch your profile to ‘visible’ to meet like-minded women travellers on the site.
No one is implying that women travellers are less adventurous than men. Far from it. But we do need to keep safety in mind.’
Alix is just one of a new breed of concierge and networking services solely for female globetrotters.
Carolyn Pearson, a former head of technology at ITV Productions, set up Maiden Voyage, a travel support company for professional women travellers, after a lonely business trip to LA.
‘I booked the weekend off before my meeting to go shopping, visit Santa Monica and go to the beach. But it felt impossible to go to a restaurant alone on a Saturday night in a strange city.’
On her return to her home town of Leeds, she conducted market research and found many other women also spent lonely evenings in their hotel rooms.
Today the company is in 100 countries and has 11,500 members — membership is free for individuals, but companies pay for their female employees to join.
To become one of the company’s certified ‘Female Friendly Hotels’, an establishment must have double-locking doors, a 24-hour manned reception and discretion when communicating your room number: ‘We tell hotels not to ask if you want one key card or two, or broadcast your room number at breakfast.’
They work with a chauffeur company for airport pick-ups, and can advise you on local business etiquette and dress codes.
Today Maiden Voyage has volunteer ‘ambassadors’ in 70 cities who will share their little black books ‘and will probably meet you for a coffee or do something nice for a few hours’.
Travel club Thelma & Louise, which helps you find the perfect travel companion, came about when co-founder Christine Davies, a former film director on the BBC Holiday programme, wanted to climb Uluru (Ayers Rock) during a trip to Australia to visit her sister.
She couldn’t persuade her husband to join her, so Christine’s sister put her in touch with an Australian friend who was in the middle of a divorce.
The two made a plan via the internet and booked a five-day trip through the Red Centre of Australia. The adventure was such a success, Christine and her new friend called themselves ‘Thelma and Louise’ after the Nineties film.
Meeting the needs of women travellers makes business sense, as research shows women are more likely to book a multi-night stay than men.
‘It’s the rise of what the travel industry call “bleisure”,’ says Pearson, ‘where people combine business and leisure. You might add on a couple of days at your own expense, or check out of your four-star hotel and into a budget hotel at the weekend.’
Women account for half of all business travellers. ‘And it’s the hotels that get what we want who will be the winners,’ Pearson adds. ‘Hotel du Vin in Birmingham has just put double locks on their rooms because they want to work with us.’
Rather than cowering in a dark corner with a novel, like me, here finally is our chance to explore a city properly.
‘It’s about feeling you can walk into a restaurant and be acknowledged,’ says Suzanne Randolph. ‘I can say proudly that in all the travelling I’ve done, I’ve never once ordered room service.’
Cheers to that!