A gender divide in travel paths

Published December 13, 2006

Yo, road warrior guys.

Have you ever checked to see if someone actually changed the hotel bedsheets? Do you bring slippers for the no-shoe shuffle through airport screening lines? I'll bet you never packed a scented candle.

We all know traveling for the company is a brutish affair. But the ways women and men deal with the hassles - even what they perceive as problems - are way different.

On trips with male associates, Carolann Kohler has been appalled at what they consider adequate accommodations. "I'm thinking this place is a dump," she says. "Men have a greater tolerance for dirt."

Hotels, take note. Women now make up more than 40 percent of active business travelers, says YPB&R, an Orlando marketing and advertising firm.

Its annual business travel survey shows female business travelers are more likely to expect a clean, well-maintained room 99 percent, airport shuttle (82 percent) and diverse restaurants on site (73 percent). They're less interested than men in having a minibar in the room.

Hotels weren't nearly as hospitable to businesswomen when Kohler started traveling in the mid '80s.

Few rooms came with ironing boards and hair driers. Dining choices at the hotel typically meant either the bar or a steak house. "I don't power eat on the road," said Kohler, an executive for a large computer company who works from home in Tampa's Westchase area.

She plans as meticulously as any frequent flier. When the government banned liquids and gels from carry-on luggage in August, Kohler hid her mascara in a bundle of felt markers wrapped in tape.

She packs her black Tumi carry-on with the baby blue liner with stuff to make the hotel more homey. Candles mask the room odor or help relax her. Yoga and aerobics DVDs help her unwind.

Kohler always carries the folding frame with pictures of her husband and 19-year-old daughter that reminds her why she goes out on the road once every couple of weeks.

Planned well, the trips can be a break of sorts. She jokes, maybe half-jokes, that male travelers may not see it the same way.

"I don't need to make anyone else lunch or walk the dog," says Kohler. "I think men look at it like no one's making me breakfast or ironing for me."

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Will meeters and greeters be allowed to welcome friends and relatives at airport gates again?

The Transportation Security Administration is trying a test to relax the ban - imposed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - at airports in Dallas and Detroit.

The agency has required that people present boarding passes to get through security checkpoints since 2002.

Some airports want to let nonfliers through security to spend money at restaurants and shop near the gates. But that could defeat the original purpose of the ban: limiting how many people get screened so lines don't get overcrowded.

The test includes only guests at airport hotels. TSA officials insist they won't lift the boarding pass requirement if it causes longer lines or undermines security.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.