Segregated Hotel Wings Could Make India Travel Safer For Women

In India, there's a growing push for separate, safe hotel wings for women travelers. The Indian tourism ministry is urging Indian hotels operators to offer start offering women-only floors, wings, or room groups.

Several big Indian hotels already offer gender-segregated hotel accommodations, according to The Economic Times of India. But the government wants it to become more widespread, with women-only rooms at smaller, less-expensive, or corporate hotels, too.

A senior tourism ministry official, who didn't wish to be identified, said the government won't make such a rule mandatory, but it's seriously urging hotels operators across categories to implement the plan. "Hotels that follow the rule will be recognised and will benefit eventually," the official said, adding the ministry cannot share details immediately "what these benefits will be."

The efforts come in the wake of decreased tourism from women travelers and a growing perception that India isn't safe for women travelers. The number of foreign women visiting India dropped by 35 percent in early 2013, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. This was following the December 2012 gang-rape of New Delhi student on a public bus.

Since then, several other high-profile incidents of sexual violence against women travelers have been reported. In January a South Korean tourist was allegedly drugged and raped at her hotel by the owner's son. In March, a Swiss tourist was gang-raped while camping with her husband outside Madhya Pradesh and a British woman jumped from her hotel window after a man forced his way into her hotel room.

India Today says that many Indian hotels, especially the chains, are reviewing and upgrading security measures. Lemon Tree Hotels introduced a special women's wing that has been popular. New Delhi's Leela Palace launched a women-only wing with restricted elevator access and all-female butlers and housekeeping staff. And ITC hotels have offered women's only floors since 2005.

Other hotels offer "eva rooms," which are exclusively reserved for women travelers. But these seem more geared toward patronizing gendered luxuries — special lighting, large counters, "more powerful hair dryers" — than women's security.

Smaller hotels, however, say that reserving special portions of their rooms for women isn't economically viable, no matter how much the government nudges. That means, for now, extra security measures for female travelers seem relegated to high-end hotels — and out of reach for many of us.

Photo: An 'Eva room' at India's ITC Hotels