A group of businesswomen in Zurich have opened the first hotel in the city exclusively for women. Designed by a well-known female architect, "Lady's First" is an oasis of calm in the midst of the hectic city.
A picture hanging over the sofa in the lobby shows a sinister looking man ringing a doorbell. Although he could symbolise an unwanted man trying to gain entry to the hotel, the director, Yael Schneider, sees the painting differently.
"When we first saw it, we thought it was so funny because the man looks like a night porter who watches over the house. And the colours perfectly match the sofa. We hope that it also expresses the idea that we don't take everything so seriously here!"
As a well-travelled businesswoman, Schneider knows what women want from a medium-priced hotel. Housed in a late 19th century building in a trendy district of the city, Lady's First boldly combines new and old, offers a spacious sauna and relaxation area, and adds simple touches that are often overlooked, but make the difference between a pleasant and unpleasant stay.
"A travelling businesswomen can check in, go to her room, fix herself a cup of tea, and set her laptop up to check her emails," says Schneider, pulling a sliding tray out of a bedroom closet, displaying a small electric kettle, a tea cup and a selection of teas.
"It's something I always appreciated while travelling, especially in England, that you can have a tea in your room without having to order room service."
After tea, a guest can put on a bathrobe and take the lift to the top floors where she can take a sauna or a steam bath.
Because the hotel caters exclusively to women, guests can have a drink at the bar or leaf through a magazine in the lounge without being hassled by men.
"We're offering an alternative to the mainstream hotels," Schneider says. "It's a niche product. We think the female business traveller stays in all kinds of hotels. We want to give them an alternative, another choice."
When it comes to breakfast, Lady's First is also breaking new ground. Schneider believes few businesswomen take advantage of the standard breakfast buffet offered at most Swiss hotels, so she decided not to include breakfast in the room price. Instead, guests who want more than a cup of tea or coffee can choose from a menu designed to suit women's tastes.
The hotel's staff is pleased, too, because many are benefiting from the management's policy of reserving several part-time positions for unemployed women.
In many ways, the location is well suited for a women's only hotel. Before it was renovated, the building was an inn that was home to young women working as au pairs.
Schneider hopes that the atmosphere and services she is now providing her guests will make them feel more at home than they would at any other hotel.
by Dale Bechtel