The Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh will on May 1 launch an entire floor dedicated to accommodation and services for women.
The project at the 247-room property, which is located in the Saudi Arabian capital’s Kingdom Centre complex, has taken nearly 18 months to complete and reflects the conservative cultural sensitivities of the country, according to general manager Greg Pirkle.
“We created this idea to nurture the experience for women, especially first-timers,” he told Arabian Business. “We have a lot of female travellers that come to Riyadh, they have to experience all the things that Saudi is about: lack of freedom, having to wear an abaya – so we’re trying to make it easier for them.” Men will not be permitted on the floor.
Located on the 50th floor of the hotel, the women’s only section will feature 22 rooms and suites, as well as facilities including a fitness club and lounge. Pirkle said that it will be staff of 14 made up entirely of females, from room attendants to engineering staff, and will have its own dedicated elevator.
“From the moment they check-in, to the people who serve their meals, [all the employees] will be female,” he added. “Once they’re up on this floor, they can take their abayas off, they feel comfortable.”
Pirkle said that he believed the Four Seasons was the only hotel that has attempted the concept in socially conservative Saudi Arabia, which prohibits mingling of unrelated men and women. “I believe we’re a pioneer with this. We created a task force of females and asked them ‘What would you like?’,” he explained.
Toronto-based hotelier Four Seasons is 47-percent owned by Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, whose office is also based in Kingdom Centre.
The operator plans to open another three hotels in Saudi Arabia over the coming five years, as well as its first resort in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi, one in Muscat and one in Bahrain.