By Daniel Shane
Hotel’s general manager believes concept is a first for culturally conservative Saudi Arabia
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.
they might be the only hotel to do it in ksa but other hotels in other muslim countries have similar concepts.
Thank you Four Seasons for discriminating, that's exactly what we need right now in the Middle East, further separation. Good job. Whatever.
How ironic that this backward idea is happening in the hotel owned by supposedly the most advanced and liberated thinker to come out of Saudi Arabia. He even wants women to be able to drive, yet in his own hotel they are being encouraged to kow tow to the prehistoric attitudes in place in the country.
As a woman, I found this concept appropriate. It reflects a degree of respect for the cultural framework of that nation, with of course, a Four Seasons touch. Further, I found it interesting that the three commentors against this concept here are men. Four Seasons hotel has the best customer service in the world, and they are known to go the extra mile, to make sure that their guests are provided the utmost customer service. Each FS hotel reflects the cultural aspects of that nation, and this is just protocol for this hotel chain to offer it's guests an option, which I suspect will prove popular with female guests.
This is an old idea. In Riyadh there is , even, an all Ladies Hotel.
This GM is making unappropriate commenst like : lack of Freedom , they take off their Abayas and they get more comfortable. How does he know that they are uncomfortable in their Abays . Bigoted western opinions and comments.....
Yes Mary, would you like them to call this floor Purdah? It is attitudes such as yours that keep women in the region in the dark ages.
I don't see why this is backward. European hotels offer the same concept. And it is done for different reasons. Women have different preferences when traveling, especially with room amenities, safety, food etc. I am more likely to stay in a hotel if it offers a ladies only floor if I'm traveling on my own. Why is everything backwards when it caters to women only in Muslim countries?
Excellent idea and not backward at all.
@Ronald - the only concept that is in the dark ages are your comments. Live and let live please. Mary's comments are very valid.
How exactly is this backwards? It would be backwards if all women were *forced* to be on that floor, not if they choose to be.