Inspired by her own solo business trips, Carolyn Pearson founded the Maiden Voyage network in 2008, aiming to bring women travellers on business together with travel advice and hotel recommendations. And now Red Carnation Hotels are among those recommended. We speak to Carolyn about the network she created and how it awakens a passion for travel in female business travellers around the world.
How does Maiden Voyage benefit female business travellers?
“My raison d’etre is to make business travel safe and social for women. I really want to liberate women to enjoy their business travels and get out and experience the cities they travel to. And women can connect with each other through maiden-voyage.com as an alternative to dinner for one. We recommend hotels and specialise in female business travel safety.
We now have over 8,000 women in over 80 countries within the network, and last year we launched our corporate membership. We expect membership to grow rapidly in the coming year. Typically, when women sign up they say they wish they’d known about it years before. That always makes the job worthwhile.”
Who creates the Maiden Voyage city guides?
“These very special ladies belong to our team of global ambassadors. They are ‘super members’ and natural ambassadors. Ambassadors represent me at official events in their cities and are very passionate about sharing all that is good about their locations. Many of our ambassadors are expats or have lived and worked internationally, so they understand the differences a foreign visitor might experience.”
What do you think makes a hotel stand out for female business travellers?
“Personally speaking, I like a hotel that has soul and that makes you feel like you’ve arrived home. I inspect hotels around the world and for me it’s important that the theme between the public spaces and bedrooms is consistent. Our members like to feel cosseted, so if they aren’t going out in the evening, the hotel is a place they want to relax in and enjoy. Of course safety plays a huge part and that’s one of the reasons why I love Red Carnation hotels; the concierges are some of the best in the business.”
Geneva attracts many business travellers. What is your experience of the city?
“Noted for being one of the most peaceful cities in the world and the base for many humanitarian organisations, Geneva has real class. I have found the Swiss to be hospitable and genuinely interested in what you have to say. The Lake plays a big part in life in the city, whether that’s sailing, catching an outdoor film or just taking a long stroll along the lakeside. And of course you can’t visit Geneva without strolling around the luxury shops and stopping by a rooftop bar and restaurant. Finally, no weekend here is complete without a hike up one of the mountains.”
Your city guides also recommend restaurants. Do you have any favourites in London?
“I love Sketch for the theatre of the experience and it’s great to see people’s faces when I take them there. If you love trying lots of little dishes, Nopi by Ottolenghi is a favourite. But if I’m dining alone, you’re than likely to find me feasting upstairs at Whole Foods in Kensington.”
As Johannesburg is such an up-and-coming city for business travel, what do you recommend doing there?
“While taking an open-top bus is one of the most touristy things to do, it’s a good way to get orientated. These red buses offer tours around Soweto, Newtown, Braamfontein, Goldreef City, Constitutional Hill and Carlton Centre. If you love art, the Goodman Gallery is a must visit and hosts exhibition opening nights where you can socialise with other art lovers over a glass of wine. Close by, 4th avenue in Parkhurst has many quaint coffee shops and restaurants. And if you find yourself in Johannesburg on a Sunday, try rooftop salsa at Maboneng Precinct Market.”
The guides include advice on local customs, traditions and etiquette. Was this inspired by personal experience of cultural misunderstandings?
“Kissing can be a minefield – one, two or three, and which cheek do you start with? I’ve had more than one awkward brush on the lips.”
What plans do you have for the future of Maiden Voyage?
“Our focus for the next two years will be to expand the service and reach more women. Members will see improvements in the website, an app to use when travelling and more female-friendly hotels. And, this year we will launch female business traveller elearning.”
Image credits: Carolyn Pearson, Founder of Maiden Voyage. At the airport © iStock / travnikovstudio. Lake Geneva © Flickr / Gabriel Garcia Marengo. Concierge at The Milestone Hotel © Red Carnation Hotels. The food at Ottolenghi © Ottolenghi.