Published on theguardian.com | 31/01/2020 I Direct link
By Rob Davies
"Do you want to prove your love and make a romantic gift? Why not send her an invitation to meet in the hotel?”
Dayuse.com is not prudish about what people might be doing when they book hotel rooms by the hour.
“You will be charmed by the eroticism of a romantic hotel in the day,” the website’s blurb continues. And, maybe to appeal to a different clientele: “Unforgettable moments at the lowest cost.”
The French-owned site is one of several that have sprung up to service demand for so-called “microstays” – sojourns of a few hours at some of the best-known hotel chains. Connoisseurs of urban seediness will know that the option to rent hourly rooms – or, let’s be honest, beds – has always been available.
What sites such as Dayuse, Room For Day and By Hours have done is formalise and legitimise something once seen as the preserve of those with secrets to keep.
“We didn’t invent it but we digitised it,” says Dayuse’s sales chief, Mélanie Marcombe.
It’s a market, she says, fuelled not just by amorous liaisons but equally by business travellers looking for somewhere to work or a few hours’ sleep after a red-eye flight.
Daytime bookings – at a lower price than a night would cost – are becoming a lucrative option for hotels which otherwise have rooms standing empty for much of the day.
According to Marcombe, British hotels raked in an extra £10m through Dayuse last year, up 40% on 2018.
Crowne Plaza’s City hotel in London racked up 100 extra bookings a month, boosting annual revenues by £200,000. According to the Dayuse app, a standard room for the night normally sets you back £239 but is available from 10am to 6pm for £123, or £15 an hour. There is no option for stays of one hour or less although rival By Hours does offer three-hour slots.
“The demand is really exploding,” said Marcombe. “There is a change of mentality. People are more and more connected, travelling for leisure or corporate reasons.”
Though couples are not the main target, Marcombe insists, Dayuse.com certainly devotes plenty of text trying to entice them.
“To strengthen a rising love affair or rekindle your relationship, the romantic hotel is a sign of love irresistible,” the site purrs. “During lunch or late afternoon, you can enjoy a sexy room by hour with complete freedom in a romantic hotel.”
Nichi Hodgson, the author of The Curious History of Dating, says the spontaneity of a modern courtship culture partly shaped by dating and hookup apps may be one factor. Just as important, if not more so, are economic trends.
“I’m convinced that the housing crisis has something to do with it,” she says. “Whether they live with their parents or in small spaces with lots of flatmates, people just don’t have privacy.”
Day rooms, she says, may be a step up on the options that were once available. “There used to be that dodgy B&B at the end of the street and everybody knew what it was for. It’s like Japanese love hotels and a lot more people know about that now.
“In the 1930s, people used to get it on in the back of cinemas. They’d go to the longest film possible, like Gone With the Wind, so they had the longest time together. This is an evolution on that journey.”
Sex workers, said Hodgson, are also likely to see day rooms as a safe option because of legislation on brothels that many say has made them more vulnerable.
Whatever the societal trends driving demand, the phenomenon is yet to turn the hotel industry on its head. Dayuse.com is the market’s largest player but the £10m boost it claims to have given UK hotels is a drop in the ocean for a £20bn-a-year industry.
“The potential is there and people are sticking a toe in the water,” said Andrew Sangster, the editor of the industry newsletter Hotel Analyst. “The industry is changing and as technology advances you might see more but it’s very early days to see its widespread adoption in the industry.”
He points to success stories in niche areas of the market, such the largely airport-based offering of Yotel, which provides small sleep capsules for weary air travellers.
But he says the model will be harder to integrate in the broader sector. “In London occupancy is 80% plus, so most hotels are let more or less on a 24-hour basis. There are technological issues and problems with how you roster cleaning staff. Only the slickest of the operators are able to do it.”