Rooms by the hour : The New Hotel trend
Hotels will go to all sorts of lengths to pull in extra cash these days, even if it means risking their good name.
Some of London's top five stars, for example, have taken to renting their rooms out by the hour, a trend which is tipped to cause a revolution in the way we travel.
The notion of hourly rentals might conjure up images of illicit affairs and call girls, but these days it means anything but.
Think about it. Have you ever landed in a city with time to kill and yearned for a snooze, shower and breakfast before setting off refreshed to your next destination?
Well, now you can, without anyone batting an eyelid.
A new online reservation service, www.day-use-hotels.com, allows guests to rent rooms in some of Europe's top hotels for the afternoon, targeting short-stay business visitors flying in and out in a day, who need some desk space or a few hours' sleep.
The Paris-based company, which offers day rates of up to 70pc below the nightly price, already operates more than 150 hotels in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, and is said to have its eye on Ireland.
Airport hotels such as the Sheraton in Charles de Gaulle's Terminal 2 already give travellers the chance to 'take a warm bath' or 'rest in a room for a few hours' between the hours of 9am and 6pm.
The service, which includes a handy rapid-laundry facility, makes excellent business sense, allowing the hotel to hire out the same room twice in one day.
The concept of the 'quickie hotel' for purposes other than business is nothing new in France, where secret rendez-vous for romance are as common as corner patisseries.
The famous 'cinq a sept' -- the 5pm to 7pm slot in the day which a businessman devotes to his secretary, when his wife thinks he's in an après-work meeting -- is as old as the Alps, and the hotel industry has never been shy in facilitating this extra-marital carry-on.
In countries such as Japan and Brazil, where sex before marriage is still frowned upon in mainstream society and family housing is typically cramped, love motels are found in every town and village.
In South America they're known as telos, or temporary lodgings, providing young, unmarried couples living at home the chance to meet up privately.
But the idea originated in the Japanese city of Osaka in the 1960s, with anonymity being the key to its success in the form of underground tunnels, frosted glass at reception and no-questions-asked check-in.
Dayuse Hotels, which has just launched 15 new properties in New York, is upfront in saying not all of its customers will be on business or killing time between transport connections.
Lovers seeking 'discreet encounters' are more than catered for, they say, and clients are not required to leave their credit card details.
So far, business is booming, with a wide variety of customers availing of the hourly rentals, from young parents desperate to escape the kids for an afternoon to photographers looking for a suite for a shoot.
So, no matter what your requirements, it looks as if these temporary pit-stops are here to stay.
- Gemma O'Doherty
Originally published in