It’s just the sort of thing you would expect from Richard Branson. The multi-millionaire founder of Virgin is known for his cheeky approach, so perhaps we should not be surprised that, alongside drinks and snacks, the mini-bars in his first hotel stock sex toys.
Yes, you read that correctly. For just $US20 ($30), guests at the Virgin Hotel in Chicago can enjoy a Lover’s Intimacy Kit, which includes not just condoms and lubricant – long a staple for hip city hotels – but a vibrator for travellers who have left theirs at home.
A seriously sexy hotel is one that makes guests feel special, a process that is more complex than simply adding sex toys to the in-room menu.
Guests at the Virgin Hotel in Chicago can enjoy a Lover’s Intimacy Kit featuring condoms, lubricant and a vibrator.
Branson is not alone. Around the world, high-end hotels are making it clear that sex is on the menu. Many are offering packages designed for close encounters of the seductive kind.
When QT Sydney opened two years ago, it offered an Adults Only package (only recently discontinued) which included a private fitting of Agent Provocateur lingerie, sparkling wine and strawberries, a blindfold and the use of an iPod preloaded with a seductive soundtrack.
The hotel still greets guests with video screens in reception playing a clip of a woman seductively rolling up her stockings in close-up, while the lobby bar features stools made of mannequins’ legs. Inside the rooms, soft-core porn is available on demand for free (along with regular movies), meaning there’s no embarrassing charges showing up on the bill.
That’s not to mention the red-wigged ‘Directors of Chaos’ who work the door, dressed in black, tight-fitting outfits.
Z NYC Hotel in New York has taken a similar approach. For Valentine’s Day 2014, the hotel offered its guests a choice of packages. The Nice package included champagne and roses, in-room massages and breakfast in bed; the Naughty option included edible underwear, handcuffs, blindfolds and a tickle feather. Both packages proved so popular, they are still available more than a year later.
Lisa Gneo, the hotel’s director of sales & marketing, says, “Hotel guests are looking for something new, fresh and outside the box.”
Perhaps what they are really looking for is a trip back in time, to the days when escaping to a hotel was still a special experience. “When it comes to intimacy, privacy and secret pleasures, hotels have a long and storied past,” says Jessica Rodrigues, PR Manager for The Drake Hotel Properties. “From Sinatra to Capote, Patti Smith, Warhol and Marilyn Monroe, the famous, nearly famous and the infamous have always used hotels as sexy backdrops for romance and fantasy.”
The TV in QT Sydney’s rooms features free on-demand movies, including adult movies. Photo: Edwina Pickles
The Drake Hotel in Toronto was one of the earliest to bring sexy back. A decade ago, they launched an extensive Pleasure Menu that goes from feathers and blindfolds to a “saucy suede flogger” and the Rabbit Pearl vibrator famously featured in Sex and the City.
For those who like a bit of bling, there is even a 24-carat dildo, priced at US$600.
“Our Pleasure Menu offerings were the first of their kind in North America, and are still one of the only pleasure menus found in Canada,” Rodrigues says, adding that the bestselling items are the bondage tape and the Astroglide lubricant.
It’s not just the amenities that are getting raunchy; decor has also gotten a do-over. Some properties stay on the tasteful side of titillation. At the Altstadt Hotel in Vienna, for instance, nine rooms decorated by Mattheo Thun feature red satin furniture and photos of nudes on the ceiling above the bed. The mini bar features a “Love box” (€24) that includes condoms, lubricant and a vibrator (the charge for the box appears as “hygiene box” on your bill).
Other properties push the envelope. The Andaz San Diego’s Andaz Star Suite has king-size bunk beds, a mirrored ceiling, and a stripper pole. The individually-decorated suites at Brighton’s Hotel Pelirocco in England, which markets itself as a “rock and roll hotel”, also raise eyebrows. Most notorious is the Kraken’s Lair, which has a 2.5-metre round bed with a mirrored canopy and its own private entrance. The hotel also offers guests a series of erotic hampers, including items such as leather paddles.
“Rock and roll hotel”: Hotel Pelirocco in the United Kingdom. Photo: Emanuele Rambaldi
The line between sexy and sleazy is a fine one. “You want to keep it playful and interesting, rather than tacky,” says Tamara Lohan, co-founder and chief technical officer of Mr and Mrs Smith, a collection of boutique hotels. Lohan has some expertise in this area thanks to the annual Smith Awards, in which the public casts votes in a range of categories including Sexiest Hotel Bedrooms.
To date, the winners of this category have steered clear of mirrored ceilings and stripper poles, supporting Lohan’s contention that sexiness more about attitude than accessories.
“All the nominations for Sexiest Bedroom last year had a few things in common,” Lohan says. Big beds would seem to be an obvious prerequisite, but bathrooms also featured heavily – particularly big bathtubs in the bedroom.
“Bringing a bathtub into the bedroom can add drama and sexiness to a room.”
Another common feature: most of the rooms had a view of some kind. “Something about having your own window on the world makes a room special,” Lohan says.
For her, a seriously sexy hotel is one that makes guests feel special, a process that is more complex than simply adding sex toys to the in-room menu.
“You can get it wrong very easily,” Lohan say. “You can’t just put Egyptian cotton sheets on the bed and think that makes it sexy. It’s about every single touch point, how it makes you feel as a person. It’s all in the detail.”