Hotels, their design, and using sex to sell it all

hotel design

Breaking news: Sex sells.

OK, so maybe that’s not breaking news, but rather a societal truism we secretly understand, but don’t actively discuss.

Though typically unspoken, the often overt images used in advertising and marketing underscores how sexuality is constantly used as a marketing hook.

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One might think in our 21st-century society we’d be more immune to allowing any form of titillation play into our decision-making. Yet, that’s not the case. In fact, we’ve double downed on that quotient in many parts of life.

Out in the Open

In the hotel industry, sex and sexuality are rarely discussed, even though we know it’s a significant driver of the hotel experience. We just don’t bring it into forefront of conversation because of the discomfort factor.

(I'm weirded-out even writing this column in the first place. Feelings of being judged, or that even discussing this topic will cause me some sort of personal backlash. Irrational, but it’s the result of keeping this topic taboo.)

However, I’ve been thinking about this topic for years, though I’ve never openly discussed it other than an occasional ribald joke here and there among friends. But after attending HD Expo this week and hearing some of the industry’s top designers confirm what we’ve known all along, I figured it’s time for the industry to finally come to grips regarding how sex and sexuality are an integral and inescapable part of hotel design and the resulting customer experience.

Don't just take it from me. Industry design pioneer David Beer, founding partner of BBG-BBGM and consultant for HOK, said, “Sex sells. I have had some really good hotels ruined by designers that don’t understand this.”

Adam Tihany, founder of Tihany Design, is on board with this philosophy. He sees sexuality as a driving financial undercurrent at many hotels and believes that without making people feel sexy and sexual, a designed space simply won’t be as profitable.

He boils it down to this: “When women look good, men spend money.” And while that may not be 100 percent politically correct, it’s true. I’m here in Las Vegas as I write this column and I see that observation being played out pretty much the entire time my eyes are open.

Meanwhile, Michael Bedner, partner at Apeiron Miami, said when you design hotels, in many ways you do it in a way to make women feel at ease. “You have to make it for the ladies first, comfortable and flattering with lighting," he said. "What we do must be sensual and sexual. Beyond business it’s why many people visit a hotel.”

Who is Doing It Well

One emerging hotel brand is embracing sexuality rather than hiding it. And it comes from the surprisingly conservative Marriott International. Its Moxy Hotels understands sexuality as a connective tissue that bonds the millennial-focused brand’s social side to other property elements. Of all companies, I would not expect Marriott to take such a risqué approach, but it works.

In a video showed here at HD Expo, it’s evident the brand is infused with sexual DNA, and it's embracing it. The video is chock-full of young people experiencing the property, having flirty experiences, making out and hitting the bedroom at the end of the night with a "Do Not Disturb" sign prominently displayed.

Toni Stoeckl, VP of lifestyle brands, Renaissance, AC and Moxy Hotels, said the brand plays to a psychographic dubbed "fun hunters"—guests that are hyper-social. He said properties will have special events, such as midnight pajama parties, which adds another ingredient to the sexual recipe.

Check it out:

Do you agree that hotels should be infused with a sexy flirty undercurrent? Let me know at [email protected] or on Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn.

Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for Hotel Management. His views expressed are not necessarily those of Hotel Management, its parent company Questex, and/or its subsidiaries.

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