The Mangle

April 26, 2006

Love Hotels Go Online

Filed under: Scoops — themangle @ 9:39 am

The phenomenon of love hotels began in Japan many years ago as a place for couples to go to have sex. They have sprung up all over the country, usually on the quiet, out-of-the-way outskirts of major cities. For a good overview on love hotels, there is a good entry in Wikipedia. Now, a enterprising Japanese businessman is taking love hotels online with www.lovehotel.com. You can't access the site, because it is still in development – but word is that it is due to go public in a matter of weeks.

The online business model is to subvert the clandestine nature of the love hotel and open it up to the Internet. Stephen Tanaka, the entrepeneur behind the concept, has started with a number of Japanese-based hotels and has also signed up regular hotels in other Asian countries, including Thailand and Malaysia. Apparently, he is in discussions with a major hotel chain with global operations.

These hotels have a number of rooms wired up with strategically-placed webcams. Travellers, who so far have been predominantly backpacker couples from the USA, continential Europe and the UK, can register for the service, giving them access to free hotel accommodation in the hotels and cities available. They register their personal and physical details, and submit a photo, on the understanding that paying subscribers to www.lovehotel.com will be able to access the webcams in their hotel rooms to watch their every move.

The hotels receive a commission based on the number of viewers to each "room" they have set up, rather than receiving a tariff from the hotel guests. So far, Tanaka has advertised quietly on a number of backpacker-oriented websites and user groups to get a decent registration list together.

I was able to talk to one of the registrants – Torsten* (*not his really name) from Munich in Germany. "I read about this on one of our German websites. It sounded great. I am travelling to Thailand in July with my girlfriend and there are three hotels in the cities we are visiting. And we can stay for nothing! We are not inhibited, so I don't mind people looking at us on the Internet."

Tanaka believes he can reach a critical mass of hotels and registered travellers to achieve on his business plan within three months. Once the site goes live, he thinks the whole concept with go ballistic.

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