Would you pay for the convenience of having a hotel bed ready when you groggily stumble off a redeye? How about paying for a room to take a break or a shower during a day trip to the city?
Beginning this spring, visitors to Boston will have the option of booking day-use rooms through a website and app called HotelsByDay. It’s a burgeoning category of lodging: Book your room online, check in at 9 a.m., check out at 5 p.m. (or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.), and pay from 30 percent to as much as 70 percent less than for an overnight stay.
The websites, which already serve Europe and several US cities, are aimed at business travelers, families who want to shower and change after a day at the beach, or people waiting for departing evening cruise ships in foreign ports of call.
And before we go any further, yes, you can also book these rooms to do the no-pants dance, or whatever your preferred euphemism is to describe a tryst. Booking a room in a sketchy setting is nothing new. These day-stay hotel websites are looking to change the sleazy stereotypes created by rent-by-the-hour, no-tell motels. These are rooms at reputable hotels where no winking or nudging is necessary to register.
“This is a need that people have that they don’t know can be fulfilled,” said Nathan Stevenson, co-founder of HotelsByDay. “We’re not talking about love hotels. We’re talking about a win for travelers who need a place to relax during the day and a win for hotels that can increase their bottom line.”
The concept of websites booking daytels in Europe took hold less than 10 years ago, and now, according to Stevenson, there are 1,500 hotels on the continent that cater to people who need daytime lodging. Sites such as HotelsByDay, Between 9 and 5, and BookaDayRoom follow the same model as Hotels.com or Expedia.
Daytel availability spread to New York five years ago, followed closely by Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami. The founders of these websites confess that it’s been an uphill battle changing attitudes of US hoteliers who fear they will sully their brands by selling daytime rooms.
“They’re used to seeing dodgy walk-in customers during the day,” said Peter de Lorme, president of BookaDayRoom. “But we’re trying to alter that mindset. We’ve had initial opposition to the idea, but I think once you explain other uses it becomes clearer.”
Sites such as France-based Day Use Hotels makes its intent very clear with a code of ethics written in choppy English on its site.
“All hotels listed on Day Use Hotels are known for their seriousness and ethics. They are all professionals in the hotel/restaurant business,” it reads. If customers decide to get frisky, it’s at their own risk. “The practices carried out in the rooms rented by Day Use Hotels are at the discretion of the customer and may not be attributable to Day Use Hotels.”
It will probably take time to change attitudes among travelers too. Mention the concept to friends, and chances are the initial reaction is a chortle and a raised brow. Get past the giggles, and it makes economic sense for hotels.
“A hotel with 100 rooms now has the potential to sell 150 or even 200 rooms per 24 hours,” said Christopher Muller, a professor and former dean of Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration. “This is an amazing increase of capacity with no additional fixed cost investment and only a small room cleaning charge.”
Muller said the arrival of day-use rooms is not likely to lead to the extinction of early check-ins or late check-outs. Most late check-ins happen after 6 p.m., and the majority of travelers check out of their rooms by 9 a.m.
Paul Sacco, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Lodging Association, said he sees day-stay rooms as a benefit to travelers.
“Anything we can do to reduce the stress of travel is a plus,” he said.
Despite the benefits, industry unease remains. Remco Visbach, managing director of the Amsterdam-based site Between 9 and 5, said he’s worked with Hyatt, Sofitel, and Holiday Inn, but still sees some resistance from US hotels.
Stevenson likened the arrival of day-use hotel rooms to Airbnb.
“At first people were uncomfortable opening up their homes to strangers,” he said. “Now it’s just a part of the travel landscape.”
A group that doesn’t seem reluctant to take advantage of day-stay rooms is millennials.
“They don’t see the market the same way that Generation X did,” he said. “For them it’s about getting what you want, when you want it.”
While website developers go about extracting minds from gutters on the subject of daytime hotel stays, no amount of sanitizing can change human nature.
“Being realistic, this will still appeal to the discreet afternoon tryst market, just as it always has,” Muller said. “But with a much more discreet online booking system.”