Sexy, sleazy or practical – perhaps three adjectives that could be used to describe the phenomenon of booking a hotel during the middle of the day. Walk-in bookings have long been the underbelly of the hospitality industry, often associated with sordid activities, affairs and even prostitution.
While the use of hotels for, ahem, ‘pleasure’ has often been more covert, recently opened properties such as Hotel Love in Osaka, Japan, have given birth to what is now known as a ‘love hotel’ – a short-stay property operated primarily for the purpose of allowing couples to visit on a short-notice and hurried basis.
Such brazenly marketed hotels do not exist in the UK, and hooking up for a secret fling often involves subtly walking into an otherwise ‘normal’ hotel and booking a room for a few hours in the middle of the day. Despite this, one tech startup believes that the market for daytime bookings is a large one – not just for those looking for a surreptitious four-hour reservation, but for customers on business trips who are looking for a place to stay and freshen up.
Dayuse has decided to take daytime bookings to the next level, launching an online platform that allows independent hoteliers and large chains alike to advertise their properties for use throughout the day. Lorenzo Sciotti, UK business development manager at Dayuse, says: “It’s something that always has existed within hotels on a walk-in basis. What was missing was an online platform that allowed a company to industrialise the service, so this is how we developed the idea.”
Dayuse was first founded in Paris in 2010 after CEO David Lebée – who had previously managed several hotels in the French capital – noticed a gap in the market for a company where clients could specifically book daytime reservations. The company then branched out to Italy in 2013, and its UK launch followed shortly afterwards. The website now has properties available in 14 countries and has more than 20,000 hotels listed on its website, with some 300 hotel partners across some of the UK’s largest cities.
Sciotti says that the company is “revolutionising the whole concept related to the hotel industry”, claiming that 100% occupancy doesn’t represent the limit anymore. The idea behind the firm is to rent rooms twice a day, and Sciotti says with an average Dayuse reservation in the UK costing £76, the company can generate up to 10% of additional revenue for a hotel.
The company is now developing various offers to help hoteliers capitalise on additional revenues. Its normal offer starts in the morning and goes until the afternoon; the new ‘late break’ offer starts in the middle of the afternoon and goes on until the evenin; and its ‘daycation’ offer aims to give customers a “day off from what would be the normal routine of everyday work and life”. Sciotti says this offer in particular allows hoteliers to capitalise on additional revenue from hotel facilities such as swimming pools, spas, bars, restaurants and meeting rooms.
THE IDEAL CUSTOMER
One feature that the firm is keen to advertise on its website is that there is ‘no credit card required’ to make a booking, unless it also includes an overnight stay. While the need to purchase of goods or services without a credit card could be fairly construed as clandestine, Sciotti is quick to insist that this is not signpost for a particular sort of clientele – rather Dayuse’s intended ease of use for the consumer. “Due to our free cancellation guarantee for our clients it makes no sense for us to ask for a credit card because the idea behind a card it to charge the clients. Since we are talking about renting rooms that are empty there is no loss for the hotel, rather a lack of revenue,” he says.
While traditional daytime hotel bookings have been for casual flings, Dayuse has been eager to change this preconception and has tried to target its product towards what Sciotti describes as business clientele and ‘travellers in transit’. “In the past, before we even arrived on the market, we have always been associated with what can be described as a leisure couple clientele. What we did, which was completely removed from that, was target a business clientele and travellers in transit who weren’t aware the service existed. There are a lot of people that move to the UK for a day on business, [and] they are missing a place where they can live, sleep or organise an interview. We supply an answer for these needs,” he says.
The idea of the credit card-free payment is to simplify the process and allow guest payments to run as quickly and smoothly as possible. Though it does of course avoid any awkward questions about itemised bank statements. While the company has worked hard to move away from that seedy cliche – which will be helped by an extensive marketing plan from a $15m (£10.5m) fundraiser it recently closed in December – it would be naive to suggest the feature does not still appeal to those looking for a business-hours tryst.
Despite this, the calibre of properties the company has partnered with should soon put the notion of sleaziness to bed. From high-end boutique independents to large hotel chains, the properties featured on its website certainly do not conjure the old perception of a quick bit of fun at a low-budget hotel. Dayuse has global agreements in place with high-end chains such as AccorHotels and Millennium & Copthorne, and also lists luxury properties such as Manchester’s recently opened Hotel Gotham and London’s five-star Hilton Bankside.
Whether the firm’s client base consists predominantly of the pit-stopping business workers or illicit romantic affairs, it is hard to tell. Sciotti says the website has around 100,000 users, with an average of around 3,500 bookings in the UK each month. He claims the company is expecting to reach roughly 10,000 bookings per month by the end of the year in the UK alone. The company says that the UK has shown some of the most promising results in Europe, claiming that it will soon be its top European market and plans on reaching at least 1,000 hotels to cover the country in the next five years.
Dayuse certainly offers a unique opportunity for the independent hotelier to capture new custom and boost revenue – but in the name of discretion, a blind eye and a swift check-in process are probably still advisable.
This article first appeared in the April 2016 issue of Hotel Owner