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Does “Room By Hour” Always Mean “Room For Sex”?

By Sandeep Jaiswal:

It has been more than 2 months since we launched MiStay – an initiative which allows booking rooms by number of hours stayed. While we have been overwhelmed by the response from travellers about how this is going to make their life easy, we have also often encountered various misinterpretations or concerns from people. Here are some such concerns:

So basically you provide room for sex?

How are you different from the XYZ start-up providing rooms for unmarried couples?

Isn’t this going to promote prostitution?

“Kucchh to log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna” (Sorry, I won’t do the usual boring English translation here.)

This is the first thought that comes to my mind on hearing these. Though having frequently faced scepticism around what we do, I realise that there is a need for us to speak out and communicate our value proposition boldly.

The stigma attached with ‘Room by Hour’ tag makes some people immediately think that what we are doing is providing rooms for sex. This taboo is clearly reflected in our popular culture. Recall the scene from Jab We Met (a blockbuster Hindi movie) in which Kareena wants to get a room on an hourly basis and Shahid retorts that she doesn’t understand what that means. All they needed the room was for a short rest, NOT SEX!

Source: tamaralvarez/Flickr
Source: tamaralvarez/Flickr

If We Don’t Facilitate Sex, What Do We Do Then?

“We are changing the rules of hospitality to bring flexibility and fairness to travellers”

Changing the rules of hospitality: Fixed check-in and check-out time and full-day bookings have been the norm since always. We are breaking this age-old tradition.

Flexibility: We shall not have to wait till 12 noon if we want to check-in early or if we want to vacate the room by 11 am, if we require it for a few more hours. We shall have the flexibility to book rooms as per our needs.

Fairness: We feel that it is unethical and unfair to be charged for an entire day when we use a room for only a few hours. Imagine booking a cab for an entire day when you need it only for an hour to go to work.

Travellers: Be it business travel or travel for leisure, the problem with rigidity in hotel booking has affected every kind of traveller. We want to resolve this problem for travellers.

Are We The First Ones To Do This?

We are NOT the first ones to have identified this problem. In India alone, there are more than a dozen start-ups who have tried to solve this problem. Some of them have already shut-down, some pivoted into a different segment sensing a better market opportunity, some are struggling, while some are yet to launch. The reason we still exist is for the single fact that the problem with rigid full day hotel booking is still unsolved. It is an extremely challenging task, and we aim to break this age-old tradition and be the trend-setter.

Isn’t This Concept Also Useful To Unmarried Couples?

There will be many scenarios when this concept is useful. Couples booking a room could be one of them. We, however, may not be able to fix all the problems in the universe in one lifespan. We are travel freaks. Having faced the problem as travellers ourselves, we want to do this for the traveller community. Perhaps, the problem with unmarried couples being denied rooms is also a genuine problem, and if we happen to be indirectly playing some role in helping them as well – it will be a privilege to help. But we are NOT focused on solving the problem for unmarried couples.

So We Do Not Provide Room For Local ID Holding Or Unmarried Couples?

We do, as long as hoteliers are already fine with it. If there is no mention of restrictions related to allowing local ID/ unmarried couples in the hotel policy section of the hotel profile page on our website, it means that those hotels accept local ID/ unmarried couples.

Why Are Hoteliers Doing Moral Policing By Not Allowing Unmarried Couples?

Hoteliers are not doing moral policing by not allowing local ID/ unmarried couples. While no law prevents letting room to local ID/ unmarried couples, the law does prevent letting hotel room for prostitution. Hoteliers have no fool-proof way of identifying which are genuine couples and which are cases of prostitution. Some hotels do not want to run the risk of unknowingly letting the room for prostitution (which can cause a huge damage to the hotel’s reputation and may also attract legal hassles). And that’s why these hotels restrict local residents/unmarried couples as a precautionary measure.

So Rooms Are Required For Few Hours For Reasons Other Than Sex?

Absolutely. Any frequent traveller can vouch for this. The first booking we received was by a group of travellers who had landed in Delhi at noon and had a connecting flight early morning next day. They booked only the Day & Night slots at MiStay instead of booking for a full day. The 2nd booking was by a person who had landed at 5 pm and wanted to just freshen up and relax for a while before his connecting flight at 9 pm. He only booked the Day slot at MiStay, instead of booking and paying for a full day at other platforms. Almost all our customers have been the travellers who wanted to escape the annoying system of full day booking with rigid check-in/check-out time.

On a personal level, I do believe that unmarried couples should not be denied rooms at any hotel. However, our focus now is solving the problem for travellers. MiStay is by travellers, for the travellers.

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