Designed for love

Upscale love motels are setting new standards of hospitality in Taiwan

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, Jun 23, 2005 - Page 13

Japan made them famous in the 1960s, South Korea has been marketing the concept for years and now Taiwan is designing some of the most luxurious love hotels in the business. In the last five-years, they have transformed their dated image of sleazy, windowless rooms into a multi-billion dollar industry.

"It is no longer necessary for lovers to resort to cheap or dirty rooms when they want to spend a few hours alone," said WeGo Taipei manager Henry Bai (白嗣亨).

WeGo Motel (薇閣旅館) is reputed to be one of the most popular love motels in the country offering high-end rooms to couples. It awed locals in 2002 when a spacious 87-room facility was constructed on a 3,000 ping (9,900m2) piece of land. From pleasure dens with ceiling mirrors to more wholesome concepts based on popular Hollywood films, such as the Titanic Room, WeGo rooms are decorated in one of six themes. The interior decor is upmarket and apart from a package of condoms placed on the bedside table, it is not particularly clear this is a love motel.

"We don't want to convey a sex hotel image, so we don't put much sex equipment [paraphernalia] in the rooms. We are branding the love motel concept, with an emphasis on style and luxury," Bai said.

LOVE AND RIVALRY

Riding on the success of WeGo's hedonist paradise are a growing number of love villas in Taichung, and Kaohsiung, which boast larger, more extravagant rooms. One of the latest and most upscale additions to the market is Mulan Motel (沐蘭 Motel) in Taichung, made in the likeness of a lavish spa resort.

The high price of land in Taipei has kept WeGo's competitors to a minimum. On a similar sized plot of land, I MORE Motel (愛摩兒時尚館) houses 70 rooms, some as large as 60 ping (198m2).

Opened in December last year, I MORE's rooms are clearly bigger than those at WeGo, but use the same theme-style approach in their interior decoration. In addition to the queen-sized bedroom furniture is a variety of recreational equipment from big screen TV's (often more than one) and karaoke to rooms fitted with a private pool. Bathrooms are the main attraction, however, with a sauna, shower and party-sized hot tub in every room. The major difference between the two motels is I MORE's emphasis on sex with its sex-toy slot machines and selection of imported mechanical sex chairs. The motel also hired two actors to demonstrate 48 positions for an instructional program that plays on one of the many available adult channels.

Clients range in age from 25 to 50, but despite the queue of luxury sedans driving in, rooms are not always occupied by the wealthy.

"Maybe they are not rich, but they will spend the money on a motel, because for a short time they can be treated and pretend like they are rich," said I MORE marketing manager Kyle Lai (賴侑陞). "Actually we don't call ourselves a `love motel,' we like to think of this as a `dream motel.' We are selling dreams, not rooms."

Wealthy or not, those dreams come with a hefty price tag.

A two hour "rest" at either motel can cost upward of NT$2,500, or NT$6,800 for 12 hours. For a large number of couples, however, it remains a small price to pay. An average day at WeGo Taipei sees 500 couples, which even at the least expensive rate of NT$1,500, translates as NT$750,000 per day. Weekends and rainy days draw an even larger turnover resulting in a queue of cars waiting three to four hours, Bai said. Both have overfill parking lots for patrons willing to wait it out.

CLEANING UP

Once inside guests are treated with superior service. Both WeGo and I MORE have ISO 9001 certification, which assumes an international standard of quality in the hospitality industry. Cleaning procedures demand three housekeepers to clean one room, which is inspected prior to being rented out. Both motels claimed housekeepers spend 20 to 30 minutes per room. Bathrooms and bedrooms are also stocked with a wide selection of toiletries and confectioneries that compare, if not exceed in quantity, those found in a five-star hotel. Despite the comparable room prices and standards to fashionable business hotels, love motels are for couples only. No more and no less than two people are permitted in a room at one time, and no entrance is permitted to anyone below18 years of age.

Love motels, new and old, are viewed as models of discretion, according to Lai, who assures anonymity and said guests rarely see the staff.

Normally, a receptionist sits in a booth at the entrance of the building greeting drivers and directing them to a room. A garage door automatically opens and closes once the car enters. Any room service is delivered to a special area outside the door, after which the wait staff leaves and notifies the guests by telephone that the food has arrived. I MORE has a separate hallway accessible only to the housekeeping "or guests in need of an escape route," Lai said.

WeGo doesn't have a secret passageway but it does have a pre-recorded soundtrack device that, with a a flick of the remote, will reproduce the background noise heard at a MRT station, beach or office when making a phone call.

Designed for love, the motels are setting hospitality standards. "Romance motels are designing some of the most luxurious, high-tech rooms in the country," Lai said.