Americans call them “no-tell-motels.” In Japan, they’re known as “love hotels.” Whatever their name, by-the-hour accommodations have long been a staple of the extramarital affair. Now, one company is bringing pay-per-use hotel rooms mainstream with a clever, by-the-minute mobile app.
Recharge is a free smartphone app (available for iPhone and Android) that allows travelers to book flexible, short-term stays at participating hotels. To sidestep the long-standing stigma of such hotel pricing schemes, the company is working exclusively with four- and five-star hotels. Among their luxury partners: W San Francisco and Taj Campton Place, plus New York City’s The Pierre and 1 Hotel Central Park. These are the sorts of hotels where “paying by the hour” is more brag-worthy than bawdy.
In practice, the booking process is simple. Guests launch the app and choose a nearby hotel. After tapping “Book Now,” their room is instantly ready for check-in. Hotels provide a 30-minute “grace period” to allow adequate travel time for guests to reach the hotel. Upon arrival, the room keys are available at reception. Each room’s full list of amenities — including housekeeping — is available for the duration of each stay. Once the guest is sufficiently “recharged,” they just tap “Checkout” and exit the room. The final bill is tallied based on the exact number of minutes of each stay (though some properties have minimum time requirements).
Rates vary depending on the hotel, though the company claims they range from $0.66 to $3 USD per minute plus a mandatory city-specific lodging tax. A two-hour stay (the average for most guests) could cost north of $300, but that’s still a far cry from the $800-plus nightly rates for most luxury NYC properties. The app ostensibly targets business executives (and those with virtually limitless expense accounts) who might arrive in a city during off-peak hours and need only a quick nap and a shower. It’s a novel concept that makes smart use of the vacancies often available at most hotels.
As of May 2017, the service is only available at select upscale and luxury hotels in New York City and San Francisco. If the initial pilot launch proves successful, the company plans to expand quickly to other destinations. With JetBlue Technology Ventures — the successful airline’s brilliant travel tech arm — as a backer, we’ve no doubt this app will take off.