Having been running a gay hotel on Crete, Greece for the last five years, I do try to keep my finger ‘on the pulse’ of what is happening not only locally but worldwide, in the gay accommodation industry. During that five years various other people have come up with gay accommodation on Crete, presumably expecting to make a killing by renting apartment blocks and even going as far as building a whole gay resort, albeit only small, just for gay and lesbian travellers. Without exception they have lasted only a year, maybe two, before they close!
Just lately I have been getting more than usual the number of alerts from ‘Google Alerts’ for gay hotels and travel, not only in Greece but around the world, and not for just hotels, but travel agents who are now offering gay friendly holidays. In these difficult times for business it seems that many more businesses are chasing the ‘Pink Dollar’, Pound, Yen, or even Euro, and advertising their services as ‘gay friendly’.
Taking a brief look at some of the new sites that have sprung up, and also many that already existed has proved an interesting experience just lately as the same hotels appear over and over again, and almost without exception the hotels on offer are just ordinary hotels, some of whom have been thoughtful enough to put ‘gay’ or ‘gay friendly’ in their web site search terms, but in general this is probably the only place on their web site where the word ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ is to be seen!
The other notable feature of virtually all of these hotels is that they are all in the upper price and luxury bracket. So it seems that if you are gay or lesbian then you will automatically be able to afford room rates that start at EUR150 per night excluding breakfast?
Now I don’t know about all of you, but while it might be nice to occasionally spend a night in a 5 star hotel with health spa, tennis courts, private golf course, your own Jacuzzi on the balcony and so on, none of which you are going to use, because you arrive at 6pm and they throw you out at 10am the following day, (you would think at that price they could afford to pay a cleaner to work until 6pm). And, I for one avoid Jacuzzis. I can never see the point of spending ages in a lukewarm bath with jets of water and bubbles bouncing ones testicles around, added to which you never know what was going on it in it yesterday, (or maybe I have been watching the wrong sort of movies), and then you get out looking like a white prune, and you still have to take a shower because you can’t use soap in a Jacuzzi.
And after all that you have just spent three weeks (or more) food money and didn’t get anything to eat except the complementary chocolate on the pillow. Just because you are gay does not mean you have pots of dosh, some of us are rubbish collectors, cleaners, nurses, teachers, even guesthouse owners and we just do not have that kind of money to spend, what we need is clean comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price!
So why do all these ‘gay’ web sites list this type of accommodation? I have a sneaking feeling that it is because they are the only hotels that can afford to pay the agents a reasonable commission. I get agents approach me and seem disappointed that they are only going to make 15 euros out of a one week stay and nothing at all for anything less than 3 nights, but then I am not in the business of lining another companies pockets or allowing them to ride off my back and all the hard work I have put into my business!
And then we come to the gay friendly part. How does that fit in with the rest of the guests who always seem to be families from other parts of Europe, with three children and who spend all day by the pool while the children are in the non-English speaking crèche? Gay anonymous I call it not gay friendly. You can quite easily disappear into the throng of 2,500 straight guests staying in the same hotel and nobody really cares whether you are gay or not because they don’t even know your name!
If you really want to check if a hotel is gay friendly then ask the receptionist where the nearest nudist beach is located. This is usually one of the first questions I get asked before guests even make the booking, that and the distance to the nearest gay club.
I tried this at one of my local 5 star hotels where I had the pleasure of staying at someone else’s expense for two nights. The girl on the desk looked rather bemused, dealt with some other guests in various languages, very fluently, none of them English, and talked to a member of the service staff in what sounded Spanish, before coming back to me and announcing that nude sunbathing was not allowed.
Obviously as she was a mine of non-information and as I was in a daring mood I asked her if there were any gay bars close by. This confused her even more so I expanded on the theme and asked about bars for homosexuals. This struck a chord because she turned to colleague and asked him, and then came back with the reply that there were no homosexuals in this area!
So for EUR250 per night I got a quite nice room, comfortably furnished, clean, with a nice little terrace outside where I could hold a conversation with the guests in the next apartment, 2 tea bags and 2 little sachets of coffee, 2 biscuits in foil wrapper, and 2 of those little plastic pots of milk, yes, you know the ones. The ones where the foil top suddenly gives way and you splash most of the contents over the carpet and yourself. Not forgetting the quite classy but very small soap and things in the bathroom.
So where does the gay friendly come in? Seems to me like it doesn’t!
You want a gay hotel then look for the web site that says ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ in black and white on the home page. Look for the place where they can tell you where the nearest nudist beach is, where the nearest gay bar is, and if they don’t know they should!