Brazil has a reputation for being a hotbed of amorous activity. Brazil is either sexy or tawdry or gross, depending on how you look at it. Whichever one you go with, a place like that needs many hotels that charge by the hour, because who wants to pay for a whole night when all you really need is 20 minutes? They’re called “motels” in Portuguese, and with a lodging shortage facing Brazil for 2014, many are changing their ways. Get that bondage chair out of here, fellas. We’re going legit.
Like about a third of the city’s 180 hotels that rent rooms by the hour, mostly for amorous rendezvous, the Shalimar is trading its oversized round beds and bondage-ready chairs for proper couches, functional desks and other businesslike furnishings. The goal is reinvention as a standard pay-by-the-day tourist hotel.
The Shalimar Hotel in Rio literally has a room with a bondage chair. The room is medieval themed, actually, complete with chains hanging on the wall and depictions of faux medieval “porn” (I have no idea what’s up with the depiction of the pregnant lady, however. Odd inclusion).
And who doesn’t want to stay in a hotel (again, not for long) with rooms with poles for poledancing?
But all of that is a thing of the past, at least until the rooms are no longer needed to help house thousands of tourists expected to hit the country for the World Cup and the Olympics.
Damn. What fun is that?
Can’t have the sexy decor scaring off the sports fans, though.
“Motels have all the know-how to be able to put people from around the world up in style,” said Antonio Cerqueira, a vice president of the Rio chapter of the ABIH hotel owners association, Brazil’s largest. “What throws people is really just the decoration.”
Rio has about half of the 50,000 beds that authorities believe will be needed for the Olympics in 2016, hence the transformation. Just don’t put a black light on the sheets.
But, because this is Brazil, people don’t view the love shack motels as a blight. Changing them over to standard pay-by-the-night hotels doesn’t sit well with everyone. It’s culture.
Teacher Paula Moura said motels were an institution in Rio’s cultural landscape, and would be sorely missed if they disappeared. She said she used to go at least once a month with her boyfriend.
“We’d dress up, look for different ambiances,” she said. “Plus you don’t have mirrors like that at home!”
Now that she’s unattached, she likes them because they’re a neutral space, she said.
“You don’t bring someone you don’t know well into your house, and you don’t expose yourself by going over to their house,” she said.
Still, love motels are having trouble filling their rooms, so the change could be for the better. Regular hotels in Rio run at 80% capacity; the motels are lucky to hit 50%.
The Shalimar is currently working through the rooms, renovating four or so at a time. They will leave a few theme rooms, however.
The new rooms “are the kind of place where you can stay for more than an hour without running away screaming,” she said, adding that both the renovated and old-style rooms range in price from $34-$190 for a 12-hour rental, the preferred length of stay for business travelers.
The Shalimar’s management is planning to overhaul nearly all the units ahead of the Olympics, leaving but a few theme rooms, like the iron chain-strewn medieval suite.
Huzzah! Would be a shame to lose that lovely refined dungeon feel, don’t you think?