Updated: August 14, 2022
Is there room for champagne and chocolate when the planet is burning? One recent Tuesday, fifty hospitality and marketing professionals gathered in a suite at the Greenwich Hotel to hear the findings of a report put together by the London-based boutique-hotel booking service Mr & Mrs Smith and a consulting firm called the Future Laboratory. The subject: the future of romantic travel.
“No one needs another report that’s about the next hotel that might be on the moon or Mars,” James Lohan said. He had been a night-club promoter before he founded Mr & Mrs Smith, in 2003, with his wife, Tamara, who used to run a matchmaking service.
“Or robots,” Tamara added. She wore a dress with a swirly black-and-white print.
The name of Mr & Mrs Smith, which began as a hotel guidebook, is a reference to a time when unmarried couples had to sign hotel registers with an alias. “We’re celebrating the great British dirty weekend,” James said. “A celebration of going away with someone you love—in wedlock, out of wedlock! We’re not worried about who you are, what you are.”
“In the first book, one of our reviewers went away as part of a throuple,” Tamara said.
“Too many guides are a bit worthy or a bit too worried,” James said. He wore silver boots and a blue velvet blazer.
As guests sat in front of a big screen, the Lohans summarized the changes in the boutique-hotel sphere over the past two decades. Décor: less froufrou. Bedding: less itchy. Bathrooms: “No more drying soaps in small dispensers,” James said. Instead, “Aesop and Malin & Goats, or Goetz, or however you say it.” In the unexpected-guest category: “Airbnbobviously turned up,” he said, “which was a shock to all of us, that you could charge people money to sleep on your floor.”
He introduced Chris Sanderson, of the Future Laboratory, which interviewed experts in travel and related fields (marijuana, sex) to come up with its findings, summarized in a forty-seven-page report. In a teal blazer and a blue pocket square, Sanderson advanced a new term for the nascent decade—“the Transformative Twenties.” He rattled off potential trends, such as the Enlarge Your Paris Project (“You have to be careful how you say that,” he joked), which seeks to connect travellers to lesser-known locales. He predicted a lot of connecting. “Flexecutives” may connect over “peakends”—Thursday-to-Monday holidays bookended by telecommuting. Guests can expect hotels to connect them with opportunities to volunteer, to ingestCBD, or to participate in threesomes.
“Maybe we say goodbye to the candlelit dinner and hello to biometrically responsive room lighting,” Sanderson said. “Increasingly, the aphrodisiac won’t be in the oyster, it’s maybe in the way the oyster’s been collected.” There were slides touting a new travel vocabulary: “nuptial nomadism,” “polycule peregrinations,” “self-romance,” and “buddymoons, where we celebrate love between same-sex relationships, but not as you imagine them, because this is about straight mates with their gay friends,” Sanderson said. “Or what about a ‘brotopian break’?”
The discussion adjourned for drinks. “Some of it is obvious,” Rebecca Soloff, from Six Senses hotels, said. “People want nontoxic, they want organic, they want local, they want raw materials.” She went on, “But sexual wellness becoming a thirty-two-billion-dollar industry?”—a statistic from the presentation—“that’s not something I was expecting.”
Experts who contributed to the report took questions. “Do you see this whole theory as a global mind-set?” a woman asked. “Or are Americans more open to talking about sex and cannabis and all these other wonderful things?”
“I see a lot of customers from all over the world who might be coming from a more conservative environment,” Eva Goicochea, the founder of Maude, a line of sex products, said.
“Age range?” another woman asked.
“Statistically speaking, people over thirty-five are having way more sex than people under thirty-five, which is great,” Goicochea said. “We’ve sort of said that sex is for everyone, like food is for everybody.”
“One of the fastest-growing demographics of cannabis consumers is fifty-five and up,” Verena von Pfetten, a founder of the cannabis-media company Gossamer, said. “It’s not about getting fucked up. It can be to eat Chinese food and watch Netflix,” she added, “but maybe it’s also a turndown service with a sleep tincture, or a massage with CBD oil.”
Near a table displaying bottles of Maude lubricant, Peter Barsoom, the C.E.O. of the edibles company 1906, described his wares. “We have a product for sleep, and we have a product for sex,” he said. “Imagine, in your minibar, you had a ‘Love’ chocolate and a ‘Midnight’ chocolate. Those are the two things we want when we’re in a hotel room: either sex or a good night’s sleep.” ♦