100 Lighting Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Nearly a decade ago, I stayed at the then brand-new Axel Hotel in Barcelona, a groundbreaking, 66-unit boutique “life- style” hotel that was aimed at LGBT travelers but advertised itself as “hetero- friendly”— a surprising term for that ime.
This March, New York, by many measures a more
popular LGBT destination than comparatively tiny
Barcelona, finally got its own updated and expanded
equivalent of the Axel: The Out NYC, a 105-unit urban
resort on West 42nd Street in Manhattan that goes the
original, pint-sized Axel several better by also offering a
world-class nightclub, full-service spa and fitness center and conference facilities. (There are now two other
Axels, in Berlin and Buenos Aires.)
Like its trailblazing Spanish forebear, The Out NYC also
offers a restaurant and outdoor decks for city sunbathing. And it,
too, professes “straight-friendliness.”
Co-owner Ian Reisner said he and business partner Mati Wei-
derpass wanted to build a gay hotel, for gay people by gay people,
but one that would welcome non-LGBT guests, as well. He origi-
nally envisioned an 80% gay, 20% straight client mix.
“We’ve been open for two months now, and it’s played out
almost perfectly according to that playbook,” Reisner told me.
“We’ve had about 7,000 guests stay with us since we opened our
doors, and actually about 30% ... have been straight.”
The property’s mainstream guests haven’t just wandered in un-
awares and then beat a hasty departure, either.
“We advise guests at booking and check-in that we’re a gay-oriented hotel, and almost unanimously they tell us that’s why
they chose us,” Reisner said, adding that about a third of straight
guests at The Out NYC hail from relatively more liberal European
“Europeans have a much different sensibility about gay venues
than do most Americans,” he said. “When it comes to gay vs.
straight, they couldn’t care less.”
Even the hotel’s 14,000-square-foot, on-site dance club, XL,
run by legendary Gotham gay nightlife impresario John Blair, is
seeing 25% straight business. The Out NYC is also home to an
orientation-neutral, 400-member social and arts club, called the
Outhouse, “for whom we bring in artists to hang art and arrange
book signings, music performances and dance from companies
such as Paul Taylor Dance Co.,” Reisner said.
David Paisley, senior projects director at Community Marketing
in San Francisco, said that while U.S. cities and resorts have long
offered smaller, less upscale all-LGBT accommodations venues,
The Out NYC and a similar new property in Miami Beach, Lords
Revive, the 5,000-square-foot spa and fitness center at The Out NYC.
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South Beach, are the first instances of a higher-end, gay-but-straight-friendly property along the lines of an Axel Hotel.
“All eyes are on these two properties to see if they can pull off
this concept,” Paisley said. “The question is, can it be [done] in
If The Out NYC and Lords South Beach thrive, “expect a little
baby boom” in this phenomenon, Paisley said, adding that Com-
munity Marketing has fielded calls from hotel developers inter-
ested in the model.
“I’m not expecting to see 20 all-gay hotels in each U.S. city,
but major destinations should be able to support one or two of
them,” he said.
The Out NYC is also innovative in that, in addition to traditional
guest units such as deluxe rooms and one-bedroom suites, it’s
offering four-bed, youth hostel-style “Sleep Share” rooms priced
from $99 a night per person. Guests in those units enjoy free
WiFi, a personal 22-inch TV and a workspace but share a common bathroom.
In addition to XL, on-site facilities include Revive, a
5,000-square-foot spa and fitness center; Ktchn, the hotel’s restaurant serving New American cuisine for brunch, lunch, dinner
and late-night snacks; and the Courtyards, three outdoor spaces
that include a sun deck, garden and Great Lawn.
The Out NYC is affiliated with Genre Hotels, a Los Angeles-based marketing group of nearly 30 lifestyle properties in the U.S.
“They’re our sales, marketing, GDS code, our booking en-
gine, our everything,” Reisner said. “They’re basically out there
combing the world and talking with people, including LGBT and
straight travel agents.”
For more, visit http://theoutnyc.com. — K.K.
Continued from Page 20
travel products and suppliers? Will gay charter cruises and the like one day be a thing of
the past? After all, in Scandinavian countries
such as Sweden and Norway, which have a
long history of sexual tolerance, it’s been difficult for some time now for visitors to locate
an all-gay bar or club, Nordic nightlife being
thoroughly integrated and egalitarian.
Gundvaldson at RSVP said that “there’s
always been speculation that our market
will go away or be integrated at some point,
but I don’t see that in the very near future.
We still have a strong population that wants
an all-gay vacation … something with an
utter sense of comfort and being able to
travel with people who are like-minded
while completely being themselves.”
Moreover, he said, “Even as gays gain
rights around the world, there’s still not
that complete and total acceptance where
[LGBT] people can be completely comfort-
Still, Gundvaldson allowed that travel
will certainly become more integrated with
time, and, he said, even today “there’s room
in the market for a product that encompass-
es both the gay and straight communities.”
Cruises an ‘easy sell’
For the time being, industry figures say,
gay cruises, as an established, known quantity in the marketplace, happen to be the
best entree into the LGBT market for travel
agents of all orientations.
According to Gundvaldson, retailers are
“extremely important” to RSVP Vacations
and still account for 60% of all bookings.
“We don’t directly track agent [sexual
orientation] but we have several good
agents who cater more to the LGBT mar-
ket,” he noted. “Probably the top 10% of
our agents who do the majority, or 80%,
of our bookings deal mostly in the LGBT
market. And then the rest are a mix.”
Gundvaldson said selling gay cruises is
“a good way for agents to win over LGBT
clientele. … We make it extremely easy for
the agent, providing a turnkey product for
their client, something with an extremely
good reputation that they know they’re go-
ing to succeed with and that their guests
will be extremely happy with.”
He added: “If agents are looking to get
into the market and attract LGBT clients,
it’s a great time to jump in and earn some
Gay specialist agent Klein at Now, Voy-
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