The strange world of ‘love motels’

Story highlights

  • Francesco Giusti photographed around 20 “love motels” in Colombia
  • The rooms, which can be paid for by the hour, are often elaborately decorated

“The first night I was there, I saw (the statue) and I thought, I want to know more,” Giusti said.

After investigating during the day, he discovered it was a “love motel.”

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The Residencias Kiss Me, or Kiss Me Motel, is a place for lovers and friends to convene and do as they please, for however long they’d like. The statue acts as an advertisement, a beacon really, to entice customers to explore one of its many themed rooms.

Photographer Francesco Giusti

Photographer Francesco Giusti

“You can rent the rooms for one or two hours, or all night long … depending on what you want to do,” Giusti said.

For Giusti, it was a place to rest for a few hours in between assignments. But for regular patrons, it’s a chance to have sex in a bed inside an igloo, or a pagoda, or a spaceship.

“The atmosphere was fascinating to me,” Giusti said.

Giusti’s experience prompted him to explore and photograph other love motels around the country. He’s since visited around 20 motels in Colombia — mostly in Cali, some in the capital city of Bogota. The motels in Bogota are more modern, he said, while those in Cali are more eclectic.

Some rooms are very elaborate, complete with statues, props and a menu where a guest can order anything from food to drinks to “toys.” Other rooms have the bare essentials: a bed, a chair, maybe a window.

The modern-day love motel is not exclusive to Colombia. The concept initially became popular in Japan, and it has caught on in many other countries around the world.

In Colombia, “young people live with their parents into their late 20s,” Giusti said, “so there is a need for places you can go spend the night with your partner without your parents in the next room.”

But at the motels he visited, guests are from all ages. Some of them are even married.

The motels are typically owned by families, Giusti said, and they take their work seriously both fiscally and creatively.

Sometimes families own a chain of inns, employing family members to do things like decorate.

“The daughter of the owner of the Kiss Me Hotel has these great visions,” Giusti said. She’s the designer, conjuring up elaborate worlds for people to share an experience together.

“It’s really fun and unusual,” Giusti said, “this strange world linked to sex.”