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But over the past decade, motels in South Korea have seen an interesting rebirth of sorts: And more people are less ashamed. Motel interiors, too, are breaking away from the tack and kink that was once part of their reputation. Okay, prison-cell themed rooms do still exist. I arrived at Sokcho Bus Terminal on the East coast of South Korea; I asked the nearby tourist kiosk where I could sleep the night, and was directed to a nearby motel.
What would await me inside? Innocent self that I was, my heart was palpitating, faced with the flashing neon lights and shady entrance that I had to walk through. There was no lobby, just a small low-rise window no more than 20 square centimeters through which appeared a pair of anonymous hands. I was given a key in return, the room number written on it. It included several condoms, lubricating gel, desensitizing cream, and the likes. Well, at least that saved me the embarrassment from buying such necessities had I, well, felt the need.
There was no check-out the next morning: I simply placed the key inside a basket hanging inside the elevator. And that was it. But things have changed rapidly in the past decade, owing in part to the popularization of accommodation booking platforms that specialize in motels. Launched in , it is now one of two major players in the South Korean online and mobile accommodation booking markets, the other being Yeogi Ottae , which debuted in The hotel industry in comparison, generated 3.
Before Yanolja there was no online booking platform for motels. Most customers simply turned up at the anonymous front desk and exchanged banknotes for a key. Accommodation booking websites and apps like Yanolja have transformed the domestic motel — and hotel — industry.
With fierce competition, motels now seek to lure guests with the most eye-catching photos. A survey conducted by research firm OpenSurvey found that approximately 68 percent of motel operators agreed or strongly agreed that booking apps had increased their revenues. The poll also found that operators believed apps like Yanolja had helped improve the image of motels. It is now not uncommon to step into a motel lobby and eat popcorn while waiting to check-in. Or ice cream for that matter. Some are even equipped with gyms.