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Why sex, lies, and videotape is the stuff of the perfect holiday

Vijay Verghese, Editor, Smart Travel AsiaTravellers are looking for something extraordinary as they chase sunny beaches and g-spots. We suggest turning off your phone and going local, minus the moans.

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by Vijay Verghese/ Editor

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Sexual healing courses are coming to some posh hotels

It's back to the future but no more forbidden Victorian love. This time the sexual wellness classes and sex concierges are for real and they're appearing at tony hotels.

SO YOU'VE BEEN LOCKED up, quarantined, restricted, lectured, jabbed, traumatised, certified and finally released. Two years have whizzed by. You might say much water has flowed down the drain. So where do you want to go? And what do you want to do? Here's what's happening in the world and some travel tips as you wheel out that musty Samsonite.

Revenge travel is the suddenly fashionable term for the uncorked and often unhinged stampede for flights, not always with the desired outcomes, as many Shanghai residents emerging from weeks of lockdown discovered. They flew to the balmy south only to be locked up in their hotel rooms as Hainan — China's Hawaii — clamped down on Covid.

In more liberated regions, hotels are quietly rolling out a fresh novelty. Sex retreats for couples and swinging singles have been around for a while as whispered secrets on the fringes of genteel conversation. Now they're becoming mainstream. Wellness was globally valued as a US$4.9 trillion industry in 2019. Its new buzzwords include sexual awakening, tantric massage, and sexual wellness. Marketers believe that adding the wellness suffix adds a healthy palatable tinge to things. It is a surreptitious sprinkle of MSG when you're not looking. Hotels today may offer activities ranging from cooking classes for kids, yoga and dance retreats, to women's sexual wellness.

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If this intrigues and frightens you, you're not alone. There is a lady "lying on the carpeted floor… moaning." Her hips gyrate as she goes through a practiced routine to "bring herself to orgasm" while the audience, transfixed, watches. Thus did one scribe candidly pen an encounter with one of the new generation of therapists specialising in sexual healing. These practitioners are to be found, not in some dingy Bangkok bar or grimy New York S&M den, but in the hushed marbled environs of tony brands like St Regis, W, and Six Senses.

Mexico is awash in prurient promise at places like Temptation Cancun Resort and Desire Riviera Maya Resort that advertise topless zones, nudist beaches and adult playrooms. Then there's Hedonism II in Jamaica, described as a "clothing optional" resort that actually has a "prude" side and a "nude" side. Take your pick.

{This is straight out of a steamy Harold Robbins packed with women screaming, "Aaarghhh I'm coming," which that had us mystified through our teens ...

Bibi Brzozka, responsible for the aforementioned moaning at the St Regis Punta Mita Resort, Mexico, describes herself as a "sexually liberated lover of life" and offers courses like 'Orgasmic Embrace' and 'Ladder to Bliss'. This may seem straight out of a steamy Harold Robbins novel packed with women screaming, "Aaarghhh I'm coming," something that had us mystified through our teens. Where was she coming? How do you pronounce "Aarrgghhh" and why was it sometimes written, "Aaaaaaaaaargh"? Yet all this moaning is becoming entirely commonplace. It may be the business of the future.

Fun and frolic is back. But there is restraint too. Some hotels have reimagined this perhaps in the curious and scientifically detached Japanese manner, as at a Shinju-ku nightclub where patrons don their reading glasses to peer closer at parted legs before doling out crisp notes with a reverent nod of the head to thank various well-proportioned ladies. Simply put, this is education. How people put their education to use is up to them.

Romantic resorts have new connotations. Covid schmovid say hotels as they crank out canoodling corners and gawping goodies to get your libido leaping. "Live the sunshine state of mind, " the W Brisbane gushes on its website conjuring visions of nature, views of the river and more. On the 33rd floor a tucked away penthouse suite awaits escapees from the daily drudge. Think sexual wellness videos, a sexology concierge on the phone ("No darling, that's her armpit…"), customised lingerie, and a black box of bedtime toys (including vibrators and handcuffs).

Things are relatively more staid aloft where premium economy is back in fashion as business travel returns. Travellers inured to comfortable stretch space at home are demanding more room. Of course, those fresh from their encounters with Ms Brzozka may prefer to charter a Love Cloud private jet above Las Vegas or Los Angeles to enter the Mile High Club at around US$1,000 for a 45-minute flight.

Costly air fares will in general continue to be the norm though deals are always on offer. You'll just need to search harder for better pickings. The best days to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays (you're more likely to get better ticket deals here) while Mondays, Fridays and Sundays are no-nos. These are business and leisure traveller favourites. Avoid these costlier peak periods.

Round-trip tickets and advance purchases are always a safer bet than one-ways, which are pinchingly expensive in Europe and Asia though in the United States they are sensibly priced at roughly half the return fare.

Flight cancellations will be rife. This is a direct consequence of a lack of trained staff as airlines try to cope with the travel rebound after two years of massive layoffs. In desperation, Qantas has sought white-collar executive volunteers to work for three months as baggage handlers at the sweaty freight frontline. Those willing to undertake this heroically arduous task must be able to lift bags weighing up to 32kg. There is no sex or nude beach or moaning woman involved.

Another post-Covid trend is the growing popularity of all-inclusive retreats that promise extreme pampering and hassle-free stays. We all remember Club Med that started this off in 1950. The concept was hugely popular for a half century as tourists flocked to Bali, Tahiti and Phuket, exchanging their money for coloured pellets and shells that children promptly flushed down the toilet. In the late 1990s revenues dipped as competition picked up. The iconic and uniquely French Club Med was taken over by a Chinese consortium in 2013. Not an easy business. But it's back.

Staycations, once the preserve of bored wealthy Filipinos with large families, have sprouted across Asia to become a mainstay in cities like Hong Kong.

Covid has delivered a mighty blow to many establishments that may take months or even years to recover. Rooms cost more for reduced service. Several human tasks (like room deliveries) have been taken over by robots. Alibaba's futuristic FlyZoo Hotel in Hangzhou is fully AI driven. Elsewhere, do-it-yourself apps have filled in other blanks.

The net result has been diminishing human contact. This has been exacerbated by Covid protocols and fears. While stays at luxury or all-inclusive hotels have their upside not many offer a plug-in to the neighbourhood despite the slick advertised exhortations. The entire purpose of a mega-resort is to capture your dollars inside the place, not squander them outside. The simple act of getting from the private villa to that distant lobby will be a bridge too far for many. Some may find secluded resort locations a hassle rather than a blessing.

We would argue it's time to toss away your phone and talk to your neighbour on the flight; to roll down the car window and ask for directions of a human being; to listen to the local patois; to pick family-run inns bursting with local flavour and menus; to engage with people and their stories and to imbibe the local culture. Else you might as well stay at home watching the fabulous Joanna Lumley insouciantly wending her way through Japan or Russia on the BBC.

As for the sexual healing bit, the humble Japanese love hotels and their ilk have long offered affordable prices for blazing indiscretions with heavily pixelated videos to elevate the mystery. But if you need charts, demos, moans and encouragement from a sex concierge, fatten your wallet first. Of course, some may crave less steamy adventure. As Hector Hugh Munroe (Saki) the Victorian writer with rapier wit put it, "It's the Early Christian that gets the fattest lion". In any event, turn off that phone and embrace the moment.

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