'Going Down, Ladies?' The Astonishing Appeal of Gay Businesses

The first thing that hit us after checking into one of the newest and poshest all-gay (but "hetero-friendly") hotels in Europe was the amount of women and straight couples. At least half the guests were decidedly not gay men on the prowl.

The hotel is quite gay, to be sure, if such a stereotype exists: a subdued elegance, modern furniture, matching curtains, male nude statues, a gay map on the counter -- you get the picture. There is dance music in the elevator, and the poolside is more a commercial for plastic surgery and gym equipment than an Olympic challenge. The men are almost uniformly well-groomed, with a preponderance of expensive clothes combined with trendy footwear, smartphones firmly clutched with the "Load More Guys" button at the fingertip. On the menu in the overpriced restaurant is nothing that could possibly mess up your calorie count. Oh, and the check-in staff look like A&F models.

And yet, something in this all-gay luxury hotel was off. My partner and I talked about it by the pool but got distracted by Marco, who tends to groan when making mojitos, wielding the pestle while bleating, "I could do this all day!" and showing off his massive biceps.

On the way down from the rooftop bar, we met two beautiful ladies in the elevator.

"Going down, ladies?"

They laughed brightly, long blond hair swooshing through the cabin. I made a comment about how nice it was to see so many lesbian couples here.

"We aren't lesbians. We just travel together."

Interesting, I thought. So we invited them to dinner.

Jessica and her friend, both from Germany, are both divorced and in their 30s. They love museums, sunshine and a good mojito. (Luckily, Marco turned out to be bi and could indeed do it all day!) Jessica used to be a model, but now she actually eats.

"We come to Spain mostly for the food. We both love Mediterranean food."

Why, then, a gay hotel, I asked.

"Because it's fantastic. Nobody bothers you. The men are gorgeous. It's stylish. But most of all, you feel completely safe as a woman. We always stay in gay hotels!"

I decided to speak to others. Next on my list was an ostensibly straight couple. I bought them drinks and tried to be extra-polite. After all, they could have just chosen the wrong hotel by mistake.

"Oh, no, we come here for a reason."

"And the reason is, if I may be so bold?"

"You may not. It's personal."

Well, I am sure it got very personal after they left the bar at 2 a.m. with a hot Middle Eastern guy in tow. At breakfast I spoke to the woman again.

"I saw you reason last night. Pretty good reason!"

"Yes, don't you think? I love being married to a bisexual guy."

Later we met Tanja, 42, from the UK. Also not a lesbian. Also staying at a gay hotel.

"It's the atmosphere. There are no kids. All the waiters are cute. And no drunken businessmen to hit on you in the wee hours."

Turns out gay establishments are a haven for women. Admittedly not all gay hotels will be the same. Not all have Marco with his pestle, and not all serve waist-conscious food. But there is something to say for the idea of the gay business and its appeal to women -- and to straight couples with a lust for adventure.