WASHINGTON - With many hotel chains banning smoking entirely, customers who choose to indulge often find it challenging to book a hotel room where they can light up. A new website, Smoketels.com, only books smoking rooms.
As businesses and governments increasingly forbid smoking because of health risks, those who can't or don't want to stop puffing still need a place to sleep. "It's becoming harder for people to find and becoming more time-consuming," says Shawn Bradley, a smoker who runs the site.
Bradley says smokers have had to do a lot of investigative reporting, and live with uncertainty when it comes to finding a room where they are welcome.
"Some sites don't even mention it's a smoking room, and once you make your reservation you have to contact the establishment to see if they can provide you with one or not," says Bradley.
Marriott International banned smoking in its North American hotels in 2006. The company's hotels include Marriott, JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, Courtyard, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites, Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites and ExecuStay.
In its international hotels, Marriott's smoking policy says the policy is optional, deferring to local laws, cultures and preferences.
Who smokes anymore?
A lot of people, says the World Health Organization.
In a compilation of Tobacco Facts the WHO says there are more than a billion smokers in the world.
The agency says global use of tobacco is increasing, although it is decreasing in high-income countries.
According to the WHO, "more than 80 percent of the world's smokers live in low- and middle-income countries."
Most of the establishments that set aside rooms for smokers are lower-cost hotels.
Bradley says most non-smokers prefer staying in hotels "where you don't have people like me."
Enveloping the niche
Smoking travelers who need to book hotel rooms have other needs when they're on the road, says Bradley.
"We're actually positioning multiple services we'll be introducing to the market that caters to travelers and travelers who smoke," says Bradley.
Most rental car companies forbid smoking in vehicles. Restaurants rarely allow smoking.
Bradley believes smokers are willing to tailor their travel to accommodate their habit.
"They like to take that time to weigh the pros and cons of where they want to stay, no different than for booking airlines or car rentals," says Bradley.
He says a smartphone application is in development.
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