Valentine's Day

The US hotels embracing heartbreak with romance detox packages ahead of Valentine’s Day

Punching bags with a photo of your ex, breakup themed cocktails and boudoir photo shoots are just some of the ways hotels are courting single travellers

The pop-up “heartbreak bar” at Virgin Hotel Source: Nikki Ekstein

After decades of using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to drive up the money value of romance, hotels in the US have turned to a new idea: capitalising on the newly broken up or decidedly single. Take the Logan Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, which will print your ex’s photo onto a punching bag for you to jab, hook and uppercut in a private fitness class. That’s just one part of the property’s new $500 Romance Detox package, which includes meditation and spa sessions. (It can be booked without an overnight stay.)

Logan General Manager Jessica Bauer says the boxing component makes sense, given Philadelphia’s connection with the sport due to the Rocky films. And unlike the typical rose petals on the bedspread, chocolates on your pillow and a bottle of chilled Champagne, it’s both fun and inclusive.

“We didn’t want Valentine’s Day to be a holiday that you couldn’t celebrate if you weren’t in a relationship,” says Bauer.

The “Capture Me” package at the Dominick Hotel offers solo travellers portrait sessions. Credit: The Dominick

Whether this turns out to be mere Instagram bait or becomes a viable new revenue stream, the Logan is hardly alone is embracing the anti-Valentine crowd.

Richard Branson’s year-old Virgin Hotel in Manhattan’s NoMad neighbourhood recently installed a pop-up “heartbreak bar” in its lobby; the free interactive display mostly consists of a paper shredder and colourful notepads with instructions directing guests to shred love letters or mementos from former flames. It’s adorned with photos of such broken celebrity couples as Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston or Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner. Nearby, under a neon sign that says “cry it out,” is a purple velvet chaise outfitted with a large box of tissues. The themed offerings were created to make guests laugh or post viral images on social media—or simply contribute to the hotel’s irreverent vibe.

Moxy NYC Downtown, a hotel with a party vibe in the financial district, will also entertain a heartbreak hotel theme. If you head to its third-floor Recreation Bar on Feb. 14, you’ll find $16 cocktails with names like Cupid’s Curse, made with mezcal and coffee liqueur. There will be heart-shaped sticky notes for writing anti-romantic messages to your ex and an in-house DJ spinning breakup songs. (Expect plenty of Taylor Swift.)

If some of the offerings feel like gimmicks, others hint at the possibility of bigger business.

The Dominick Hotel in SoHo is using anti-Valentine sentiment to help sell its new $1,500 boudoir-style photo shoots, targeting solo travellers who can pose in large bathtubs with extensive city views. In marketing material, the hotel calls the shoots “a romantic gift to yourself”—one meant to boost confidence.

The Virgin Hotel is having fun with less traditional Valentines decorations.Source: Nikki Ekstein

There’s already proof of concept that such shoots can draw major money. In such resort destinations as Greece’s Santorini island and Jamaica, luxury photo shoots for women— often involving a “flying dress”—have become reason to plan a trip, notwithstanding their cost of more than $600 an hour.

All this comes as hotels see more guests checking in alone. The Association of British Travel Agents says the number of people going on vacation unaccompanied has risen from 6 per cent in 2011 to 16 per cent in 2023. In the US, Google searches for “solo travel” hit an all-time high in January, as did searches for “solo female travel,” according to Google Trends data. The #SoloTravel hashtag on TikTok has more than 702,000 posts and a staggering 7.8 billion views.

Why then be heartbroken at home when you can be heartbroken at a luxury hotel?