The need for gay-friendly accommodations
Sanjay Malhotra, the owner of Mister and Art House, has always been an avid traveller and whichever part of the world he’s visiting, he prefers staying in gay-friendly or gay men only places. He admits that this makes him feel more comfortable and he doesn’t need to pretend to be who he’s not. This also helps the ever-friendly Malhotra meet and interact with like-minded individuals from around the globe. But a few years ago, he realised that there was a dearth of such accommodations in India.
Malhotra’s passion for travel had already led him to launch Indjapink, the first ever travel company in India for gay men only. So, being no stranger to the LGBTQ tourism sector, it was only a matter of time before he came up with the idea for Mister and Art House to fill a huge void in this niche market. ‘The place was born out of a need for an accommodation where gay men could feel welcome and secure, where they could let their hair down without any pretensions and inhibitions,’ explains Malhotra.
There were definitely big challenges to overcome, including prejudices against gay men and petty harassment issues, but according to Malhotra, the tourism and hospitality industry in the country has been very supportive and encouraging so far.
Making guests feel at home
Since its inauguration five years back, Mister and Art House has been growing at a steady rate of 30% annually. While almost three-fourths of their total clientele are from Western countries, Malhotra informs us that they’re receiving more and more bookings from Indian gay and bisexual men.
The rooms at the B&B have king-sized beds carved out of Burma teak wood fitted with plush linen, while the bathroom floors are equipped with fine Italian marble. They also provide in-room massages, a five-course Indian dinner, champagne, flowers and candles on request.
A notable feature is its collection of antique furniture, sculptures and homoerotic paintings. If a guest fancies any of these objects, they can purchase it and the B&B will make arrangements for shipping.
Mister and Art House also organises get-togethers from time to time where the host invites his friends from the city’s LGBTQ community to interact with foreign travellers.
Besides great amenities, the service at Mister and Art House is designed to make their guests feel completely at home. The staff here is composed of gay and bisexual men. Even the tour guides and drivers are mostly gay men. ‘Our guests can feel relaxed and conformable right from the moment they step into the B&B, secure in the knowledge that they are not being judged and discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality,’ Malhotra reveals.
Expanding to other cities
Following the success of Mister and Art House, Malhotra has gone on to replicate the concept with Mister and Art Haveli in Jaipur, another tourist hotspot in India. His second location is four times bigger and covers almost 10,000 square feet. Goa and Pondicherry are two other places that Malhotra is looking to expand to later this year.
The owner reveals that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, considering India is still very much a conservative society. He says he still worries a lot, some days more than the others. ‘But then, I believe I’m not doing anything wrong by simply providing a safe and friendly accommodation for a section of society that feels marginalised and ridiculed even in the 21st century,’ says Malhotra.