Between July and November 2020, the 40-room Hotel Poblado Boutique Medellin in Colombia underwent a $200,000 transformation — with a team replacing all the floors, redecorating rooms and repainting the walls.
That sum also included a big investment in technology, such as professional-grade web cameras — because, due to decreased tourism amid the coronavirus pandemic, this hotel has become home to a camming studio for adult entertainers to broadcast live to their followers.
This new use has helped keep the hotel afloat financially, and The Post has learned it’s one of three hotels in the city of Medellin, also including the 23-room In House and the 63-room Hotel Poblado Natura, to take this unusual step for survival.
“The hotels were closed during five, six months [and] the owners of those hotels didn’t see any good predictions,” said Jose Dominguez, a co-owner of Colombia’s JuanBustos Studios, which owns studios all over the country and has around 4,000 female, male and transgender camming models under its belt.
Dominguez added that the hotels’ owners said, “ ‘We have all these rooms available, your industry is growing a lot … why don’t you provide those rooms to your models?’ ”
Now, from these hotels, the models broadcast on the California-based web platform Cams.com — connecting them to users around the world and helping the money flow in.
Colombia is home to around 60,000 cam models, which makes up roughly 30% of JuanBustos Studios’ worldwide share, according to Dominguez — and they rake in some $70 million in monthly revenue. The model count is significantly higher than the 2019 tally of some 40,000 models in Colombia. The reason for this surge in workers: the pandemic — and business has reportedly been booming for cam performers since the early days of COVID-19.
“They just lost their jobs, so they were looking for growing opportunities,” said Dominguez of these workers, including engineers, who now cam. “We need smart models to be able to do a good job and have good conversations with the users,” he said, adding that not everyone on the other side of the screen signs on for sexual reasons. “They’re looking for a friend.”
Consequently, Dominguez added, “We need more places to accommodate these models who are trying to join us.”
The contracts that JuanBustos has with these hotels last from five to 10 years — and allow for the models to use every hotel room. For each property, JuanBustos creates a company that operates the working studio, of which the hotel owns 20%. The camming company pays a below-market-rate rent — no greater than $200 per room per month — to the hotel owner. In the end, the hotel owner collects that 20% share of net income after expenses, plus the monthly rent.
As for the models, the rooms allow for single occupancy and distancing. Colombia, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says has a “very high level” of COVID-19, has seen more than 2.1 million cases and more than 56,000 deaths. But Dominguez said all precautions are being taken. Models can’t share common spaces inside the hotels, and a team cleans each room after a model’s shift ends. There’s control over how many models can enter the properties at any given time — and they’re regularly tested for COVID, as well as for sexually transmitted diseases.
“Models don’t need to be direct with each other,” he said. “It’s not a team job.”
The hotels also have other security measures for the models. JuanBustos declined to comment on the full scope of protection but said there are security cameras, staff on location and doors that require fingerprint scans to open.
Working out of hotels also ensures the models can have more privacy than they would at home. Over the summer, Medellin saw the test launch of a similar concept with the webcam company CamSoda converting one of the city’s many empty warehouses into a camming hub with individual sanitized pods.
Vaccines are not yet available in Colombia — although on Tuesday, Moderna said that it will supply the nation with 10 million doses, with deliveries expected to begin mid-year. And even when the pandemic becomes a memory there, Dominguez anticipates he can still maintain the rooms at full occupancy with working models.
For the time being, he’s scouting more locations in South America. Dominguez said he has a small share in Argentina that he’s aiming to grow — and is looking for opportunities in Brazil. He thinks his alternative use for the struggling hotel properties can set an example.
“I’m sure it’s going to be followed by others,” he said.