When Dylan Bushnell, a 20-something software developer with a background in game design, was growing up in Los Angeles, he was surrounded by luxe hotel pools—most of them off-limits.
This was a drag. “Spending time at these pools is such a singular, lovely experience,” says Bushnell. “But there was no clear, easy way to buy a day pass at most hotels.” That’s when it struck him. What if he could convince hotels to let people who weren’t guests pay to use their pools?
Boom! Dip was born.
The free travel app specializes in hotel day passes, enabling non–hotel guests to buy limited access to swimming pools, hot tubs, cabanas, daybeds, spas, gyms, steam rooms, and private beaches, among other exclusive hotel amenities. From a budgeting standpoint, it’s kind of like taking afternoon tea in a fancy hotel—you can experience the high-end ambiance without staying overnight. Participating hotels, meanwhile, generate additional revenue on amenities they’re already offering.
The hotel has commissioned an array of designers throughout its history, resulting in a wide variety of room styles, from African to Art Deco. Also available are a number of private suites, with glass-walled bedrooms that offer panoramic views. The designer flamboyance doesn’t stop at the guestrooms, however. Axel Vervoordt worked on the in-house cinema and Garden restaurant, and Andrée Putman designed the swimming pool and rooftop bar.
Today it’s one of Mitte’s foremost havens of hip, offering quirkily decorated rooms that mix vintage with contemporary design tropes—think Marshall speakers and old-school record players, floral armchairs and art deco bathtubs. The lofts are even more astonishing, both for their capacious size and their industrial-chic aesthetic—some come with grand pianos and foosball tables. The hotel also has a rooftop pool and adjacent bar with views of Alexanderplatz, concept retail area, a private cinema and a library room—with a bar—that host occasional events open to the public, an in-house restaurant, and a Cowshed spa that’s a popular destination in its own right.
Dip’s first partner was the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, where rooms start at $319 per night. The heated outdoor pool—with its multi-level teakwood decks and striped chaise lounge chairs—is the crown jewel. Before Dip existed, a budget traveler or wily local hoping to use such schmancy facilities would have to pose as a hotel guest (which we at AFAR don’t condone). With Dip, they can simply use the platform to buy a pool pass ($25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends)—and not risk the humiliation of being booted out by security.
Although 100,000 users have downloaded the Dip app to date, the startup life is not without its hiccups. Bushnell’s biggest challenge has been convincing legacy hotel brands to open their facilities to outsiders. “The hospitality industry is old and full of inertia, so convincing hoteliers to experiment with new revenue streams is no small task,” Bushnell says.
Since its July 2016 launch, Dip has recruited 30 hotel partners. It continues to broaden its L.A. portfolio and add new properties in Washington, D.C., and New York. Roll-out plans for 2017 include Miami and Las Vegas and a membership model is in the works. Bushnell is particularly excited about broadening access to opulent hotel spas that might otherwise sit empty, particularly in low season. The way he sees it, it’s a win-win for both hotels and the people who used to sneak into them.