Commercial Coupling: The Business of Swing


From the outside, the resort looks just like any other along the sun-soaked beaches of Los Cabos, Mexico: pools and bars and volleyball. But before long, it's easy to see signs that this place is different.

In the gift shop, not far from the sun block, were boxes of Viagra.

Outside by the pool were big red beds, draped with wispy curtains. And these beds were not for tanning. It was very quickly clear that at this clothing-optional resort, most enjoyed that option. Nudity was the norm. After all, this was Desire, the second-best-known "swingers" resort on the planet.

Swinging is when husbands and wives, or boyfriends and girlfriends, swap partners with other couples and sleep with people who are not their husbands and wives, or boyfriends or girlfriends. And Desire is just the latest example of entrepreneurs cashing in on what they see as a growing lifestyle and, as a result, a lucrative business opportunity.


Robert McGinley, the 72-year-old founder and CEO of Lifestyles Organization, the world's leading company devoted to "swinging," believes that one specific element makes swingers resorts successful.

"Freedom -- freedom of expression, freedom to be what you want to be, freedom to be stark naked nude next to someone, and they don't care," he said.

"They want to be able to, if they're, say, here in the Jacuzzi or in the disco dance, and get turned on by another couple, those two couples want to be able to go someplace like this bed that I'm sitting on right here and take it a step further -- sexual exploration."

You can call it wife-swapping, call it creepy -- call it what you like, but it appears that the business of swing is booming.

Banking on a Demand for Something Different

The Desire Resort opened under the pretense that McGinley's travel agency would fill the hotel 365 days a year with guests eager for Desire's special amenities, like the outdoor beds, or as they're called at the resort, "designated play areas."

McGinley agrees that these are not the type of things a traveler might find at the average Holiday Inn.

"We're offering something nobody else offers. It's as simple as that, and there's enough people out there that want what we're sitting on," he said.

There is no way to know for sure how many people are into the lifestyle, but rough estimates run from 4 million to 8 million.

"It's a multimillion dollar business," McGinley said, though he hesitated to divulge just how much money the resort makes each year.

"Well, let's avoid that question," he chuckled. "Just to say it's multimillions."

McGinley's Lifestyles is the product of a nearly 40-year evolution. This all began at a discussion group in the 1960s, during which members of the group quickly moved beyond discussion. Thereafter, McGinley hosted conventions and parties and launched a swingers club, Web site and travel agency, booking swingers on special swing vacations all around the world.

Lifestyles takes a commission on every aspect. But again, McGinley was a bit evasive on the exact size of the commission.

"I can't tell you that," he said. "I can't. We get a good percentage."

A Wide Variety of Clients

And who are the people taking advantage of Lifestyle's services? ABC News reporters John Berman and Roxanna Sherwood met people ranging in age from 30 to 65 years old. There were doctors, lawyers, business people and everyday people.

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