Escort membership platform Smooci is preparing to restart its global expansion after an enforced break, with a range of new city rollouts in its native UK market and beyond.
The network, which aims to offer a safer alternative for both service users and providers by facilitating a two-way rating system (among other features), is already available in cities across several continents, but suffered a huge plunge in users and service providers during the periods when most of those self-same cities were in lockdown.
As the world slowly starts to recover, Smooci is now restarting plans to open up to Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton and Nottingham in the UK, while in mainland Europe, Madrid, Frankfurt, Cologne and Hamburg join Barcelona, which launched just as the world started to go a bit pandemic-y.
After that, Australia and New Zealand will start to see some individual (as yet unannounced) city roll-outs, once discussion with local law enforcement and regulators conclude.
On average, Smooci says it has only received around ten percent of its usual bookings since the start of the pandemic, with cities like Manila (where the lockdown was extremely strict) and London (where most escorts are based in non-residential areas) having virtually no activity whatsoever. More relaxed lock downs in countries like Germany, Thailand and the Netherlands resulted in what Smooci described as “occasional” bookings.
The company is already starting to see a recovery as the first countries ease up restrictions – but Smooci has stayed open throughout, in the hope that the few punters looking for a companion would choose the safe approach, instead of forcing escorts into more dangerous environments.
Smooci CEO Kal Kingsley told SEXTECHGUIDE that there’s unlikely to be an immediate return to huge demand levels.
“While client and booking numbers are starting to increase, we don’t expect to see the demand for escort bookings properly begin to recover until international travel reopens, and restrictions lessen. Much of the sex work industry is closely linked to business and leisure travel, so not only will it depend on when international travel returns, but what the new quarantine rules will be, for this arriving in-country.”
The company believes it will be a long road back, with reduced traffic for many months to come, in no small part because of ongoing travel bans and quarantine measures. Where there has been a spike in new registrations, it has often been on the basis of hoping for faster easing of lockdowns than has actually happened.
For the Companions, as Smooci calls its escorts, it’s been a difficult time, and Kingsley admits that it has been frustrating not knowing how best to help users.
“It’s been difficult to know what to advise, we have held back from placing advertising as we don’t want to encourage anyone to return to work when there are still additional health risks and regional restrictions, but we also haven’t wanted to close the platform or stop people from working as we understand for many it’s their only means of earning and they have large families to support,” he explained to us.
“In general we have been trying to reach out and listen to Companions and do whatever we can, from giving out free memberships to offering words of support and encouragement.”
One London-based Smooci escort told STG:
“I first used Smooci in Hong Kong 2 years ago and was happy to see it has launched in UK since. It’s great having a support that responds quickly and actually listens and tries to help you. It also feels safer, being notified when a client is suspect or if something doesn’t look right, plus I get far fewer timewasters.”
But even Smooci can’t protect escorts from the wide-ranging issues that the global pandemic has thrown up. Our London companion told us:
“The obvious [problem] is not being able to work and earn money, but luckily I don’t have children to take care of and I have some savings now. I keep to myself and don’t have any close friends in the industry, but I’m sure there are many escorts out there who don’t have savings or weren’t in a position to suddenly stop work for 4 or 5 months.”
“I have been through periods when I haven’t had much money behind me, and it’s a sickening, crippling feeling when you are living week to week with no guaranteed financial support. I’m not sure how some will be surviving right now.”
But the issues go far beyond money:
“Mentally it’s been a challenge I didn’t expect. At first I decided I would be able to catch up on some reading and set some fitness goals, and be a better me once it’s over, but as it’s gone on I’ve started suffering some random anxiety and missed friends and family a lot more than I imagined. Things seem to be turning now and I’m getting ready to return to work later this month. or early next month. I’m being positive and hopeful things will be back to normal soon.”
Smooci will be rolling out over the coming months, with Birmingham, UK at the top of the list.