Aside from some very aggressive growth from several of the major brands, whose growth is mostly being driven by greater opportunities in emerging markets around the world, like China and India, I think one of the fastest growing sectors in the Hotel business in North America must be the “boutique” hotel.
What was once a smattering of Mom and Pop operations that were one step up from a road-side motel, has blossomed into some of the most unique and specialized boutique properties located in every major city in North America.
Many of these boutique properties that have come on the market in the last decade have established enviable reputations for providing the finest level of service and amenities, rivaling the big box branded hotels in their market. And, many of these same properties have attracted the “A List” from the social and entertainment fields, which has in turn only served to enhance their reputation as “must stay” locations in certain cities.
Not that I would include myself on any “A List” of any kind, and the people that I consider my friends are an eclectic mix of people from every socio economical level you can imagine, but suffice to say that they all enjoy travelling and do so for both business and pleasure on a regular basis. So I conducted my own unofficial poll to see what the preference was – boutique or big box brand.
I wasn’t really that surprised to find that there was a preference to the big box brand, for business, and, the boutique style property for pleasure trips.
In the case of business travel, and the associated preference of the big box brand, it was primarily a factor of the business needs that might encompass the trip, and the propensity for the major brands to have a greater assortment of technology in-house, both in the guest room itself, and with in-house business centres, and of course, conference services personnel to assist with meeting and presentation needs and the like. Fair enough.
In the case of leisure trips, and peoples’ preference for the boutique properties, the overwhelming sentiment that came up again and again was the enhanced level of intimacy of these hotels, as well as a genuine level of warmth and personalized attention that they felt when they stayed at the boutique properties.
One of my friends commented that she has been staying at the same property in Seattle, an average of once or twice a year, for the past five years, and they remember her and her partner every time they stay, and they feel like they are treated as much like friends as they are guests. The environment is that much more personal and the pace is that much more relaxing, although prompt and attentive.
Another common occurrence I found amongst the boutique hotels, was that they were more prone to hosting special evenings for their in-house guests, such as evening wine and cheese get-togethers, or other small, intimate receptions, where the managers would mingle with the guests, and, guests could meet each other and get to know each other as well.
It’s just a different kind of experience, and I think that no matter how great the service and facilities are of the major brands, you cannot help but have a more personalized, more intimate experience when you stay at a boutique property, where the focus may be on a maximum of 100 guests at any given time, compared to 1,000 potential guests or more in the big box branded hotel. Their whole business model is built upon providing exceptional and unique experiences to each and every one of their guests, personalized to such a level to create the highest level of guest loyalty and repeat guests.
What’s your preference? Let me know . . .
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