Boutique Hotels

Boutique Hotels Are Dead; Long Live Boutique Hotels - MediaPost

Excerpt from MediaPost

I hear both proclamations, so, which is it?  

In today’s ever-changing landscape of hotels, we must recall the origin of “boutique” properties, and acknowledge the changes that have made for the new paradigm of what the term represents today.

Originally, a boutique property was bespoke and unique, with highly personalized service. These accommodation jewels were set in wonderful locations ranging from coastal towns, villages and islands, to fashionable urban locations and vineyards. People delighted in the sense of place, culture and highly personalized service, and felt as if they were the only guests. All their needs, wants and expectations were met, and exceeded. The food, wine, and handcrafted cocktails were incredible. And delicious innovations such as farm-to-table and locally sourced products were paramount.

Successful boutique properties appealed to all five senses, offering much more than simply a place to stay. They offered experiences that stayed with guests long after they had checked out.

The boutique concept gained significant traction when soft brands such as SLH (Small Luxury Hotels) and Relais & Chateau grew in numbers with owners of boutique properties. These soft brands represented a collection of quality hotels ranging in size from 10 to 100 rooms. Each property had a distinctive individuality and character, and was not part of a major chain. The soft brands spread the good word about their boutique accommodations and offered greater distribution to the world’s discerning travelers. 

Boutique grew in popularity. Suddenly, hotels with large room counts, generic locations, and middling quality and service began flying boutique flags. While SLH and Relais grew their numbers by maintaining strict guidelines and adherence to their high standards required for membership, they were now challenged with remaining “boutique” as the name became more commonplace.

International brands, especially in the franchise world, got on the bandwagon and tapped new revenue streams by offering global distribution platforms with relaxed boutique brand standards. Hotels that were stylish, hip and trendy, and somewhat sophisticated, were labelled boutique. Today, Marriott Autograph Collection competes against Hilton’s Curio and Tapestry Collection, Starwood’s Tribute (also Marriott), and Hyatt Unbound. 

With the glut of competition, early boutique properties might argue that true boutique is dead. It’s not. It’s simply less defined and vaguer. 

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