The role of boutique hotels in shaping new hospitality trends
Monday, April 10, 2017
The term "boutique hotels" has been floating around for more than four decades now, but the concept and importance of the word has changed as the industry has evolved. What started as an offbeat trend, has now become a mainstream one.
Investors and entrepreneurs initially looked at boutique hotels as an opportunity for business without having to compete with the Goliaths of the lodging industry. But the latter started investing in boutique hotels as sub-brands to capture market share as the trend slowly became popular.
Typically found in urban locales, boutique hotels offer unique and upscale settings for guests. And the rise of millennial spending in the hospitality segment has paved the way for more boutique hotels to crop up.
A recent report by Skift on boutique hotels, their history and evolution is an interesting read. It traces the development of this concept from fledgling brands to some of the biggest names in the industry today.
As mentioned, now we have international hotel chains establishing luxury boutique sub-brands to grab market share and capitalize on the growth. A significant portion of this growth can be attributed to millennials who prefer lifestyle and boutique hotels as opposed to big brands and behemoth chains.
They value a unique experience and personalization instead of standardization. The tired traveler is no longer looking for a faceless, generic hotel room.
Some key concepts of lifestyle and boutique hotels that are influencing the hospitality industry:
Connectivity: All hotels need to have excellent connectivity, for both external and internal communications. Guests are looking forward to robust Wi-Fis of course, but they are also looking forward to smooth digital transactions, check-outs and check-ins via smartphones, high-end self-service among others.
The "home away from home" concept: The idea is to generate a warm and cozy feeling, caress the senses with beautiful décor and a homey feel at the same time. This has given way to the trend of warm, residential-styled hotels that function efficiently with a high degree of service.
Social spaces: Social hours and casual interactions between guests are quite common to many boutique hotels. This has influenced a more thoughtful process of design that includes a lobby as a social gathering spot, instead of being just a functional space.
Social elites: This has nothing to do with class and everything to do with a brand's social media presence and engagement. Millennials and the generation after them are true digital natives. They need to feel as comfortable with the brand online as they do during their physical stay.
Localization: Going local may have been a marketing necessity for boutique hotels, as it was easier for them to create a unique brand message this way rather than fight the big names. But this soon caught on audience consciousness for exploring newer lands, cultures, cuisines and themes. Hotels still maintain their distinct identity, but they also focus on unforgettable, immersive experiences around local culture.
Signature design experience: No more cookie-cutter images. Décor is the key. So, interesting and high-impact designs have slowly become imperative for all hotels now. This is of importance as it is instrumental in the design and architecture of the future hotels.
As experts are now pointing out, unique designs are no longer the forte of boutique hotels. Typically, a themed, stylish and aspirational manner goes into the concept stage. Many hotels, even the big brands, are adopting this strategy to stand out in the crowd showing the increasingly strong influence of these boutique hotels has on the hospitality industry.
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