Charlestowne Hotels and The Highland Group Present The Boutique Hotel Report 2016
The excerpt below is from the 2015 Highland Group Boutique Report. To order the 2016 report at $100 off, please contact Larry Spelts.
ATLANTA (April 7, 2015) – The boutique and lifestyle hotel segments has been called many things, among them fluid, slippery and difficult to define.
But with new definitions providing clarity, a panel of experts at the 27th annual Hunter Hotel Conference called for a reset to re-evaluate the space from top to bottom.
New definitions from a Highland Group report include:
- Boutique: Unique in style, design-centric, either independent or affiliated with a smaller brand system, with 40 to 300 guestrooms.
- Lifestyle brands: Prescribed franchised products that are adapted to reflect current trends.
Here are five key takeaways from a breakout session titled “Owning and operating boutique & lifestyle hotels”:
1. Guests want what they want
While boutique guests can vary as greatly as the hotels offered in the segment, they do share some characteristics, said Heather Balsley, senior VP of the Americas Holiday Inn Portfolio of Brands for InterContinental Hotels Group.
“For the most, part they’re looking for a distinct and curated experience, and something that is uniquely local to that market,” she said.
Craig Greenberg, president of 21c Museum Hotels, said “unique” often is expressed through design.
“People are looking for unique experiences,” he said. “They’re looking for good design … whether it’s a big brand or unbranded. Nobody wants to stay in an ugly, crappy hotel room anymore. … If all brands and all hotels don’t start focusing on these things, I think long term they’re going to have challenges.”
Correlating “boutique” with “millennial” is incorrect, Greenberg added. Along the same lines, a boutique guest need not be cool or hip.
“Our hotels are real, contemporary art museums. Almost all of the people who stay with us are not art people. They’re regular business travelers like every one of us in this room who is coming through our market and wants something different in their stay,” he said.
2. Location less important
Boutique and lifestyle hotels can thrive outside of city centers, panelists agreed. But they must be in active, vibrant areas and leverage the best of their local surroundings.
“The term authenticity is correlated to this segment. I don’t think you can do a true boutique hotel in any city without taking in the components of your surroundings,” explained Michael W. Tall, president and COO of Charlestowne Hotels. “That’s what has led this part of the industry, this boutique side of the industry. It speaks to your location. It provides you the ability to provide experiences that you couldn’t otherwise get.”
Guests want to be near activity, near cool restaurants or arts, culture and shopping, panelists agreed.
Likewise, hotels need thriving surroundings to gain notice from local residents—particularly if food and beverage is an important part of the concept, Greenberg said.
“Your travelers need to find you, but also your locals need to find you. Locals need to be a big part of your hotel, both in your food and beverage and using your public space,” said Jean Smith, VP of lifestyle hotels at McKibbon Hotel Management.
The best location can be rendered moot without the right owner and operator on board, Balsley said.
“What we learned (launching Hotel Indigo) is that even in the best location, without the right ownership and commitment and understanding of what it takes to deliver not just the unique design but unique service culture … you’re not going to be successful,” Balsley said.
3. Togetherness and technology matter
Rooftop bars are table stakes these days, Tall said. The best boutique hotels differentiate through design, service and a number of other key unique selling points.
Technology is one of them, Smith said. Yes, some of the major brands are ramping up innovation. (See the recent slate of entrants announcing keyless room entry.) But boutique hotels often are positioned to do it better.