“People thought before 2009 that the boutique lifestyle was dead,” she said. “Even some of the brands that the big names had eaten up decided not to use the word ’boutique’ anymore.”
Fast forward to today, and the industry is thriving – paving the way for hotel experience and design. And those big chains? They’re trying to get back into space with launches like Handwritten collection of Accor last month and Marriott’s expansion of Design hotels.
As the pandemic has hit the travel industry, it has also raised the profile of the boutique sector. More travelers are now looking for smaller, more authentic places to stay.
“The pandemic has lit a big fire below,” Frances said. “It has grown and grown, and smaller brands are growing. They finally have the investors behind them.
Francoise and her daughter, Ariela Kiradjianperform today all Association of Boutique Lifestyle Leaders. They spoke to all the key leaders and innovators in the segment. And they’ve identified a handful of key trends for boutique hotel owners to take note of.
Instagram has reached its peak
Before the pandemic, the industry was wondering if social media was ruining travel.
The question was, “How many cool hotels can I go to on a trip and take pictures?” Ariel said.
“Social media is moving away from brilliance and boastfulness,” Ariela said.
She sees travelers start returning to the same boutique hotel — the one that feels like home and matches their values — rather than playing a game of counting properties and “whoever visits the most places wins.” “.
“Travelers will have a deep affinity for the hotel and the hotelier,” Ariela said. This way, they will choose a quality experience over quantity.
Hoteliers should target their marketing to a lifestyle rather than to travelers in general. It’s time for many hoteliers to rethink and refine their social and other marketing campaigns for this time. Think of subtle clues to push the emotional buttons of their target audience.
Partnerships gain value
The pandemic has given customers an opportunity to think about what is truly original and what is window dressing.
“With this downtime, customers were able to start seeing even more through the BS,” Ariela said.
This has resulted in a growing group of travelers who don’t want anything cookie-cutter in their travels.
“The independent cafe has the same customer as the independent boutique hotel versus someone staying at the Hilton Garden Inn,” Ariela said.
To appeal to this clientele in search of authenticity, Ariela thinks the key question is: “How can hotels create nightlife experiences faithful to the boutique lifestyle?”
This could mean partnering with unique local suppliers more often or serving as a platform for local artists and artisans. Collaborations with charming hotels must also be well controlled, with partners as distinctive and local as possible to represent a microcosm of locality and appeal to emerging lifestyle interests.
Connection is a competitive advantage
Frances and Ariela think some of the best boutique hotels around are the ones with the biggest owner footprints.
“There’s energy from the owner, and sometimes it’s tangible, and sometimes it’s intangible,” Ariela said. “Maybe the owner went to a cool winery in Argentina and tried an amazing Malbec, so now that Malbec is served at the hotel.”
Customers enjoy a unique experience when an owner weaves in their passions.
You know you’re doing it right as a hotelier, they said, when boutique owners and their guests feel like they could be friends.
“Atit Jariwala of Hotels in Walker has a property in Montauk and one in California, and it should stand out because it matches the lifestyle of its guest,” Ariela said. “He is so down to earth without any arrogance and is a great example of an owner with a similar lifestyle to the guest.”
The style of his Montauk Property, Marramit’s “barefoot luxury”.
Frances and Ariela are seeing an increase in the number of boutique hoteliers bringing their personal lives – be it a love of wine, surfing or music – to the business.
“We say, ‘Don’t go with a big brand because you can incorporate your passions into your own brand,'” Frances said.
There has been such an emphasis on hotel design that it is only a matter of time before “design fatigue” sets in.
Of course, there will always be super avant-garde design hotels, they said, but functionality will also become a more central theme.
“Instead of focusing on ‘How can I get 500 design awards?’ it will change to ‘How can I also make it functional?’ said Ariela. “We’ve been missing it for quite a while.”
In terms of architecture, Frances and Ariela see the trend of adaptive reuse – renovating old buildings and hotels rather than creating new ones – only continuing to grow.
“It might be a Gen Z thing, and I’m Gen Z, but I don’t want to stay in a new hotel,” Ariela said. “I want to stay in a building that has a story – it may even be the 90s or early 2000s.”
Additionally, the push towards more sustainability in hospitality will only spur the trend towards adaptive reuse.
“It’s about honoring and respecting the land you’re on,” Ariela said.
Wellness beyond yoga
The rush into the wellness movement meant hotels were adding perks like soothing bottles of essential oils or in-room yoga mats. The current trend, however, is to think beyond these small bonuses.
“Wellness goes much deeper than yoga mats,” Ariela said. “Yoga is good, but let’s keep going. »
Aspiring, wellness will become more than casual, on-trend gear — and more like an integrated wellness staple.
When it comes to dining, boutique hotels need to go beyond offering wholesome offerings.
“It’s not just about buying local, it’s about regenerating the land,” Frances said.
Many boutique hotels, for example, have begun planting gardens to serve truly local fruits and vegetables.
Wellness can also extend to how a hotel treats its frontline employees.
“Mental health is a big part of that, as is how you treat your staff,” Ariela said. “If the staff is emotionally abused, the guest will pick up on that negative energy.”
Boutique hotels can be industry changemakers when it comes to improving staff wellbeing, they said.
“I was in communication with a new brand of boutique hotels, and their philosophy is that frontline workers will be paid more, no matter what,” Frances said.
More growth to come
Given all the consolidation in the industry since the quirky boutique hotel boom, skeptics are inclined to think boutiques will give way to soft branded collections run from remote offices. But Frances and Ariela are optimistic.
For the boutique lifestyle industry to continue to grow, Frances and Ariela believe there are essential things that need to be done.
To begin with, boutique hotels should think of themselves as incubators of innovation.
“Technology has always lacked hospitality, but boutique hotels are independent and can do whatever they want, so they can experiment and talk to each other,” Frances said.
“You are not competing with other boutique hotels, but rather with the big chain around the corner.”
It’s also a good idea for boutique hotels to keep a collaborative rather than pushy mindset.
“We no longer have speakers at our conferences, but rather facilitators,” Ariela said of their events. “We filtered out who comes out of arrogance, and if you don’t want that, it’s not a good choice.”
One of the biggest challenges today that the Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association is trying to solve is how to get better filtered data for boutique hotels in particular.
“The independent boutique hotel reports are all sponsored by the big brands, so it’s not real data,” Ariela said. “Our members feel like they’re not seen.”
Their team is working on the boutique hotel data problem, with three research-based partnerships underway.
And while it might seem like the big brands are their rivals, Frances and Ariela see their work as stemming solely from a love of all things boutique.
“We don’t disparage big brands or certain travelers,” Ariela said. “We’re just passionate about this segment and want independent boutique hotels to grow.”