In recent years it seems like everyone is jumping on the boutique hotel bandwagon. From private hoteliers to major franchises, everyone wants a stake in the game. This new trend in hospitality leaves the majority of us wondering what the term “boutique hotel” actually means.
A simple Google search for “boutique hotel meaning” will provide a dictionary.com definition stating a boutique hotel is considered, “a small stylish hotel, typically one situated in a fashionable urban location.”
But that definition alone poses more questions than it does answers; like, what is considered “small” - 10 rooms, 20 rooms, or 50 rooms? And what if the hotel resides in a small, oceanfront community?
So what really qualifies a property as boutique? Let’s start with some history, “the term "boutique" was first coined in the 1980s when a stay at the now-closed Morgans Hotel in New York City was compared to visiting a boutique retail shop” says Jason Moskal, global vice president of the Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels brands for InterContinental Hotels Group.
Similar to a boutique retail establishment, boutique hotels differentiate themselves from the established brands by offering four, very specific qualities.
4 Qualities of a Boutique Hotel:
- Number of Rooms
- Modern Design
- Locally Infused
- Unique Experiences
Though boutique hotels have many qualities that enable them to stand out versus established brands, these four characteristics are the most poignant to guests:
1. Room Count
If you were to ask any hospitality professional they would tell you that for a property to be considered a boutique hotel, it should not be much bigger than 100 rooms. It also shouldn’t be less than 10 rooms because then you’re talking bed & breakfasts.
You may be wondering why boutique hotels don’t offer more rooms, especially if the market bears the demand; the answer, simply put, is personalized service. With fewer number of guests, boutique hotel staff can offer each guest a more customized stay.
2. Give Off Those Modern Vibes
While this not an “across the board” quality for every boutique hotel. The design trend outfitting many boutique properties is modern, quirky, with planned splashes of bold, trending color.
Many boutique hotels focus on the design details that will provided an unexpected surprise for their guests - think “instagrammable moments.”
3. Keep it Local
Whether the property is located in the heart of an urban neighborhood or set in the rural countryside, a well-planned boutique hotel reminds you of where you are and emulates pride in its location's heritage.
Examples of ways boutique hotels infuse local flavor is through food, beverage, and artwork.
4. Offer Unique Experiences
You can have the best location, the coolest design, and offer the best food & beverage options, but the most important quality to any boutique hotel-goer is the experience.
Setting yourself apart from the competition by offering guests experiences unique to their interests is key. Activities can be as extravagant as personalized spa services for your guests and their 4-legged companion or as simple as offering a complimentary charger for their electronic devices.
Most Importantly: Know Your Market
With all these factors included, the meaning of boutique hotel could be simply defined as, a customized accommodation.
Travelers who choose to stay in boutique hotels are those who want to deviate from the norm (or standard), and enjoy hospitality as they want it.