Today many hoteliers or entrepreneurs are opting to go into Boutique segment. I therefore thought it timely to pen down my own experiences of creating Boutique hotels.
Boutique hotels became popular in recent times as it gave an opportunity to even a small property owner with a decent house of three rooms to convert it to a Boutique property and be rightly called a “hotelier”. While there is no agreed definition of a Boutique hotel, by and large the industry agrees that these are “small, independent, trendy, lifestyle hotels”; their size ranges between 3 to 150 keys. There are certain distinct characteristics that differentiate a regular hotel to a Boutique property. In the following para’s I would discuss these.
Boutique hotels are usually suited to the metro cities, cosmopolitan cities or popular resort destinations. This is because the clientele it attracts is by and large between 20 to 50 years age group belonging to upper middle income segment of the travelling public. Therefore it is important to select the right destination and within that a prime location with good neighbourhood. The target clientele prefers to frequent hotels in downtown or CBD. People argue that this factor is also valid for any other hotel; well there is no denying that location is one of the most important factors in the success of a hotel.
Let’s now come to the size of a Boutique hotel. Generally we say small and qualify it with the range of 3 to 150 keys; however some in the industry strongly feel that hotels above 100 keys should not qualify for this segment. Their argument is that 100 keys is the optimum size to have the much desired personalised relationship between the residents, guests, visitors and patrons. There is a merit to this argument as the larger the size the more impersonal is the interaction between the people. Personal yet not familiar interaction is another key character of a Boutique hotel. Selection of people with the right attitude and their training and grooming therefore assumes great significance. A Boutique hotel follows the philosophy of addressing its guests by name and not by their key number.
In the recent past, some of the chains have also jumped on the Boutique wagon and launched their boutique brands. While the chains will have the muscle of their marketing strength, their hotels will definitely have areas of similarity with their remaining properties, diluting the Boutique concept. Boutique hotels are by and large independent hotels with distinctively different personality from the regular hotels. However recently we have seen the emergence of pure Boutique hotel chains, some of them having as few as just eight keys in some of their properties.
Architecture and interior decorator play a major role in creating uniqueness in style and an ambiance of vibrance. The hotels are chic in their character. The stay must become an experience is the slogan. I have recently seen a hotel with over 15 different types of rooms in size, lay out, decor and view. Each time one stays in different rooms, it is a different experience. The atmosphere of a Boutique hotel bubbles with a suspicion of intimacy and class. Such an atmosphere helps the hotel become the happening place in the city or the location. The hotel must reflect the warmth in its style. Boutique hotels are therefore distinctively different than the other hotels not only in their personality but also in their revenue generation potential. A boutique hotel earns a higher per key revenue than the regular hotel.
Technologically, a Boutique hotel is a state of the art hotel with latest in internet technology, DVD’s in rooms, interactive flat screen LCD/Plasma TV’s, dimmer controls in the room. The hotels are also equipped with video conferencing facility through their business centre. The entertainment possibilities in a Boutique property are far more than the channel music on TV. They extend to trendy night clubs, bars and discotheques.
As part of the product profile, Boutique hotels have at least one, if not two trendy restaurants with different yet unique cuisine. They employ celebrity or known master chefs and serve a very carefully chosen and selective menu. The food is not only tasty but well presented and served in a totally friendly atmosphere. Most of the time the chefs visit the tables to ask about the food, its quality and taste. He is always willing to prepare out of menu items on request. The decor of the restaurants is hip and inviting. The crockery, cutlery and glassware are matching the interiors of the outlet. Service pleasing and smiling and above all quick and efficient.
A boutique hotel sets the tone of style, intimacy, fashion and glamour. It is frequented by the who’s who of the city; people who want to be “seen around” or “seen with” are always there to make the atmosphere a happening place.
Within the Boutique there is yet another interesting and promising segment, “The Boutique Heritage”. Owners of old forts, palaces, villas and houses are creating fine boutique hotels. These properties reflect old traditional royal living in ultra modern ambiance backed by latest technology and highly personalised service. The restoration and conversion is long, tiring and expensive exercise, but it is worth it. In Northern India, some of there properties are having an ARR of around US$ 1000.00 per night. Basically these properties offer an unforgettable experience of the Royal Raj days. This proves that the concept of product differentiation is the key mantra for creating a boutique hotel.
While boutique hotels are quite a common phenomena in the West, in Asia it is now picking up at a very fast pace. We see emergence of both independent hotels and a couple of boutique chains at national and regional level.
Now a word of caution, anyone planning to enter this segment will be well advised to go the professional way. Chose the best consultant available in the market to assist in creating a boutique product. One should remember that the difference between a regular luxury hotel and a boutique hotel is in two aspects, the subtle difference in product concept and profiling and the quality of ultimate experience to the user.