The Growth of Boutique Hotels

Boutique hotels’ popularity has been growing over the years. Some of these properties are themed, whilst others support an underlying philosophy such as eco or sustainable tourism. Customisation is one of the properties which have made them popular. Frequent travelers are keen to experience something new as they seem to have tired of similar looking hotel rooms and spaces. Though there are characteristics which are common to most boutique style properties the definition of boutique has become increasingly broad. The essence of boutique has come to mean personalized service. Ashok Malkani examines several aspects of what makes these hotels popular and what is their future. 

Large hotels may be overwhelming in size but a boutique hotel has its own awe inspiring beauty as well as service par excellence. It has been found that millennials love boutique hotels. They search for customised experiences which, they feel, are offered by boutique hotels as compared to the experiences that are historically provided by the bigger chains. As one of the regular travellers commented, “We, of the younger generation, prefer staying in a unique location which is more memorable than staying in a chain hotel as they typically offer the same look, feel and interiors all across the world. Boutique hotels, on the other hand employ several techniques to remedy this, including furniture and design of the guest rooms.”     
Today’s popularity of boutique hotels is because a part of the society has moved away f r o m the mass-consumer concept to ensure that travellers can once again feel special, experience opulence at its best and enjoy personalised services.

History 

Boutique hotels are not a new phenomenon. In fact, if one looks down the corridors of time, it is believed that these hotels are, in reality, the beginnings of hospitality industry which started when Joseph and Mary arrived at the Inn in Bethlehem and the clerk told them that their reservation had been lost. The first wave of facilities offering guest accommodation can thus be traced back to biblical and medieval times.  

It is believed that César Ritz a 58-room was one-of-a-kind boutique hotel at Place Vendôme in 1705. The first hotel chain formed in the early 1920s; every hotel before that was a boutique hotel. Fast forward to 1960s and 1970s when America and the Western world further commoditised accommodation and a wave of hotels sprang up and littered the skylines. 

What makes a Boutique Hotel? 

A boutique hotel’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s an entirely different experience. It creates a contemporary vibe, which a standard run-of-the-mill hotel chain is not able to do. 

Biswajit Chakraborty – General Manager, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, describes a boutique hotel as “one that is designed to reflect a unique style in all its attributes and offers personalised services, embedded in modern luxury, to its guests. The design of a boutique hotel is mirrored in its exclusive, pampering details and convenience of location. Sofitel Mumbai BKC’s splendid architecture, jointly-planned by master architects at BBG-BBGM, embraces modern and elegant interiors creating a French contemporary feel with a blend of traditional Indian colours, shapes and patterns. All 14 storeys of the hotel whisper class and elegance with a touch of edgy, sharp boldness and confidence. The use of angular glass, natural marble, intricate chandeliers, gold and diamond embellishments, stately furnishings and other bespoke design elements, form a signature design style for the hotel. The luxury property is located in the financial Central Business District of Mumbai – The Bandra Kurla Complex – in the geographical centre of Mumbai.”

Parvez Nisar, General Manager, Fairfield by Marriott Pune Kharadi, adds, “A Boutique Hotel is a small and intimate hotel. It has a stylish design decor with a personal note. It has a unique character and distinguishes itself f r o m other hotel brands. Décor, aesthetics and attention to detail, often a theme are typical for a boutique hotel.” 

Popularity of Boutiques 

The rising popularity of boutique hotels leaves one wondering which type of hotel establishment is the better option to opt for during travel trips.
  
Parvez claims, “The boutique hotel market is mushrooming but could grow even faster. Boutique hotels are about flexibility. Putting expensive marble or spending money on fancy bathroom sinks and antique furniture are incidental. Luxury comes f r o m the mindset. Travellers are seeking authentic, memorable moments. Independent boutique hotels deliver authenticity that allows travelers to live like the locals. 

Some of the industry’s main brands which have/or are planning on setting up boutique hotels are:

  • Sujan Hotels
  • Neemrana Hotels
  • The Serai
  • The Imperial Hotel
  • Umaid Bhawan
  • Samode Palace
  • La Villa Shanti
  • Mayfair Hotels
  • The Park Hotels
  • Le Sutra Hotels
  • Oberoi Hotels (Udaivilas)

Biswajit states, “Popular chain hotels such as well-known domestic and international brands are launching boutique hotels, as the latter are increasingly becoming a choice in the hospitality industry owing to their elements of individuality.”

Designed to inspire awe

The new concept of boutique hotels is as necessary as it is innovative: making the guests feel at home away f r o m home. One of the main attractions of boutique hotels is the design aspect. The design and uniqueness of boutique hotels are the focus of a differentiation strategy that competes with mainstream hotel chains.

Biswajit disclosed, “Design is an important characteristic that distinguishes boutique hotels in terms of luxury and exclusivity, as it portrays a story about the hotel and its brand aspects. A common trend among boutique hotels is to create a unique décor for each room, allowing guests to select their preferred look that will make their stay memorable. The design of a boutique hotel is chic and sophisticated as it adds character and brings life to the space. Inspiration for the design of Sofitel Mumbai BKC has been drawn f r o m Indian art including temples, sculptures and monuments, while adding an attractive contemporary French touch. Overall, the architecture enables the hotel to stand out as a successful combination of Indian culture and French style, intricately weaving the two together through different design elements in the hotel. A combination of work f r o m French and Indian artists gives the hotel this unique design. 

As far as our property is concerned, exquisite elegance combined with opulent design elements, creates a symphony of style in the 302 guestrooms and suites at Sofitel Mumbai BKC. The boutique hotel is embedded with stones, shapes and geometry. The tilted glass work in the lobby and rooms, asymmetrical pillars are some of the features that one can view at the hotel. 

The classic paisley engravings, wall covers and prints that run through rooms, lobbies and corridors, inspired lightings and structures at various locations are few facets that beautify the hotel. Isabelle Miaja, a renowned French designer, has artistically brought out the vibrant flavours of Indian glamour by means of warm colours, native designs, and ornate lighting that transform the hotel interiors into a place of art and awe. She has seamlessly blended in the sophisticated French furniture and charming Parisian interiors, creating the distinctive fusion of the finest f r o m both cultures. The use of the colour purple gives a feminine and contemporary feel with a hint of royalty while ensconcing guests in a spacious cocoon of beautifully designed living spaces, making the hotel a perfect and dramatic address-within-an-address.” 

Pervez asserts, “Detailed attention is paid to design in a boutique hotel. They are furnished in a themed manner. The architecture and interior design of a boutique hotel is as unique as its operations, but always upscale and often combining historic details with chic elegance. The lines may be sleek and contemporary or quaint and homey – or even an artistic amalgamation. Boutique hotels convey a progressively forward style with fastidious décor. Guestrooms are individually decorated, and use upscale linens and exclusive amenities.

As far as Fairfield by Mariott Pune Kharadi is concerned, the property offer fuss free and comfortable rooms with a wide range of amenities. This provides the guests value for money. The apartment-style suites have fully equipped kitchenettes suitable for long stay/relocations. The outdoor lawn offers you space for relaxation.” 

Unique selling points 

Guests are impressed with boutique hotels due to various aspects of these properties. Amenities and service are just two of them. 

Pervez  declares, “Rather than simply viewing the hotel as accommodation, Guests are looking at the hotel to provide an experience in itself. Boutique hotels in particular have amiable friendly, hardworking, multitasking staff who can deal with customers in a very warm and friendly way. Fairfield by Marriott Pune Kharadi is recognized for its brand promise of personalized service, healthy F&B offerings and overall stress-free stay experience.”

Biswajit iterates “Guests prefer to stay at boutique hotels as they offer personalised services, unique accommodations, atmosphere and location. The design and décor of any hotel is reflective of the features that can attract guests strongly towards its products and services. The modern luxury hotel, Sofitel Mumbai BKC combines the best of warm Indian hospitality with French ‘art de vivre’ in a signature art nouveau style, which is delicately reflected in its design and service, thereby creating a niche of its own. The offerings at the luxury property are reflected in the four brand passions of Chic Design, Indulgent Wellness, Art & Culture and Authentic & Lively F&B. 

Sofitel Mumbai BKC is poised to end the search for the connoisseurs of Mumbai, who are looking for a new high in luxurious living. French culture, design and gastronomy blend artistically with rich Indian tradition in a signature art nouveau style, offering multifaceted indulgences through cuisine, entertainment and relaxation; where buoyant business meets an elegant lifestyle. 

All the spaces in Sofitel Mumbai BKC are designed to provide a unique experience as a home away f r o m home, where luxury is the essence. The careful balance between French and Indian culture is achieved with elegance and mischievousness – French impertinence with Indian reverence. Sofitel Mumbai BKC has spaces f r o m indoor to outdoor that have been specially designated for families, friends and businesses to relish a pleasant time over palatable food, delectable cocktails, impeccable service and enjoyable conversations.”

Chain or Boutique Hotel? 

Boutique hotels, which seem to be experiencing a surge in popularity, leave a business/leisure tourist in a quandary. Should he choose a chain hotel or boutique property? At hotel chains the traveller is aware of what to expect even before he arrives, as the facilities and amenities are almost identical throughout the chain.   
 
Biswajit concedes, “Chain hotels do have a set of offerings that remain consistent always and hence guests know what to expect before they arrive. This is an advantage when it comes to business travellers as they have limited time on their hands to investigate a hotel’s offerings for every work-related trip. However, boutique hotels can customise their services for travellers and this benefits a different set of guests such as millennials, experiential travellers and luxury seekers. 

But, he continues, “Boutique hotels are gaining popularity as travellers are seeking authentic and personalised experiences f r o m their stay. A boutique hotel allows guests to indulge in a cosier experience that lacks in a chain hotel. Chain hotels provide standardised experiences whereas boutique hotels provide guests with customised and personalised amenities and services. The increasing competition and digital presence of chain hotels entails boutique hotels to create a differentiator for the consumer’s satisfaction and repeated visits. The grandeur of Sofitel Mumbai BKC is reflected in its unrivalled facilities and personalised service f r o m the heart, which is referred by them as ‘Cousu Main’ in French. The ‘Cousu Main’ service encourages staff f r o m the hotel to recognize the finer details of a guest’s requirements. f r o m handwritten notes expressing care about the guest’s stay to simple personal touches in every gesture, the boutique hotel enhances the guest’s experience and ensures they have a ‘Magnifique’ stay. Going a step further and taking personalisation to the next level, the property also offers its Imperial Suite with a personalised butler and chef on certain offers and packages. 

I would like to stress that most of the guests are regular outbound travellers who are gaining exposure to different trends in hospitality, hence creating a demand for world-class international standards and services. Guests are getting exposed to different trends through their travels and are also gaining insights via the Internet. With easy accessibility, the traveller’s knowledge is increasing and therefore they opt for boutique hotels where they can savour finer details of luxury and experiences when they travel. They are now open to experiment an array of cuisines and stay elements. 

Sofitel Mumbai BKC is renowned for offering a genuine experience of elegant French luxury and the best of local culture. Differentiating itself in terms of its four brand passions, it shares an authentic passion for its luxurious French essence: embracing and honouring local ‘Art & Culture’; showcasing the finest in ‘Authentic & Lively F&B’ complemented by classic French techniques; a dedication to the art of ‘Indulgent Wellness’; and a never-ending appreciation for classic and contemporary ‘Chic Design’. Guests are keen to explore these distinguished attributes.”

Pervez believes that people prefer boutique to chain hotels mainly due to the culture and Service of the Boutique Hotels. He adds, “Highly personalized service is a hallmark of boutique hotels. Staff will know your name on the first day of your stay. Providing bespoke luxury amenities such as an extensive pillow menu and custom toiletries, as well as offering sumptuous spa services which creates a very high-quality, individualized experience.

Boutique hotels are characterized by their intimate atmosphere and quirky style. They distinguish themselves f r o m larger chain hotels by offering personalized attention and styled accommodations which play on a keynote.”

Growth  

There seems to be the belief that boutiques can survive only in small towns or cities and not in large cities ort metros. If so what are the growth prospects of the boutique hotel industry? 

Biswajit disclosed, “Boutique hotels are growing in smaller and larger cities likewise. f r o m creative dining options to detailed architectural designs, guests at boutique hotels desire custom experiences to make their stay memorable. Guests are opting out f r o m cookie-cutter experiences and preferring more unique hotel accommodations where they can harness the best of local culture, cuisine and combine a learning opportunity with a travel experience. Sofitel Mumbai BKC has flown down local artists to give guests a taste of gastronomy and the culture of that country through elegant performances, detailed art and décor.

The luxury hospitality industry has certainly seen a growth curve over the last decade. People today are well-travelled and enjoy an occasional splurge on luxury. This sector has seen a rise in the demand for personalisation, customisation and special offerings in the luxury space over simple stay, food and beverage offerings and is expected to grow over 50% in the upcoming years.” 

Pervez states, “There is no hard and fast rule about the place where the industry will flourish. Many boutique hotels are located in the most hip and fashionable urban areas. They are present in lively, up-and-coming sections – they may well be one of the factors in the area’s rejuvenation – and high-end residential neighborhoods that are away f r o m the crowds, but convenient to city highlights. Trendy boutique hotels are also found in resort areas, generally well hidden f r o m the main tourist throng.  

Today’s travellers’ never-ending search for something “new and different” inspired the evolution of boutique hotels.  There is an emergence of boutique hotels in India to cater to much of the population who seek affordable stay. International companies are also increasingly looking at setting up such hotels.”

Future of Boutiques in India 

Boutique hotels are believed to be on an upward arch. What is the future of this segment of hotels? 

Pervez disclosed, “International companies are increasingly looking at setting up Boutique hotels in India. Imbalance in increase in tourists both domestic and foreign have not been supported with equal number of rooms is a latent source of opportunity for growth. In the long term, the demand-supply gap in India is very real and that there is need for more hotels. The shortage is especially true within the budget hotels and the mid-market hotels segment. There is an urgent need for budget and mid-market hotels in the country as travellers look for safe and affordable accommodation. Various domestic and international brands have made significant inroads into this space and more are expected to follow as the potential for this segment of hotels becomes more obvious.”

Biswajit declares, “The hospitality industry is witnessing a rapid transformation. Chain hotels are setting up boutique hotels to keep up with the pace of changing traveller landscape and providing guests with personalised services. Boutique hotels have the advantage of dexterity and flexibility to implement new tools. Technology plays an important role in helping the hotel facilitate the experiences of the guests by making their stay more efficient and easier. 

The primary focus of Sofitel Mumbai BKC has always been quality in the products and services offered as personalisation is becoming a well-recognized concept in the field of hospitality. Impeccable service, intelligent marketing and a keen eye for detail make for a perfect mélange in ensuring a high ratio of repeated guests.”

Summing up 

Boutique hotels also called as independent hotels or lifestyle hotels are on an upward curve all over the globe. In fact according to recent data the supply of lifestyle hotels which had a growth of only 7% in 2012 have grown at 11.5% in 2017. And they are expected to be still hot over the next decade. 

According to The Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Association’s 2017 Sentiment Survey, personalization and customization, laid back luxury and authentic local flavours are a few of the factors that make boutique hotels a favourite among the millenials.      
So the future seems bright! 
 

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