Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

What’s a Boutique Hotel in 2017?

boutique hotel trends, boutique hotels history, kwe partners

 

What are boutique hotel trends 2017? A look at  the origin of the term, what it means today, and all of its variations. Plus, what’s next. First off, as with the words luxury and gourmet, the meaning of boutique hotel has greatly changed from when it was originally used in the 80’s. Any hotel owner or manager thinking of using the word would do well to understand its first meaning and how that has morphed from then to now.

 

The term “boutique hotel” was first coined in a major way by Design Hotels in the 90’s (though if you speak about a one off “boutique”, others credit Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in the 80’s). It was used to imply small hotels of up to 100 rooms with personalized service, upscale ( 4 ½ to 5 stars), and one of a kind. Most important to its meaning was the idea of personality through design and décor. Since then, its meaning has been diluted, which so often happens with a “mature” category. The concept has broken up into niches, and the industry giants have moved in.

 

This being said, there still are groups of boutique hotels and one offs that adhere to the original definition, such as we see in Small Leading Hotels, a group within Preferred and Leading Hotels of the World, and Design Hotels.

 

Now we’re seeing “boutiques” on the lower end of four star, and even “budget boutique” which is  widely used. How about size? One thousand room hotels are calling themselves “boutiques”. In these properties, service is no longer a defining point.

 

What most “boutiques” still seem to have in common is the original idea of hotels with personality and/or offering a lodging experience. Then we see niche boutiques themed around art (21c Museum Hotels); décor (West Elm, Restoration Hardware);  fashion (Armani, Bulgari, Missoni); and wellness (Even).

 

Major chains, Marriott/Starwood, IHG and Hilton continue to enter with various boutique brands – Autograph, Tribute, Edition, and more. At the other end are those of smaller companies like Joie de Vivre and others  in Asia.

 

What’s next in boutique hotel trends?  Companies will start to (and it’s already happening) move away from the word “boutique”, as its meaning becomes increasingly diluted so as to be almost meaningless, much as has happened with the words gourmet and luxury. What’s the next big thing?  Some might say “Lifestyle” hotels which we’re already seeing. In my opinion, the term is too vague to be meaningful. Most likely there won’t be one strong concept, but many more new niches. For instance, there’s already a Pet Hotel, Divorce Hotel, Women Hotel. With backing from a major brand in each of these categories, I can see ripe opportunities for the taking.

Interested in more travel trends 2017? Click here for another recent blogpost.

 

5 Tips to Market to “Seniors”

marketing travel to seniors

A market segment of senior travelers crave soft adventure

 

Seniors I speak to don’t like to be addressed as such, so it was no surprise to read results from a recent survey about five must “do’s” and “don’ts” in marketing to baby boomers and older.

With the kind of disposable income this demographic has, it’s well worth the time and effort to give heed to this valuable advice from Bronwyn White, co-founder of the Sydney based travel research firm MyTravelResearch.com.

As helpful background White said: “Today’s seniors were a product of ‘the swinging sixties’ and the seventies. In Western societies, they were a generation that saw liberated sexual experiences, the pill, the rise in feminism, experimentation with substances and a new freedom never experienced before.

“Many of them were wild, adventurous and exploratory. Today they are looking to rekindle that fire through travel adventures now that the kids have left home. Senior travellers come with a natural intrigue and a zest for life rarely seen with any other segment of the market,” she added.

Here are her five tips along with Karen’s additional comments:

Use ageless marketing, particularly imagery

Seniors don’t think they are senior, therefore they do not readily relate to images of seniors or text that talks to seniors. Age-based marketing is counter productive. Age does not define values, attitudes or behaviour. Use ageless marketing that emphasizes universal values such as love, friendship, loyalty, altruism and fitness. (Karen’s note: I’d also add that they downright dislike being called “senior”. I recently asked a small group why, and they said because focusing on age conjures up images of limited possibilities and opportunities which they don’t like to be reminded of).

Emphasis value, not low cost

“Contrary to popular myth, the senior traveller is not obsessed with cheap deals. They are very clear about this. When they do their research, they are simply looking for value for money – travelling in off-peak periods, bonus night offers, food and beverage deals, late check-outs, or tie-ins with local service providers. (Karen’s note: definitely do not use the word “cheap” as it connotes low quality)

Be smart about search engine use

“It is not necessary to use the term ‘senior’ on your website, unless you are referring to a discount in your pricing (then they’ll happily become a ‘senior’). The secret is to talk to a mindset and attitude rather than an age group. If you are paying big bucks for the term “Senior Travel” through Adwords or any sort of pay per click campaign, think again. Seniors who do actually include the search term ‘senior’ tend to be penny pinching and will give you a very low conversion rate.

Use language that hints at life-changing experiences:

“Seniors are not so interested in acquiring material assets. They’re interested in acquiring life-changing experiences – especially in travel.” (Karen’s note: and don’t underestimate the desire of some in this age group to crave soft adventure – many are fit, in good health until their 80’s and like to boast of their believe-it-or-not feats)

Market to single seniors

“We have seen a rapid growth in senior singles wanting to travel. The majority are women. They may be newly divorced or newly widowed. Or we have often come across a married single senior whose husband or partner has no interest in travel. It is important to appeal to a sense of emotional security.” (karen’s note: They like to travel in groups but there’s also a market for ones who want to travel on their own with the services of a guide in every destination).

Photo courtesy of www.mytravelresearch.com