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.

 

Luxury Travel Trends 2017

luxury travel trends

Walking the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route in Spain, is an example of transformative travel

As we hit the half way point in 2017, what are the luxury travel trends that are shaping up? Some are a continuation of those of the past few years though with a new twist, and others are simply new. Here’s our list of the top six:

 

  • Personalization and customization. Butlers and personal concierges are expected at a top luxury hotel or resort. Their role is primarily reactive. A truly luxury experience is considered one where a resort finds out guests’ passions and special interests in advance of a stay and proactively suggests and plans activities and experiences that address those interests. Case in point: a Four Seasons Resort in the Caribbean sends a guest questionnaire in advance and designs a suggested program of resort and destination activities based on those needs.

 

  • Desire for authenticity. Everything from spa treatments and food to beverage, decor and selections in the hotel’s boutique should reflect the local culture and traditions, and give guests an opportunity to interact with that culture.

 

  • Giving back to society. Cause related marketing and the social responsibility of brands have been around for a decade or more including sustainability, recycling, voluntourism programs, and enlightened labor practices. Now, expect food waste to become a growing issue. With growing inequaiity in the world and media accounts of food shortages and starving populaces, consumers are looking at how their retail and hospitality brands are addressing this issue through food donations, upcycling and the like.

 

  • Making travel easier, from airport arrival to airport departure. With the entire process of traveling becoming more complicated and uncomfortable, hotels that can deliver a seamless door to door service, going beyond the strict hotel experience ,will build loyalty. Think airport greeters; alliances with luggage shipment companies; personal shopper to “stock” a hotel closet with clothes for a weekend getaway, eliminating the need to pack a suitcase; and a  waiting lounge for hotel guests in the airport. (this isn’t new but expect it to be more common).

 

  • Experiences and more experiences. The more they involve interactivity and special access the better.

 

  • Transformative travel. What do you do after you’ve been to Paris, Shanghai, Tuscany, Macchu Pichu,, the Taj Mahal several times? You search for experiences that are transformative – your health (wellness vacations); your spirit (ashrams, religious pilgrimages like the Camino de Santiago), your creative side (painting weeks), your mind (trips with political and economic themes like the New York Times trip to Saudi Arabia to explore the petroleum industry).

 

 

How to Increase the Average Length of Stay

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

Flower cottage of the Relais Borgo Santo Pietro

 

How to increase the average length of stay? This was a question posed to me by one of our clients, a city hotel in Asia. The common tactic is to give an extra room night free based on a minimum length of stay –as in stay for 3 nights and get the 4th night free. But there are two other solid ideas. The first is to team up a city stay, adding on an extra night to the average length of stay, with two or three nights in a complementary destination, a several hour drive or an hour to an hour and a half  flight away (e.g. Bangkok with Chiang Mai or Phuket). To the guest, the benefit is that the work of packaging two destination highlights is done, and then you make it worth their while financially by giving a break in the total price or giving some value add. Besides gaining an additional night’’s revenue, there’s the advantage to the hotels of additional marketing support from another hotel or hotel group and use of a new customer database from a non competitive property.

An even better tactic is to offer exciting compelling activities on site and nearby that make a longer stay desirable. Probably one of the best examples I’ve seen (and experienced) is from the 16 room Relais Borgo Santo Pietro in Tuscany, Italy. The Relais, off of the beaten tourist track, though convenient to Florence and Rome, offers exciting activities that not only tap into  its competitive advantages, but also, a sense of place. They also offer guests an opportunity to learn new skills. In house there’s a resident florist who gives floral arranging classes from a cottage amidst an antique rose garden and does double duty making all of the arrangements for the hotel; an inhouse artisan  — a painter when I was there – who gives classes from her own cottage overlooking a lake; the Borgo Cooking school offers a myriad of classes for adults and children; garden walks; and wine tasting  . Venturing further afield, they offer everything from falconry and sightseeing from a two person plane with private pilot to truffle hunting, hot air ballooning, basket weaving, and novel sightseeing trips.

Rafael Ruiz – Front Office Manager says the Concierge program, which was launched in 2014 enjoys a 50% participation rate by guests and that since beginning the program, average length of stay from overseas guests has increased from 3 to 5 days. A final benefit is that guests leave the hotel wanting to come back and experience the other activities as well as the marvels of a superb resort and stunning setting. A winning formula in luxury hotel marketing ideas.

 

Emojis and Icons, Future of Communication

Two billion smartphone users send over 6 billion emoticons or stickers each day around the world on mobile messaging apps according to Swyft Media. They offer the benefit of instantly understandable communication without the barriers of variable written  or spoken language. So it’s not hard to believe that this can be the future of communication.

Indeed, a few months ago I went to the opening of an exhibit by prominent Chinese artist Xu Bing at the Frost Art Museum in Miami. He did a series of works communicating a story entirely with icons, an idea which occurred to him while sitting in an airport and seeing the signs that were meant to communicate in a “global language”.

Getting back to emojis. They have already been discovered by select major brands as an opportunity to participate in a space that has been difficult to penetrate. Plus, as described by Evan Wray, co-founder of Swyft Media in a recent article in Adweek, they offer the benefit of not being viewed as advertising, but as self expression. Earlier this year Ikea launched 100 branded emoticons, or social stickers. Coca Cola in Puerto Rico created 30 they called “emoticoke” and GE, AT &T, Comedy Central and others are also on board.

How to do it? The emoji keyboard (emoticons are emojis expressing emotions), standard on many smartphones, has emojis approved by the Unicode Consortium which can be a difficult process to penetrate. Adweek suggested that brands who want to create their own emoticons and stickers need to make their own apps or partner with messaging apps like Kik, WhatsAPP and Facebook Messenger. Worth it? I definitely say so.

Are you getting on the bandwagon?

Mini indulgence: Rooms by the hour

Some luxury hotels are embracing the idea and letting guests rent rooms by the hour, giving hotels the chance to take better advantage of the daytime hours; it promote sampling, and fills up some rooms that would otherwise be vacant. These posh rooms-by-the-hour aren’t just targeted at couples planning a clandestine tryst but also shoppers who want to rest their weary feet, guests in need or a power nap or travelers in search of a quiet place to wait for a late plane or cruise ship boarding.

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When the going got tough, hotels got creative

Speaking to the New York Times, “Standing apart on an attraction other than price is important,” said Leonard M. Lodish, vice dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “If competitors continually undercut each other’s prices, it’s a race to the bottom,” he said.

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A new breed of hotels offering “affordable luxury”

We’re just back from the Hospitality Design Boutique Exposition & Conference in the heart of Miami’s South Beach. Most interesting was a panel “Affordable hotels 2.0- Hybrids, New brands and fresh ideas” where the industry’s latest pioneers (Paul Priestman of Priestmangoode, Micheal Levie of CitizenM hotels, Bill Lanting of Stay Hotels, and Enrique Sarasola of Room Mate hotels) discussed the next generation of hotels, design and the newest consumer.

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DIY Hotels and BYO Luxe Dining

There’s a new model for independent travelers: DIY (do it yourself) hotels, a latest trend in hospitality. Also, David Bouley’s recently announced that he’ll be launching BYO nights in the fall.

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