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Have Boutique Hotels Broken The Code?
By Jeroen Gulickx
Thursday, 26th December 2013
 

Exclusive Feature: The trip by car on the windy road in the Cotswalds was amazing, and of extreme comfort;

We were driving a Rolls Royce silver shadow, from London to a little town in the South of the area. I remember the car as if it was yesterday, it was a green shiny of color and the petrol was more expensive than the dinner that evening.

When we got to a small village we parked the car in front of a little post office, where I asked a few people passing whether it was ok to park there, to which they responded "the parking attendant only works when he feels like it, so we have not seen him in years".

Moments later we arrived at the most picturesque place. The town close by, Crudwell had a small lovely hotel in it, the first time I came across a boutique experience.

So what is boutique, and why is it so popular?

Lifestyle journalist Karen Tina Harrison, a well traveled personality gives one of the best descriptions from my point of view; ‘First and foremost, a boutique hotel is small. Most hospitality pros agree that for a property to be considered a boutique hotel, it should not be much bigger than 100 rooms. 

A boutique hotel's intimate size produces its characteristic personal feeling and heady ambiance’. Size is clearly of importance, and of elite standard.

Boutique is a French word and means shop. Historically the French are know for their delightful small and exclusive shopping solutions. That’s why we love Paris and the small streets, with the great variety of shops its has to offer. A hotel could be the same, a small place with something specific and exclusive to offer.

Condé Nast Travel gives Paris as the ultimate location for boutique hotels: ‘Paris not only has more hotels than any other city in the world, it also has some of the most beautiful and most celebrated. But its famed palaces don't have a monopoly on looking fabulous.

Thanks to a vanguard of boutique pioneers, you can stay in a room created by Philippe Starck, Christian Lacroix, India Mahdavi, Marc Newson, Pierre Le-Tan or Sophie Calle for a fraction of the cost of a night at one of the grander big-hitters. And while these new and revamped hotels aren't always conventionally swish, they offer a quirky take on this most visited of cities. Rooms in Paris, especially those in historic buildings, tend to be small.

Lifts, too, can be cramped and soundproofing is often an issue. But if you're counting your pennies and are prepared to carry your own bags, these super-value finds, all under £200 a night - from a fashion favourite in the 1st arrondissement to a minimalist masterpiece in the 20th - are worth every step.

Looking beyond size and standard, the reason for boutique’s existence could very well have much to do with the creation of a hotel concept that offers recognition or the feeling of being somewhere different, something that others have not tried or experienced.

The trend in marketing agencies is similar, moving from a large corporate agency to the smaller niche agencies, calling themselves boutique. Sure it has something to do with knowing and wanting to understand more about the local, the area, and knowing exactly where the experience comes from.

But perhaps that also comes back to recognition. We feel we get more, if others know what we are looking for or if we know the product we buy, eat or experience is a local one of good quality. We also have the need we are being looked after, and not become one in the queue, again like some companies feel when they become a "small" client, of a large marketing agency. Or for example when a guest is only recognized upon check in or out.

The Value of the boutique hotel

How we select the elements that decide for us to choose a boutique hotel can and will vary. Recognition is one factor that plays a role, and the level will of course be different from stay to stay, but it is potentially one to differentiate a boutique hotel from another hotel with.

An element reviewed often is Value, is big word, related to brand, cost, experience, balance, philosophy and ultimately experience. In all my years within the travel industry, people become harder to categorize, resulting in values that are hard for hotels to understand, and to adjust or offer their services accordingly.

However developing hotel concepts become more clean cut and perhaps fun, just because market segmentation is more wide spread and opinion is readily available from the end users, through online reviews, booking engines and corporate companies moving to online travel services. With the creation of boutique hotels value is core of the business model, playing into those wishes or thoughts of the guest.

Eventually that is what it is all about, apart from loyalty programs or location, Boutique hotels have an opportunity to deliver and exceed guest expectations, just because they are small, and can add this incredible value exactly the small boutiques in Paris’s little streets have done for so many years.

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Jeroen Gulickx is originally from Holland, where he obtained two business degrees. Later in life he also certified as black belt in Six Sigma. He is Managing Director and founder of Mocinno International, a hospitality consulting company that started in 2005, focused on delivering incremental revenues for hotels, spa’s and also hotel suppliers.

Jeroen is well traveled and has extensive experience in the luxury travel segment. The main capabilities vary from streamlining cost and operational models, strategy yielding, business development, and marketing to digital marketing. Mocinno International works with a network of highly experienced, energetic and yet innovative people, based in key locations.

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