Some two dozen industry executives, architects, designers, developers, owners, and researchers met in October 2011 for the Hospitality Design Roundtable at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and the roundtable examined the current status of boutique hotels, including what customers want in a boutique property, how they react to boutique hotels, and even how to define a boutique hotel.
Roundtable Chair Richard Penner, a professor at the School of Hotel Administration, noted that boutique hotels are becoming more common since the opening of Morgans in 1984, generally considered the first boutique hotel. Commenting on the discussion, he said: "Many of the participants agreed that the term 'boutique' implies hotels that have more to do with small size and personal attention—that they are more about the guest experience than about design." However, some participants thought that "boutique" is not much more than a marketing hook that has lost its cachet.
Participants observed that the many boutique brands may have caused a "brand blur," but customers often focus more on a particular hotel's features rather than its brand. They also noted that the 25-40 year old segment remains a vital one for boutique properties, while baby boomers (who wish they were young) are not really the market for an experience-driven hotel.
In one session, Cornell senior lecturer Stephani Robson presented a brief summary of J.D. Power and Associates guest satisfaction data for design-centric hotel brands which included the finding that guests believe that design-centric brands are less safe than more traditional hotels and that employees at design-centric hotels are less courteous or skilled in their work.
In a session on boutique hotels and meetings, Cornell senior lecturer Bill Carroll introduced the question of how boutique hotels, given their intimate and personalized approach, might capitalize on this market without becoming a generic business-oriented property.
Participants offered ideas that seemed to fit the boutique hotel concept, such as clusters of small meeting spaces organized around an interactive social lounge, perhaps including a gourmet kitchen for personalized breakout snacks or meals prepared in the open by a hotel chef.
These and other ideas blur the lines between function space and other public areas; they may need the support of technology to allow both the meeting spaces and the social space to be equally productive. Participants noted that boutique hotels could look toward such meeting innovations as the Cisco TelePresence suite or meeting space with document cameras in the ceiling to facilitate real time brainstorming.
To view the full program and photos of the event, please visit:
CHR RoundtablesCenter for Hospitality Research (CHR) roundtables provide an interactive and engaging meeting place for a small number (approximately 25 or so) invited senior-level executives, Cornell faculty members, and research scholars affiliated with CHR. There is a pre-roundtable session and reception which includes a group of students interested in the topic the night before. The actual roundtable session follows the next day. Each roundtable lasts one day and is divided into three to five focused sessions. Each session typically begins with a short research presentation, open-ended remarks, or guiding questions offered by the designated moderator. After the initial remarks, one or two other participants are invited to offer their comments to either support, contest, or add to the initial presentation. The conversation is then opened up to all the participants of the roundtable for discussion. Given the relatively small number of attendees, all participants gets ample opportunity throughout the day to engage in and participate in discussions during various sessions. Cornell students and other faculty members often sit in the audience and listen to the roundtable discussions. They interact with the invited panelists during session breaks.