Defining what makes travelers flock to these buzzword hotels, and how to “bring out the boutique” for your guests.
When Bill Kimpton opened the doors of his first hotel in 1981, he made the bed for the hospitality industry today.
By making guests feel at home as Kimpton grew his now-popular brand, he was making what was once considered small and unique big.
Over the decades that followed, boutique hotels became increasingly popular as millennials became increasingly important to hoteliers. At 83.1 million, millennials now outnumber baby boomers. Did we mention that they travel more per year than any other segment in both business and leisure too?
It’s no surprise that large hotel corporations today are buying up boutique brands — IHG did it to Kimpton — or creating their own chic, stylish hotel chain to capture the millennial segment.
Industry experts predict independent hotels will thrive in 2017 for this very reason too.
According to Hospitality Net, “Millennials now make up the largest share of traveler demographics and are the biggest factor as to why independents will be performing better than in previous years.”
So in a competitive hotel market that is now ruled by millennials, being boutique helps your property stand out. But why do millennial travelers flock to boutique hotels?
Here’s why, along with tips on how to “bring out your boutique” for guests, no matter what type of property you have.
For a sense of community
Millennial travelers value community and family, so they crave a hotel that brings people together.
Many boutique hotels excel at this with their integration of space and experience-driven philosophy.
The traditional “lobby” doesn’t exist at these hotels. Instead, guests walk into a comfortable lounge with trendy furniture and an inviting front desk. This design entices people to relax. Add excuses to mingle, such as free coffee in the a.m. or an evening wine hour, and gathering is irresistible.
This atmosphere of community gives hotels a competitive advantage over home sharing platforms like Airbnb, which offer a place, but can’t offer a community within the same physical space. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Bring out your boutique: Find your property’s most relaxing space and offer complimentary beverages at a certain time every day. It doesn’t have to be boozy either. Something nice with a touch of local flair, like lemonade at a southern B&B or shrimp cocktail at a beachside resort, works just well.
To get a taste of local
Socially-aware consumers are seeking increasingly more travel experiences that please their conscience. One element to this is staying at hotels that are good for locals.
Many boutique hotels have a local-focus built into every aspect of their brand and property, from who they hire to their vendors.
In the bar, you’ll find cocktails crafted with local ingredients. On the menu, it’s meat and produce sourced from nearby farms and businesses. The rooms are a menagerie of local products too, with art, furniture, snacks, and spa products sourced from nearby.
If you haven’t thought about a farm-to-table menu, don’t forget that well-crafted local food and beverage (F&B) drives residents to your hotel to dine.
Bring out your boutique: If you aren’t using many local vendors, shift your long-term strategy to building more partnerships with nearby suppliers. In the meantime, proudly highlight what’s local. Place a heartwarming story about your local snack provider near the minibar or highlight your regional farms on the restaurant menus.
To get immersed in your story
Modern-day travelers seek storytelling that takes them to a new time and place, and boutique hotels have mastered showing off their heritage without coming across as stuffy.
The hotels and conference rooms are named after local figures, and the history of the building informs the interior guest experience too.
For example, if the property is converted from an old clothing factory that closed decades ago, you’ll find lamps fashioned out of antique sewing machines in the room. Or, you’ll see steel framework exposed to guests in hotels that were previously warehouses.
Bring out your boutique: Every property has a story. Make sure you write yours and put it on your website. Then print it, and put in your rooms, so that guests realize they’re experiencing a story during their stay.
To bask in thoughtful design
Marketing research into millennials finds that creativity and self-expression are core values to this generation.
Boutique hotels? Well, they Ex-press. Them-selves. Often with bold, vibrant color palettes, and eye-catching furnishings that lead to conversation.
Design communicates what your hotel’s brand and persona is all about while inspiring guests to be creative, whether it’s at work, in art, or on their Pinterest board.
Bring out your boutique: Start by asking yourself, how do you want guests to feel at your property? Then develop a long-term plan that brings your property’s design into alignment with the atmosphere you want to create. Sometimes, just changing out light bulbs or a few fixtures goes a long way to accentuating your hotel’s persona. Not ready to remodel? Start with a thoughtfully-designed website.
The happy people
Staff at boutique hotels believe in their company’s purpose. They also get to be their best selves and love their job.
That’s infectious. Guests can’t help but enjoy themselves and love your brand when the staff is genuinely excited to be delivering great service.
Case in point is the Kimpton brand, which has topped Fortune’s list for the best places to work eight years in a row. Kimpton inspires its staff, encouraging them to share ideas on how to improve the brand, and empowering them to deliver great service. The result: cult-like brand loyalty from frequent guests.
Statistics provide a compelling business case for keeping staff satisfied too. Companies with happy employees outperform the competition by 20%.
Bring out your boutique: Focus on improving your employee experience and encourage them to be themselves. If they’re unhappy at work, look at improving your internal culture or current employee incentive programs.
A memorable experience
Travelers across all demographics seek soft adventure experiences that make their trips more meaningful. They crave going home from a destination with memories and a deeper understanding of local culture.
Boutique hotels have done a stellar job at delivering experiences to guests as revenue-driven add-on packages. These packages often include cooking classes highlighting local cuisine, food tours, and more traditional hiking and cycling tours.
According to an Adventure Tourism Market Study, nearly 54 percent of travelers surveyed said they planned to participate in an adventure activity on their next trip. Half of your guests want an experience. Are they purchasing it through your hotel?
Bring out your boutique: Partner with a local company or expert to develop a package that you can promote on your blog and offer as an upgrade. Not sure where to start? Contract a local photography expert to offer a workshop-meets-sightseeing tour. This adds more value to a traditional walking tour and appeals to creative travelers.