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What Makes a Boutique Hotel? Characeristics of Boutique Hotels

Updated on March 7, 2011

What Is A Boutique Hotel?

Today, its popular for hotels to claim they are "boutique." So what does it mean to be a boutique hotel? Is the term 'boutique hotel' merely a marketing gimmick? After all, W Hotels claim to be boutiques because they are stylish and have a "cool" vibe. Yet the W Hotel brand is owned by a multi-billion-dollar, multinational public company — Starwood — and W Hotels can have 400 rooms or more. Is this truly a boutique?

Here are several characteristics that are generally expected in a boutique hotel:

  • Boutique hotels tend to have fewer than 100 rooms.
  • Boutique hotels tend to be independent or part of a small chain — these aren't the Hyatts, Hiltons, Marriotts, Sheratons or Holiday Inns, though those corporations are all eager to create their own boutique hotel brands and get in on the boutique hotel action.
  • Boutique hotels are more stylish and edgy than most large chain hotels. Often, boutique hotels have a distinct personality.
  • Boutique hotels tend to have a higher level of personalized service. Sometimes, the hotel staff knows a guest's name. Other times they offer complimentary wine receptions in the lobby. All try to have some quirky or distinctive service feature to stand out from the large, impersonal chain hotels.
  • Boutique hotels are often decorated or designed to reflect where they are. A boutique hotel in New Orleans might feature local artists and music while a boutique hotel in San Francisco will reflect Northern California culture — the food or wine or chocolate or Redwood forests, etc.
  • Boutiques often try to be edgy or hip or design-centric. Others have a theme. Still others are in historic buildings and take their identity from that history. The point is, boutique hotels tend to have a distinctive point of view.
  • Most boutique hotels are geared toward middle- to upper-income travelers.
  • Many boutique hotels have a standalone restaurant attached to them. These stand out from traditional hotel restaurants by being chef-driven and serving high quality food in a unique environment so that even locals go to these restaurants.

Growth of Boutique Hotels

Many travelers are starting to seek out and prefer boutique hotels, and they are among the fastest-growing category in the hospitality industry.

Boutique hotels are doing so well relative to the entire hotel space, in fact, that the giant hotel companies like Marriott and Hilton and Starwood are rushing to create their own boutique hotel brands like Andaz and Aloft.

Among the true boutique hotels, the largest national brand in the U.S. is Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. Other well-known boutique hotel companies are Joie de Vivre Hospitality, which is the laregst boutique hotel operator in California, Magnolia Hotels, Desires out of Miami, Broughton, Morgans Hotel Group and the hotels designed by Ian Schrager. Ian Schrager is credited by some for creating the first boutique hotel in 1984 when he opened Morgans Hotel.


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