The word "boutique" is thrown around quite a lot these days, from boutique agencies to boutique exercise studios to, of course, boutique hotels.
But what are boutique hotels, and what sets them apart from more typical accommodations? To help you better understand this lodging option, some experts from some of the world's top hotel brands gave us some information.
Each sheds light on what makes a boutique hotel unique, including its destination-inspired decor and the personalized experiences guests receive through exceptional customer service.
What Is a Boutique Hotel?
According to Jason Moskal, global vice president of the Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels brands for InterContinental Hotels Group, the term "boutique" was first coined in the 1980s when a stay at the now-closed Morgans Hotel in New York City was compared to visiting a boutique retail shop. "True to its name, hotels with a bit of style, design and personality began gaining popularity," he says.
Today's brand of boutique hotels is largely characterized by its smaller size, personalized service and local personality, which can vary dramatically depending on where the property is located. "boutique hotels always cater to the individual, providing very personalized, intimate service," says Moskal, explaining that these properties are designed to blend into the community and reflect the neighborhoods and cultures around them.
"They tend to be smaller in size, which results in a more intimate vibe, allowing hotel teams to deliver customized guest services and experiences," says Jenna Hackett, global head for the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, one of Hilton's boutique brands.
Kenan Simmons, vice president of the Americas region and development for Small luxury hotels of the World, says that a characteristic of their member hotels is the involvement of their general managers and owners, something that the brand's guests often praise. She also explains that a sense of place is key. Boutique properties are ideal for "those who want to close the curtains of the hotel room and know exactly where they are in the world," she says.
Who Stays at Boutique Properties?
Travelers who enjoy staying at boutique hotels are not defined as much by an age demographic as they are by an attitude, according to Moskal. What's more, he says IHGbelieves these guests are curious, upbeat vacationers, noting that they see everyone from millennials to Gen Xers to baby boomers bedding down at these kinds of properties.
Mark Nogal, global head of the Curio Collection by Hilton, agrees, saying that their boutique hotel properties appeal to "curious travelers seeking unexpected and authentic experiences."
What to Expect at a Boutique Hotel
While it's hard to pinpoint specific amenities that guests will always find at boutique hotels (each property is tailored to its geographic location and neighborhood), there are a few commonalities.
"Typically, boutique hotels offer a hotel team with deep knowledge of the local neighborhood and high-end design to reflect that community where the boutique resides," Moskal says.
Food is also important to this group of curious vacationers, so properties strive to provide authentic options from cultures represented in the neighborhood. "Travelers can expect locally inspired food and beverage offerings along with distinctive architecture and experiences that reflect each property's unique destination," Nogal says.
At Small luxury hotels of the World member properties, Simmons says guests will find top-notch products and services, explaining that "the quality, customer service and unique experiences at our hotels are what keep travelers coming back again and again."
The Bottom Line
boutique hotels offer everything from innovative amenities to custom art to locally influenced designs, making them an appealing accommodation choice for many travelers. With more and more intimate properties opening around the world (many of which are associated with large hotel companies), boutique hotels are here to stay.
"Travelers are looking for hotels that complement their lifestyle and embrace their surroundings," Nogal says, "and independent hotels can provide that."