Industry Update
Opinion Article 4 September 2020

Four Compelling Reasons You Should Choose Boutique Hotels

Insider’s Guide on Where-to-Stay During this Pandemic

By Frances Kiradjian, Founder & Chair of BLLA

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The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page — Saint Augustine

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The official association to the world's authentic boutique hotels, BLLA, collaborates on this report with Dragonfly Strategists and Compass Edge Hong Kong.

Los Angeles - Travel is fuel for our souls. It introduces us to completely different landscapes, cultures, cuisines, and experiences. Travel can help connect us to ourselves on a deeper, more intimate level. Even though the pandemic has limited travel, people want to get back out into the world. Travelers are ready to go somewhere new, to get back in touch with nature, to rediscover a nearby destination, and to get lost in the pleasure of travel.

This is a travel-industry insiders' guide to hotels, written by hospitality professionals who made their living traveling, critiquing, and experiencing some of the best and worst hotels in the world. We are providing our personal recommendations to provoke you to dream about traveling, so you'll be ready when the time is right.

Providing guests with the most relevant and up-to-date cleanliness, sanitization, and safety information has become a crucial part of a hotel's communications plan. Hotel companies worldwide have transitioned to showcasing their housekeeping procedures to encourage guests to travel again and be confident in their hotels' cleanliness.

In the past several weeks, we have seen an industry survey indicating that there is more confidence in international branded chain hotels these days. The perception is that large brands will have the most extensive sanitation procedures in place to ensure guest safety. That survey contradicts another, which indicates that small is beautiful. According to an eHotelier report, small boutique hotels will take a much shorter time to gain public confidence and trust. So, if consumers prefer boutique hotels, why do large brands still have an advantage? Because huge-budget brands have an advantage in PR and marketing communication.

The truth is that large brands are typically made up of smaller franchise organizations that may or may not adhere to brand standards. Owners of these hotels often focus mostly on bottom-line profit, although they also do their best in other areas as well.

On the other hand, boutique and lifestyle hotels have always pioneered authentic and innovative experiences with extraordinary attention to detail. There are many types of boutique hotels, as defined by the Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) on their website at https://blla.org/boutique-hotel-categories/. These range from classic and luxury to adventure to hipster to boutique on a budget. The experiences at boutique hotels are designed to soothe the soul while providing the comfort, safety, and security that is so necessary in today's world.

As the official association leading the world's authentic boutique hotels, we are speaking up for them to ensure their voices are heard. We created this list of a few of the go-to luxury and upscale boutique hotels that we believe will satisfy the most discriminating travelers. Landing at any one of these hotels means you have arrived at the best of the best—hotels with tremendous attention to detail and the ultimate standards for delivering a safe, comfortable, pleasurable, and unique guest experience.

1. Cleanliness Focus:

There is no doubt that due to the pandemic, cleanliness is the #1 focus for travelers globally. According to McKinsey, more intense room cleaning is rated #1 for actions hotels could take to help protect guests from the novel coronavirus.

The word "dirty" now has a whole new meaning in the hotel industry and includes cleaning products, personal protective equipment (PPE), training or re-training staff, and disinfecting procedures. Luxury boutique hotels often do a much better job cleaning and sanitizing than other

hotels. Some boutique hotels have dedicated cleaning concierge teams executing detailed cleaning checklists that go far beyond most hotel standards.

Why are boutique hotels doing a better job of cleaning? In some cases, size matters. By design, some boutiques have a smaller footprint and fewer rooms, smaller elevators, smaller public spaces, and dedicated staff members who care about delivering a customized experience for each guest. Also referring to the McKinsey survey, some travelers may request additional cleaning downtime between stays. From an operational viewpoint, we all know it is far more difficult for large brand hotels to accommodate this type of special request compared to independent boutique hotels.

For hotels that have cleaning concierge teams, the crews are thoroughly trained in new enhanced sanitation processes, including pre-arrival cleaning checklists executed in each room. Before your arrival, a housekeeping executive has likely inspected and approved all rooms as fit for your arrival. Larger boutique hotels also employ the same attention to detail as those with smaller footprints and provide an exemplary guest experience.

Many boutique hotels are doing an excellent job of delivering on their stated cleanliness promises. Here are a few that we believe are doing a great job at communicating their cleaning policies.

  • Viceroy Hotels & Resorts:

The boutique hotel brand has published "Viceroy's Promise of Cleanliness," which includes signage throughout the hotel explaining to guests how much the hotel cares about their safety. Viceroy's promise includes using hospital-grade cleaning products, PPE, and equipment to ensure guest and employee health and safety. Whenever possible, there is a minimum of 24 hours between new guests staying in rooms. Viceroy's entire promise can be found at https://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/travel-information/health-safety.

  • Fleming's Mayfair:

The Fleming's Mayfair in London has carefully mapped out its guest experience journey from arrival to checkout and everything in between. The hotel focuses on #keepyourdistance as the #1 rule during a stay. The team started welcoming guests back beginning July 4. The details of its "We've got you COVID-19 covered" guest experience can be found at https://www.flemingsmayfair.co.uk/uploads/documents/GeneralDocuments/We%27ve_got_you_covered.pdf.

2. Safe and Secure Experiences:

Travelers who want inspiring experiences often seek out boutique hotels because they are better at delivering remarkable moments that fuel our soul, nourish our spirit, and transcend the expected. The #StayBoutique movement helps guide guests to the best boutique hotels and lifestyle brands. This expertly curated guide was created for discerning experience seekers. It also serves as industry inspiration for the purveyors of boutique culture.

But now, in addition to travelers seeking inspiring experiences, safety becomes the primary concern of all travelers. While all boutique hotels have a significant focus on guest experience, there are a few that we believe combine a focus on experience with a promise to deliver safety, security, and a unique experience to their guests.

  • La Fonda on the Plaza: This boutique hotel in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, has partnered with the state's initiative, the New Mexico Safe Promise #NMSafePromise campaign. The hotel is New Mexico Safe Certified, which requires staff to complete a series of virtual COVID-19 tutorials, pass follow-up exams on safety and hygiene, and for the hotel to adhere to best practices as designated by the state. Its focus is five-fold: Wear It Well (face masks), Keep My Distance (6 feet), Stay at Home When Sick (protect others), Suds Up Often (wash hands), and Be in the Know (participate in COVID-19 training). You can review details and an explanatory video at https://www.lafondasantafe.com/nm-safe-promise.
  • The Hoxton: The "Home to The Hoxton" messaging welcomes guests back and addresses how its focus has changed. Its program includes a "What You Can Expect" section that provides an overview of the significant changes the hotel has made. The Hoxton does at least four things differently—sanitizing everything used at the front desk, removing many items from the room (like pens and notepads) to limit reuse, implementing distance-dining and single-use condiments, and offering individually wrapped towels by the pool (available upon request). Check out the details at https://thehoxton.com/welcome-back.

3. Community Oriented:

This global pandemic has humbled us all and made many realize how fragile our world and personal lives can be. Living with intention and taking responsibility for ourselves and our community has become more critical than ever before in our history.

During the coronavirus crisis, consumers found brands that donated money, took early steps to protect their workers and consumers, etc., particularly attractive. Boutique hotels have long been entrenched in their communities and involved in supporting local and global community efforts. Also, neighborhood marketing is on the rise. Consumers will choose a hotel in a friendly, closely knitted neighborhood for local experiences. We have identified a few standouts in the boutique hotel community:

  • Proper Hotels and Residences prominently features its values, which are centered around the idea that everyone deserves to live well, so it fosters an environment that embraces unity. Proper Giving is a company-wide initiative that formally aligns each hotel and people with local causes that need help the most. Its "Live Proper Give Proper" mission states that it is a company committed to giving back in a variety of forms. When you stay with Proper Hotels and Residences, you can rest assured that you are giving back while enjoying your travel experience. You can learn more at https://www.properhotel.com/propergiving/.
  • Rosewood Hotels has stepped up its commitment to help its employees and communities worldwide that have been impacted by COVID-19. In addition to a superior safety protocol for reopening, Rosewood's Commitment to Care, the company launched Rosewood Raise in April 2020. The company believes the foundation of all hospitality is rooted in relationships. It focuses efforts around providing relief for its employees and their local communities. You can learn more about Rosewood Hotels' generosity at https://www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/rosewoodraise.

4. Unforgettable and Authentic Experiences:

Boutique and lifestyle hotels are in the business of creating and curating memorable moments for every individual staying at their hotels. They have accomplished this better than large brands because they have the freedom to be creative and develop out-of-the-box opportunities for guests. 2020 is stressful for everyone. Now even an average traveler is concerned about wellness and how to live a healthier lifestyle. Boutique independent hotels certainly are more ready to use a story-telling approach to create unforgettable experiences along these lines for their guests. Here are a few of our favorites:
  • Warbler's Retreat in Auckland, New Zealand, is a hidden oasis 5-star nature retreat offering an entire list of post-COVID lockdown deals. These offers include a Couple's Retreat, where you can join your bubble for a reunion at its hotel, and Sustainable Stays, where you can focus on the environment. Warbler's is also offering a One Night Wellness Retreat for an energy restorative stay to rejuvenate after the experience of COVID-19. You can check out its deals at https://www.warblersretreat.nz/Packages.
  • Beach Enclave Villas in the Turks & Caicos is an exclusive luxury resort offering large villas on the beach. The hotel encourages guests to embrace island living, where life unfolds as you wish. One extravagant offer includes a five-bedroom beachfront villa with a private chef credit. The villa has two master bedrooms facing the ocean, one master garden suite on the ground floor, one guest suite converted to a media room, an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, and a beach deck. You can travel with your COVID-free bubble and never leave your villa while on vacation. You can view all of its lavish offers at https://www.beachenclave.com/offers/.
  • Firebrand Hotel in Whitefish, Montana, offers an outdoor experience that ignites your senses with untamed experiences both day and night. In addition to packages such as Connect & Ignite and Do the Fish, it offers adventures galore. Guests can go cycling, rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, golfing, fishing, and whitewater rafting. They can go on floatplane tours or go stand-up paddle-boarding, fly fishing, and on private boat tours. There are Red Bus Tours in Glacier National Park, as well as charter fishing, skiing, snowboarding, backcountry cat skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice fishing, and horse-drawn sleigh riding. There is a luxurious spa available so guests can end the day relaxing. Check out their adventures at https://firebrandhotel.com/activities.
  • Ostraco Suites in Mykonos, Greece, is a culinary experience where guests can enjoy the essence of Greek gastronomy, with organic ingredients. The hotel has a unique selection of wines and champagnes to accompany your gastronomic journey, which, along with the scenery, will guarantee the ultimate dining experience. Add to that the luxurious suites with views of the Aegean Sea and an offer of up to 40% off, and you are sure to have a magnificent vacation. Review and book this sumptuous hotel at https://ostraco.gr/.

Today, guests are seeking opportunities that enable them to gather safely, enjoy nature and outdoor spaces, and that encourage connection to reunite in a socially distanced manner with travel and with people. Boutique and independent hotels are distinctively positioned with the best ingredients and a superior approach to provide this type of travel.

If you would like to book a boutique experience, we suggest using Stay Boutique (https://stay-boutique.com/) to explore your options globally. We will connect you to genuine vetted boutique and lifestyle hotels. We're confident your experience will be unforgettable, safe, and welcoming.

About the Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) - The official organization for the world's boutique lifestyle leaders promoting connection, education, and advocacy. As a pioneer in forecasting the boutique movement, the BLLA's network has grown beyond its hotel foundation to welcome more passionate entrepreneurs, businesses and purveyors that amplify the boutique lifestyle. BLLA is a catalyst for trends and the future of boutique.
blla.org

About StayBoutique™ - StayBoutique discovers the best in boutique for the world to experience, be inspired by and share. As the BLLA's media platform, StayBoutique has been part of the boutique movement for the last 10 years. As boutique has grown from travel experiences into a thriving lifestyle, StayBoutique has extended beyond their hospitality origins to reach into consumers' lives.
stay-boutique.com

About Dragonfly Strategists - Dragonfly Strategists is a boutique commercial and IT strategy and services firm with a team that has years of hospitality expertise. We have clients that outsource corporate revenue strategy, distribution, sales & marketing, and day-to-day revenue management to our transformative team. We have opened many hotels from pre-construction planning to fully operating with the best systems, strategy and services. Our talented team has redesigned the guest experience to help our hotel clients differentiate on experience instead of price. We migrate hotel systems on a weekly basis. The Dragonfly team provides specialized services to help hotels recover from COVID-19 disruption successfully. Learn more at
dragonflystr.com

About Compass Edge - Compass Edge is a company offering online solutions to independent hotels. It is a niche service provider offering cost-effective branding solutions for overseas hotels to establish an online presence for the booming Chinese FIT market. It can also provide customers with an Internet Booking Engine, meta-search integration, GDS distribution and Channel Manager in its portfolio of solutions.
compass-edge.com

Frances Kiradjian

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