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Chaos in the Lodging Ratings World and Defining "Boutique" - A Solution?

publication date: Sep 7, 2010
author/source: Harry Nobles. Nobles Consulting
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Hotel Online
News for the Hospitality Executive
by Harry Nobles      August 25, 2010

During my 27years in this business I have met hundreds of interesting people managing and working in hotels.  The more memorable ones have a common denominator; they are very ambitious and very enthusiastic.  They also know that success doesn't come overnight and is not free.  They are willing to work hard to achieve their goals.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than to meet a General Manager whom I had first encountered when he or she was a young desk clerk or server just beginning their first hotel job.   It doesn't happen every day, but it is worth waiting for.

I met an enthusiastic, ambitious, and articulate young lady for whom these words seem barely adequate.  Her excitement is obvious, as is her commitment to success.  Her enthusiasm is genuine and contagious; more so what this phone call led to was totally unexpected. 

She introduced herself as Dinka Bojanova, calling from Los Angeles, and mentioned something about being in the hotel business, I think.

She talked about the chaos in the lodging rating world, and how no one understood the ratings anymore and how the word "boutique" as a type of hotel has been abused by the media and hotel owners.

There have been attempts to unify the classification system so that it is internationally recognized, but large differences exist in the quality of the accommodations and the food within one category of hotel. Simply put, the star system has flaws. It has also become obvious that the approach of the star system does not effectively set apart the top hotels from the rest.
Here is what the history shows in terms of the appearance of new types of hotels. In an effort to create a remedy to the homogeneous ‘big hotels', typified by the Hilton and Marriott empires, Anoushka Hempel's 51-room Blakes Hotel in London and Bill Kimpton's Bedford Hotel in San Francisco broke the mold of hotels.

The term ‘boutique hotel' was initially used to describe Ian Schager's first hotel, in collaboration with Andre Putman, the Morgans Hotel opened in 1984 in New York City. Along with Philippe Starck, Schrager's concept introduced groundbreaking design to the hospitality world.

Unfortunately, two major mistakes were made in the process:

  1. The definition of a "boutique hotel" was never made clear to anyone.
  2. Lack of a trademark protection led to brutal abuse by anyone who had more or less to do with hotels.
Since then, there has been nothing new in the market. Typical example is "The Hotel " in Las Vegas with 1100 rooms. The truth is the maximum number of rooms cannot exceed 150- (max 200) in order to label a hotel as " boutique".

Ms Bojanova posed some of the most important questions that the luxury hotel industry is facing today:

  • How can a luxury hotel effectively increase its ADR without spending a lot of money?
  • How can a luxury hotel position itself in the market to stand above the cluster of competitors?
  • How can a high-end hotel excite the market with a new offering?
  • How to protect from marketing abuse and fake representation of their precious brand image?
  • How to bring the traveler a true luxury experience and match it with the customer's dollar?
She said she had the solution to the confusion in the various "star" rating systems, and that her "new concept" had the answers for the luxury segment as it enters its latest transformation.

I tried to get the answers out of her on the phone, unsuccessfully, and then I mentioned that I was involved in the initial project to compile, finalize, and implement the original AAA manual of standards, the AAA Diamond Rating Guidelines.

It was only then that she asked to meet with me in person and arrange for my trip to Los Angeles. I hesitated, remembering that I was preparing to depart for Thailand and Singapore to testify in court involving a high-end resort in Phuket. Bojanova, not willing to take "no" for an answer, she immediately offered to fly to Virginia to meet with me. Two days later we were sitting face to face discussing my potential involvement in the concept.

This is how the manual of standards for this new type of hotel was born, which represents my 27 years of experience in the industry and the fresh view of the new generation expressed through her ideas.

Determined to avoid the mistakes of the "boutique concept", Dinka had acquired the rights to the new type of hotel, the concept, and manual of standards and currently is talking to several luxury hotel companies in search of the best partner for Luxutique®.

I can only reveal for now that the new type of hotel is called "Luxutique" which by definition takes only the best of luxury and the best of boutique hotels.

Later, as our collaboration continued she shared with me that she met with the creator of the Ritz-Carlton hotels, the brilliant hotelier Horst Schulze, who now has his own brand - Capella Hotels.  Mr. Schulze was so pleased with the model that he endorsed the Luxutique concept in writing.
Ms. Bojanova is a licensed real estate broker in the state of California and received her education at UCLA. Currently working with Financial Capital Investment Company she is involved in the company's hotel acquisitions, due-diligence, branding, and hotel management.
Her ability to determine the unsatisfied demands in the market has triggered the commencement of the company's unique hotel projects. Ms. Bojanova's distinctive way of looking at new ideas has earned her the label of entrepreneur.

I am pleased to be part of this not only exiting, but also very much needed  project; my promise to the reader is to reveal more details in our next article.
Harry Nobles  Hospitality Consulting
(757) 564-3761

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