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Understanding "Boutique Hotels" - A series by Harry Nobles #1 What Is A Boutique Hotel?

publication date: Sep 19, 2010
author/source: Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson,
What Is A Boutique Hotel?

  Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson,  September 2001

What specific attributes qualify a hotel for this appellation?  What makes one hotel a boutique while another is not?   We believe there are several characteristics that contribute to the accurate application of the term.  One is size.  What is the maximum number of rooms allowable for a boutique hotel?  In our opinion, and in the opinion of some others,  100 rooms seems to be the upper limit.

  Is atmosphere a factor?  We believe atmosphere is a very important component of all boutique hotels.  If atmosphere is considered the sum total of the physical facilities and all the intangibles that comprise a memorable hotel experience, this may be the single
most critical factor.  Our definition of atmosphere includes decor,  ambience,  personalized service, the attitude of management and staff, and how all these ingredients must combine to create a genuine sense of intimacy.

An intimate atmosphere may be the one absolutely essential component without which a hotel cannot be called boutique. In our opinion, the difficulty lies in creating an atmosphere of intimacy without familiarity.  We define intimacy as caring, warm, personalized,  yet totally professional.  Familiarity involves  using guests' first name,  hugs,  excessive hand shakes, and other physical contact.

The boutique environment also includes anticipating  guests' needs and desires rather than simply responding to a request.  Knowing what a guest wants, when they want it, and how they want it is a major difference between  good service and great service.  The goal of any fine hotel, boutique or otherwise,  must be great service.

We suggest that a unique theme is one important component of "boutiqueness".  We are seeing a variety of interesting themes around the country , ranging from a library concept in New York City to a hotel in Washington, DC for guests interested in the occult.

We find this quite interesting and feel that a segment of the public will respond positively.  Our only question is where does a trend end and a fad begin.

So, what is a real boutique hotel?  Can you create a checklist of  very specific characteristics that will apply to every property?  Can you develop a profile that applies to all?  

We suggest it is a hotel that makes guests happy to be there, makes them feel special, makes them want to return soon, and makes them want to tell others. 

That description makes a boutique hotel sound like any other fine hotel, only smaller, right?  

As  with many intangibles, "boutiqueness", like beauty may be in the eye of the beholder.

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