Category Archives: Lifestyle Hotels

Life and all it holds for us in this industry

I have been remiss in keeping up with this Blog.  No excuses, so here I/we are again to talk about life.

What brought me to talking about life was an email from one of my staff about the passing of a leader in travel and tourism who I have known since my first day working in the industry with Carlson Travel.

Michelle Morgan, CEO at Signature Travel, worked tirelessly over so many years in the industry and made a terrific number of contributions to travel agents and suppliers to travel and tourism.  I remember her brilliance at Carlson with fond memories.  She was always so creative and so committed to whatever project she was working on.

We always hope, through our careers, that someone will notice the good that we are doing and hope that we can achieve this recognition during our time alive on earth.   Personally, I know so many people in our industry who give of themselves, of their capital and of their heart to helping others.

I make it a goal to ensure they are not forgotten and are celebrated in some way during their lives.  If you know of someone who deserves to be celebrated, you may email me for recognition here or enter them into our AWARDS for Person of the Year, or Hotelier of the Year.  Here is the link:



Frances Kiradjian
Founder and Chairwoman

Passionate hotel owners (BLLA Video)

There is nothing like coming into contact with an independent hotel owner in the boutique, lifestyle or luxury category.

Their passion shows in their eyes, in their every movement and in just about everything they do online or off.

Why is that?

Basically, they are on their own, making decisions about everything including what/where/when & why. Their sounding board is either themselves, trusted friends and family or consultants and business associates they choose to work with.

They get into the business and some become passionate only after they’ve opened the hotel and see first-hand their vision come to life.  “It’s like birthing a baby,” says Tim Dixon, owner of the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee.  The heart and soul of these properties mostly are tied into an owner, even if the hired designers and architects take a lead position.  They don’t have a rule-book with strict policies and procedures to follow.  They are the P&P’s at the end of the day.

On their own — reminds me of the ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) tagline “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own!” In today’s world of traveling, it’s kind of nice to have someone backing you up in case you need help or advice or just a sounding board to help you make the right decision so you aren’t floating around out there without a safety net, wasting both time and money, and with so many choices online, this is not hard to do!

For boutique & lifestyle hotels, they also need that back-up, that sounding board, that one place to find experts and relevant information to help them through the thick and the thin of hospitality ownership in this special category.

That’s where BLLA comes in. The association’s mission is to raise the awareness of boutique & lifestyle properties everywhere on earth. Not an easy task. But one that is becoming more and more urgent and necessary. With new global property owners joining everyday, the larger number of members will mean that our voice gets louder and louder.

No matter who you are, if you believe in our mission, come join us today.

Traveling Boutique style – in mind & spirit – not the same as just plain traveling

By:  Frances Kiradjian, Founder, The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA)

This month I had the pleasure of traveling to Europe (Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam) for the International Hotel Investment Conference, the ITB Exhibition as well as the Hunter Hotel Conference in Atlanta.

Charming Amsterdam

Charming Amsterdam

On my flight home, I was thinking about how the thrill of travel (as well as the anxiety) was omnipresent and has never really changed that much, at least as far as my own personal experience.

Through the trial and tribulations of planning complex itineraries, booking planes, trains, automobiles, hotels and conference registration, making it to and from airports and lodging and through security with different experiences country by country from lifting your arms as they take an image and body scan through giving up my almond milk while the exact same box in my daughter’s bag made it through security.

Princess Diana memorial looking over to the Eiffel Tower

Princess Diana memorial looking over to the Eiffel Tower

The real thrill is in connecting with people and cultures in hotels, in trains and buses and planes and who are attending or exhibiting at these conferences.  It’s simply a marvelous experience and I can’t help but love just about every single person I come in contact with.  Whether it’s the bellman at the front door of the hotel (I have learned to highly respect ALL hotel staff and treat them like pros), the TSA staff at the airport checking your identification, the Passport Control officers (although some are pretty cranky but if you smile, look good and are friendly, you can make it through and not have the various Dutch tulip bulbs you forgot about in your suitcase confiscated, although the sniffing dog may just find that banana you took with you from the European breakfast buffet just in case the airplane food was no good, in which case you’re screwed as you will have to have all your bags checked).

One of the best museums in Amsterdam.

One of the best museums in Amsterdam.

Additionally, I simply love connecting with people on-board airplanes.  From a couple flying back from Sydney and across America through Los Angeles to make it home, to a Delta staff trainer sitting next to me to a complete family of 10 kids / grandparents / siblings flying to Los Angeles on vacation from Venezuela.  I connected with every kid (you couldn’t help it as they were all over the place bumping into you, knocking over things and being disruptive) … but seriously, in a nice way if you can imagine that.  They were just a lovely family to watch and I can just imagine how much fun they’re going to have from San Diego to San Francisco as they create lifelong memories for all of them.  I was touched by the 7 year old boy who spoke quite good English.  I taught him to take pictures of his experience along the way, including the beautiful snow-covered mountains out the airplane window and he said with a big smile, “Thank you for giving me this idea of taking pictures so I can remember every single day of my vacation!”

Best Sushi ever at the Sir Albert Boutique Hotel Amsterdam

Best Sushi ever at the Sir Albert Boutique Hotel Amsterdam

Staying in boutiques all along the way (I wouldn’t dream of anything else), you cannot help but love the experience of unique stays staffed with friendly, helpful people who can’t do enough for you.  We were only in Amsterdam for 2 days so running around the city left us little time to make plans for dinner.  When we returned to our hotel, the Sir Albert, we were exhausted and it was very late.  The fantastic hotel restaurant was full with no seating available (I did not heed the advice of the staff in the morning who suggested I make a reservation).  So I went to the hostess and begged her to see what she could do.  She consulted with the restaurant manager and he came to the lobby to speak with us.  “For you, madame, we will serve you here in the lobby.  Please tell me what you don’t like and I will create something very special for you.”  Ginger, as HE was called, created the best sushi platter I have ever had in my life and my daughter and I were in heaven, enjoying every single bite.  This is what you can expect from boutique & lifestyle properties … REAL boutique & lifestyle hotels that is!

The people and the places around the world are what inspire and touch me on a deep level to work tirelessly for our wonderful Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association members.

New terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport Paris

New terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport Paris

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Travel Trends to Watch in 2013

With 2013 now rolling along, the luxury travel and hospitality industries have set their sights on new horizons. With the Generation X crowd exploring travel, businesses are tailoring their services to this energetic, tech-savvy group. In other words, the Millennials are coming! In order to harness the vitality of this generation, the way people travel will change in 2013. Most noticeably, there will be trends involving cruise lines, airport security and mobile travel capabilities.

Uncharted Waters
Cruises have conventionally focused routes on the Western Hemisphere, but in 2013 they will explore uncharted waters. Multiple cruise lines will set sail for the Far East. Burma has emerged as a destination for lines such as Silversea and Azamara Club Cruises. The Irrawaddy River in Burma has become a popular route, as Orient-Express will add a second ship.

Globe 1Cruise lines will also begin to sail to Vietnam and Cambodia this year. Uniworld, Viking, and Aqua Expeditions have added these new locations to their itinerates. While sailing on the Mekong River, ships will visit Ho Chi Minh City and the historic temples of Angkor Wat.

The ventures don’t stop there. Sea Dream Yacht Club will explore Java, Indonesia and other parts of southern Thailand. For those of you enticed by luxury travel on water, be sure to take advantage of these breathtaking destinations!

No Lines, Just Fly
Would you travel more often if getting through the airport weren’t such a hassle? Well, you’re not alone, as this is a universal peeve. With airport crowds ballooning to all time highs, there will be new ways to get through quicker in 2013. Spreading to 39 airports worldwide, The U.S Customs & Border Protection’s Global Entry is quickly becoming the ideal way to travel globally. After submitting to background checks, you simply swipe your passport and breeze through customs.

Don’t worry domestic travelers, we haven’t forgotten about you! There will be no need to remove shoes, laptops or liquids with TSA’s PreCheck. Expedited screening lines will be available to members. Three dozen airports have already caught on, and many more are expected to adopt. The service targets travelers from domestic airlines’ frequent-flier clubs and Loews Hotel & Resorts loyalty programs.

But wait, there are more speedy airport lines on the horizon. For an annual fee of $179, the biometrics-based airport security program, Clear, enables you to jump to the front of security lines. It is available at Dallas, Denver and San Francisco airports, with more U.S. ports looking to add in 2013. Don’t let congested airports cause you to miss a flight, and subsequently ruin your trip!

“Electronic Wallet”
Out with paper, in with digital. Now that the tech-driven era is beginning to travel with regularity, Apple needed to respond. Included in their iOS6 update last fall, Passbook manages hotel and flight reservations. Nobody travels, or goes anywhere for that matter, without their phone right? You can access boarding passes, tickets and coupons on this “electronic wallet”. Airlines such as United and American have embraced the app. Apple realized that it’s far more common to misplace a ticket than a cell phone. Why not have all of your travel documents at your fingertips? Paper tickets will soon become obsolete!