Boutique & Lifestyle Definitions

Viewpoint – from Ken Springer, BLLA Board Liaison

Note:  BLLA’s 1st White Paper on the Definition of Boutique & Lifestyle is being released shortly.  Request a copy here:

In a recent interview in Travel Weekly, Danny King, notes Ian Schrager (whom he refers to as a “pioneer of the boutique-hotel concept”) as saying the explosion of branded boutiques has led to the concept being “watered down”.

While undoubtedly a “pioneer” in the world of hospitality, I find Mr. Schrager’s description interesting.

If this were actually the case, and the “concept” has truly been “watered down”, has anyone considered the possibility that Mr. Schrager himself may actually be one of the key industry players who has opened up the spigot?  But maybe he realizes that and exactly what he means by “It’s a little like a Frankenstein monster “?

Consider Mr. Schrager’s own rise within the hospitality industry.

Ian Schrager

From his first start as an “independent” boutique hotel developer with the Morgan’s Hotel, he quickly moved into the arena of amassing an array, or “collection”, of boutique properties with Morgan’s Hotel Group. Fast forward his role in the industry a decade or so later, and consider his more recent involvement with Marriott’s Edition and with the new Public….. and consider how this influence directly contributes to the industry’s recent use of the term boutique “brand.”

So while once viewed solely as unique and interesting “independent” properties, the “boutique hotel” concept G R E W  to remain applicable to unique and interesting “collections” of properties. G R O W  the concept even further, and with the help of the concept’s “pioneer”,  and suddenly you see an onslaught of large industry players touting their own unique and interesting boutique “brands”.

But is G R O W I N G the definition truly the equivalent of it being “watered down”? Possibly—- but consider the fact that now just may be the time for the “concept” to evolve into a formidable force within the hospitality and time for it become a true segment of its own.

If in fact this is the case, can the “definition” not allow for boutique “Independents”, boutique “Collections”, and boutique “Brands”?

In the same interview, the ever savvy Mr. Schrager seems to try to differentiate (a cornerstone attribute of what it means to be boutique) himself from the industry powerhouse conglomerates and other high level executives looking to “cash-in” on the subject of “boutique” by stating,  “There are a lot of people who don’t understand it because they think it’s about design instead of attitude and approach,”

With full respect to Mr. Schrager’s experience and legendary vision……excuse me? Did he say “instead”? Does not design influence “attitude and approach”? And while “attitude and approach” are instrumental to defining this segment, I wonder where Philippe Starke weighs in on the subject of hotel design?

While the Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging association clearly recognizes the “definitions quandary” the industry has gotten itself into, does one necessarily need to use language such as “watered down”?

Is it not possible that what we are experiencing in the hospitality industry is simply more of a natural progression of particular segment? and a natural progression based upon changing consumer demands and corporate influence that invests where more money can be found ? Granted, it is “the new kid on the block” and time, and the school of hard knocks will shine the light on plenty of imposters,, but….

Is it not possible to accept a definition of “boutique” that has G R O W N without the need to consider it either “watered down” or “lacking in attitude and approach”.  Is it not possible for the definition, in the 2012 hospitality arena, to allow for a subdivision or an…

ACCEPTANCE  OF THE TERMS “Boutique Independents” , “Boutique Collections” and “Boutique Brands”?

And really…who are WE (as industry professionals”) to decide who should be allowed in or who should be excluded from the “boutique” club, when all that ULTIMATELY matters is what the GUEST wants out of his or her hotel experience and how he or she elects to pursue it?

And in addition to “attitude and approach” why shouldn’t we include zany concepts such as architecture, design, services, amenities, and our target market.

In the same way that the “cat is out of the bag”, “the fish is out of the bowl” in this instance, and as it relates to the boutique hotel…..there is plenty of ocean to go around,

Now with all that being said…… who is ready for the next generation of the “boutique hotel” and wants to take a crack at defining and differentiating what it means to be a “Lifestyle Hotel”?

BLLA, the First and Only Association Dedicated to Uniting the World’s Boutique And Lifestyle Properties, and its Advisory Board, mean to do just that…. and welcome Mr. Schrager to give us a hand.

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