A Look into the Future of the Boutique Hotel Industry

A Report by the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA)  BLLA_White-HiResWEB

Boutique Hotel Sentiment Survey Results

The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) strives to be aware of upcoming trends in the boutique and luxury hotel industry, so that they can understand the thoughts and future plans of their member hotels. Things change very quickly in the world of luxury hotels, so this information is valuable for knowing what to expect in the future.

This report “A Look Into the Future of the Boutique Hotel Industry” reveals the responses to a research project that surveyed 55 different high end boutique and lifestyle hotels. The hotels were asked a series of questions about their plans for the near future and their opinions of the industry.

The James NY JIMMY-1The hoteliers were asked what their perception was of the biggest threats facing their hotel, including competition from other hotels, from AirBnB and other factors. They were also asked about their innovations for the future and the confidence they had for tackling future challenges.

The survey also covered the major areas of cost stress, including payroll, distribution and other cost pressures. The hoteliers were asked about the main areas in which they are investing their attention. Social media marketing was a popular response, but other areas of focus were revealed.

The report also looks into the way these hoteliers view the attributes of their hotel and their competition. The responses regarding sources of bookings are quite interesting and offer some insight into how these types of hotels operate. Within this study there is also information about the use of loyalty programs by these hotels.

the james ny 4The responses to the survey reveal many insightful trends relevant to the future of the boutique hotel industry. This report will go into greater detail analysing these responses, complete with charts to illustrate the trends. These responses and the ideas that they reveal paint a very interesting picture for the future of the boutique hotel industry.

The full report is available to BLLA members and participants of the Survey.

Email:  survey@blla.org to request a copy of the survey.  JOIN US at our upcoming conferences:
– New York, June 3, Boutique Hotel Investment Conference – CLICK HERE
– Los Angeles, October 21-23, Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium – CLICK HERE

Generator Hostels – Is Luxury Possible in a Hostel?

By:  Ariela Kiradjian, Hospitality Student

Generator Hostel Berlin Mitte
Generator Hostel Berlin Mitte

The Generator Hostel Berlin Mitte is definitely in the luxury category — that is, if you can even consider hostels (which I highly suggest you try). I arrived at Generator late on a Thursday night, very tired from a six hour train ride from Heidelberg.

The property was very easy to get to from the main train station. I was happy to be welcomed by a smiling face at the registration desk; check in was very easy and I was surrounded by a lot of advertising for attractions in Berlin.

At check-in, I was asked if I needed any amenities that were available for purchase, including a toothbrush, hairbrush, and such. I was also given tokens for my breakfasts each morning. After about a two minute walk to my room, I was very surprised as everything was clean, simple, modern and useful. There were even two bathrooms-one for the toilet and sink and the other for the shower and another sink!  Generator private room

The property is very well designed; each room has a little touch of the Berlin style. Splashes of color are throughout the hostel with fun paintings and artistry. There is even a café, lounge and nightclub! After a good night’s sleep, I went downstairs to the cafeteria which offered fruit, oatmeal, cereal, bread with meat and an array of juices and coffees.

After eating, I met with some people from Russia at the hostel’s library that included a couple of couches and computers (it was very cozy!) Generator Hostel LoungeThat day, I started exploring the city and I found out how hip the area is. Generator is located in the Bohemian area of Berlin, with lots of street art. It was so fun just walking around this area; it is filled with great boutique shops, restaurants and bars. It is also in walking distance to Museum Island and Hackescher Market.

Generator Berlin Mittee EAT
Generator Berlin Mittee EAT

It was very easy to notice that the hostel is meant for meeting new people from all around the world without having to stay somewhere dirty and unsafe. The hostel hosts events and even yoga! I left that Monday very early in the morning, very sad to leave. I had a very easy check out and left with more smiling faces and a sweet goodbye.

First Impressions – Why do they matter?

Why do first impressions matter?
From new BLLA member, Luxe Bloom

One only gets one chance to make a first impression. Some say people judge another person within the first 60 seconds of a meeting leaving an indelible mark. Now leading researchers from Princeton University reveal it only takes a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger. The scientific study was performed on the various faces of people. What if the same applies for the first impression of your guest arrival? Are you ready to make a good impression within one tenth of a second?

Luxe Bloom
Luxe Bloom

All great guest experiences begin with a great first impression. First impressions matter, especially for luxury business where the customer expectations are high. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, hotels are emphasizing on “dazzling guests during the first, crucial 15 minutes of their stay—or at least avoid annoying them.” Besides providing exceptional customer service, it is extremely important that hotels start impressing their guests from the moment they walk into the lobby and glance over the front desk. A positive first impression constitutes of several small details. The first one, of course, is cleanliness and along with cleanliness, scent is a factor that adds to the concept of a neat space. The next thing a guest will look for is good lighting, appropriate lighting will also add to that first impression the guest experiences.

First impressions shouldn’t be exclusive to hotels, creating a good first impression for a person, product, or place sets the bar for any relationship. Fine hotels have different techniques they use to create that great first impression. For instance – when welcoming their guests, luxury hotels follow the 10/4 rule for greeting. This means making eye contact and smile at 10 feet and verbally greet at 4 feet, this will assure them that you see them and they’ll be taken care of shortly. Another thing that will provide guest with a good first impression is to make all your offerings visible. When the guest can see all the available offerings (valet, restaurant, bar, fitness center) on their way to their room, they’ll have a good idea of the excellence in service your hotel provides. According to Barbara Armstrong, contributing writer at Forbes, “It’s been said that the first impression is the last impression. She goes on to say, “If you lose them at the beginning, it is very hard to recover.” In their mind they have already decided it is a bad hotel.

One guiding principle for hoteliers is the Forbes star rating system. Luxury operators all revere the star rating system; especially knowing it comes from a trusted sources and leader such-  Forbes Travel Guide. Due to their transparent rating system, guests and operators alike all understand what it means to operate and stay in a five star hotel. They offer a different experience because it is a better experience. In a five star hotel a guest can tell immediately if the hotel cares about every detail at every turn. Forbes recently announced the winners and it is no surprise which hotels prevail to lead the list. The Lodge at Sea Island earns the top distinction of 2014’s Best Hotel in the USA. The Lodge has been recognized as a Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond property for several years, the hotel skyrocketed to the top after gaining further recognition among experts and guests alike. Guests laud just about everything at the hotel — from the seven restaurants to the three 18-hole championship golf courses to the 65,000-square-foot spa. Guest rooms are appointed with every detail. Their waterfront views, wood furnishings, spacious patios and large bathrooms with rainfall showerheads and deep soaking tubs all add up to an over the top experience for guests.

Much goes into Forbes’ Five-Star rating system. Forbes Travel Guide assigns a team of professional incognito inspectors who traverse the country in search of the best hotels. They have been doing so since 1958!  The coveted Five-Star award is still highly regarded more than half a century later. They plan to continue inspecting the globe to uncover the world’s best hotels, restaurants and spas. Earning a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating is a pinnacle achievement; it means that a property aced up to 800 service and facility standards. Hotels of this caliber must provide a memorable stay through flawless service and the finest of amenities. The staff must be engaging and passionate.

Quality experiences define the perceived value of a visit. Tools exist to help operators put the right experience in front of the guest with Forbes Travel Guide and the rating system. Budgets might be tight but assigning dollars to making a great first impression can go a long way toward a positive guest stay.  Dedicate resources to making a great first impression and your guests will keep coming back!

About the Author

Shelley Rosen, is Founder and CEO of Luxe Bloom, a Chicago based firm. Luxe Bloom delivers a transformative innovation in the floral industry by offering natural, long-lasting rose arrangements to luxury business operators on a monthly recurring basis. Luxe Bloom roses do not require water or refrigeration to keep their supple beauty and last up to 60 days. In partnership with Pro Ecuador, we procure the finest roses in the world.  With over 30 colors and a myriad of designs, we serve the most discriminating luxury businesses. Kindly visit us at www.luxebloom.com to find out how we can save time and money.


BLLA Leadership Symposium Wrap-up – – 6 Growing Hospitality Trends to Watch

6 growing hospitality industry trends spotlighted at the 2014 Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium

BLLA Events Special Report

As the boutique and lifestyle hospitality sector experiences unprecedented growth, industry trends continue to expand. Lead by innovations from hoteliers, designers, architects, builders, chefs, and of course the unique tastes and expanding needs of travelers, today’s boutique or lifestyle property must continually evolve in order to stay ahead of its competition.

Leading the conversation with the hospitality industry’s top boutique, lifestyle, and luxury brand executives and independent property owners, the BLLA (Boutique Lodging & Lifestyle Association) held its third annual symposium in Las Vegas September 17-19 to discuss hospitality’s evolving trends and movements.

With a focus on advances that include adaptive reuse and sustainability, experiential travel, wellness, community engagement, and new definitions of luxury, top CEOs and executives from sbe’s SLS Las Vegas, Crystal Cruises, Canyon Ranch, The Athens Group, and more, shared valuable insights on six expanding movements driving today’s boutique and lifestyle hotel brand.

1. Adaptive Reuse

The concept of adaptive reuse prevailed as the 2014 Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium took place at the recently launched SLS Hotel Las Vegas, an sbe project in partnership with Gensler, The Penta Building Group, and Philippe Starck, that retained 70% of its original bare bones of the former historic Sahara. Reshaping the north end of the strip, they’re redefining how Vegas approaches new hotel developments. It’s no longer about spending billions of dollars to demolish old buildings. “It’s a journey of destination and tenacity,” says sbe Hotel Group President Arash Azarbarzin. Old buildings like the Flamingo and Paris need “an infusion of creativity” and adaptive reuse provides a “more cost effective way – the way of the future – and from a sustainability stand point, it makes sense.”

2. Experiential Travel

One of the latest trends for consumers in the lodging industry has become the search for the unusual. CEOs & COOs from Crystal Cruises, Luxury Frontiers, Generator Hostels, & Uniworld Boutique Riverboat Collection revealed some of the ways they are catering to the growing need of adventurous travelers who are looking for accommodations that are not “typical” hotels. Josh Wyatt, Partner of Patron Capital Partners, shared how Generator Hostels is “creating the next generation for travel worldwide” through its innovative and fast growing international hostel brand.

Frank Stork, Partner of Luxury Frontiers is evolving the movement in experiential, luxury travel – tree houses in unique locations developed around ecological values and sustainable construction. Stork explains how “social media is extremely important in the luxury space” when it comes to growing a global resort brand.

Guy Young, CEO of Uniworld Boutique Riverboat Collection, is leading the conversation in one the “fastest growing sectors of the travel industry” with a lux boutique fleet of river cruises. Voted among the “World’s Best Cruise Lines” by Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Poll and adding 8 ships in the last 5 years, Young shared the greatest benefit in river boat cruising is that “you actually get into the heart of the destination.”

3. Health & Wellness

Health and wellness become top priorities for travelers and hotels are rebranding to focus the physical and mental wellbeing of their guests. Because of the increasing interest in having a wellness experience and the bump in revenue, this trend has transformed into a growing segment of the travel industry. “It’s important to establish your unique viewpoint on how you’re catering to wellness,” says Tracey Anne Latkovic, Corporate Vice President of Canyon Ranch. CEO Polly Johnson of SpaEquip, a global spa company, describes how “spas allow for the opportunity for human to human connection that allow hotels to create a personal relationship –it’s what the big chains can’t do.” She explains, “You want the experience to be about humanity, it’s not always about technology.”

4. Community Relationship

Founder and CEO Rafit Ali of Skift, a cutting-edge travel intelligence company that offers news, data, and services to professionals in the travel industry and professional travelers to help make smart decisions about travel, discussed the rise of mindfulness in travel. “Mindfulness is having a moment as the casual tyranny of pervasive connectedness, constant virtual stimuli and hyper distractedness have taken over our lives,” says Ali. And with the rise of mindfulness, comes the travelers need to connect with humanity and its local environment.

“Accommodations are acting more and more like community portals by introducing guests to popular local experiences, turning them into living exhibits,” shares Ali.

One way luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises is anchoring guest experience more deeply into local communities is through voluntourism* opportunities. Edie Rodriguez, President & COO of Crystal Cruises shares how on every itinerary, they have a voluntourism* trip ranging from giving back to a local orphanage or activities from an environmental standpoint.

5. Farm Fresh & Local

As travelers are becoming more aware and engaged in wanting to know about the food they are putting in their bodies, restaurants in boutique hotels are creating ways to design a “farm fresh” interactive experience. From culinary staff focusing on buying more local and organic produce to increased focus on educating servers to answer guest questions about a locally sourced dinner, the farm fresh conversation is growing in importance.

Tara Lazar, owner of Hotel Alcazar in Palm Springs, also awarded as the 2014 BLLA Person of The Year, shared the importance of local through a moving video played at the symposium. “When you see food grown from seedling to plant to being picked, it makes you really respect it – and especially makes you not want to waste it. Local farm trips with guests help seal that connection.”

While sourcing locally also helps out the local farms, it satisfies the need of guests wanting to know where their food comes from. “Within a 100 mile radius, we can source ninety-five percent of our food,” says Lazar.

6. Authenticity as Luxury

As of May 2013, Forbes has projected a booming future for ultra-luxury, especially in the hotel industry. But it’s not just about high-count linens, marble floors, and embroidered initials on guest pillows. Today’s lux customer has a shared set of values based on responsibility, awareness, and intelligence.

Jay Newman, Principal and COO of The Athens Group, a luxury, full-service real estate development company specializing in environmentally conscious, upscale resort communities such as Montage Laguna Beach & Beverly Hills and Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica, describes how today’s lux customers seek service and authenticity. And authenticity comes in many forms from sustainable development, and approaching design “to make it timeless and real,” to letting guests know through emotional touch points they are known and valued. “We are becoming a voyeuristic society – people want to be recognized,” explains Newman. Letting people know they are important – in an authentic way – speaks luxury.

Luxury customers are smart and have a lot of choices when it comes to how they spend their money. Newman shared, “Luxury is about respect and embracing your customer.”

*Explaining “voluntourism.” More and more Americans are no longer taking a few weeks off to suntan and sightsee abroad. Instead they’re working in orphanages, building schools and teaching English. It’s called volunteer tourism, or “voluntourism,” and it’s one of the fastest growing trends in travel today. More than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year.

Author Bio: Jessica Blotter is founder and CEO of Kind Traveler – a new digital platform that rewards travelers for making donations to top-rated charities with discounts on today’s greatest hotels and unique properties. As a published writer, Blotter contributes to Fast Company, Hospitality Design, CBS Los Angeles, Examiner, and the BLLA (Boutique Lodging & Lifestyle Association) covering the topics of travel and social impact.