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.
We consistently hear that this stuff is getting old and what does it matter anyway. Funny enough, people are still talking about it, especially as it relates to the boutique & lifestyle hospitality sector.
Read this article which is conceived through a writer’s experience at the BLLA Leadership Conference held in October 2012.
Every year for the past 20 odd or so, I’ve spent 6 months or so working through the trials and tribulations of the Request for Pricing season.
During this tedious procedure (please someone invent a new one!), you must make your way through a ton of mazes, twists and turns and lastly, GATEKEEPERS.
Who are they and why do they hold such power? We all have a ton of questions about these people. They are entrusted to make decisions which could affect the outcome of a property’s overall occupancy and revenue per available room.
I believe that most independent hotels who rely on these marketing and distribution groups and who are entrusted with making wise decisions, actually have no clue what is really going on behind the scenes. They have a RIGHT TO KNOW, that’s for sure. Problem is, they are probably clueless about it.
There exists a huge potential for business that is being left on the table because of the GATEKEEPER. They are actually CLOSING THE DOOR for one full year for that property.
It is clear that favoritism also plays a role. What — are the Gatekeepers getting extra attention, freebies? This is not what the RFP process is meant to achieve. Commerce is held up by the opinions of these people. Their job is to be alert to bringing opportunities and they should allow the people in charge of the bottom line, including the owner, in on what opportunities there are, keeping their opinion to the sidelines.
What a shame that the property GM’s and Owners haven’t an idea of what is really going on behind the scenes!
BLLA is an Elite Hotel Program that is not for the weak at heart. We are here to drive business and awareness of boutique & lifestyle independent hotels, brands and collections on a global basis. The Elite portion involves many other elements, so we do not fit in a box, i.e. the traditional consortia box (which is old, stinky and outdated).
Don’t ignore this if you are an Owner, a GM, a management company. Opinions anyone?
Note: BLLA’s 1st White Paper on the Definition of Boutique & Lifestyle is being released shortly. Request a copy here: http://www.cvent.com/d/mcqkzg
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.
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.