ONLINE HOTEL BOOKING TREND 4 – 2017: You may well wonder why boutique hotels feature in an online booking trend list. Agreed that it is rather unusual. However, this massive transformation in demand for boutique hotels is having an impact on how hotels and hotel brands are perceived and booked online.
The consumer need
The traveller need that is driving this massive demand and growth in boutique hotels is the increased quest for authenticity, experiences and wellness.
Booking.com lists “mind, body and soul” in its eight big travel predictions for 2017.
What is driving change?
Hotels that offer a product or elements of a product that caters to this need are experiencing demand. Improving and enhancing hotel products to address this audience taps into this requirement.
And finally, how your hotel website presents this information in an inspirational and experiential way during the booking process will be critical to attracting this traveller segment.
The Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) Leadership Symposium came to these five conclusions.
Emerging customer expectations
Customers want their hotels to be part of their experience at the destination. This calls for authenticity and personalisation to a far higher degree than that typically offered by a hotel chain. It also calls for some consistency and alignment working with the sharing economy.
Are they delivering on expectations?
Boutique implies exclusivity, authenticity and intimacy. The inherent nature of boutique hotels challenges the idea of them going main stream. But what if there is growing demand?
Will large chain hotels be ever able to deliver a truly boutique experience?
I don’t think a clear answer has emerged yet.
The secret for big chains like Marriott and IHG lie in their boutique brand integrity and promise. At the same time, boutique specialists Two Roads Hospitality have made a name for themselves by scaling a unique but diverse set of boutique hotels.
Businesses applying this trend
Almost every large hotel chain has also added a boutique hotel brand to their portfolio.
Marriott’s Edition is “an evolutionary response to the desire for a sophisticated experience from the guest with a contemporary lifestyle.” And their Moxy is a boutique hotel with the social heart of a hostel.
So Sofitel hotels are “a playful mix of sophisticated French elegance and the dynamic style of each locale”
Andaz Hotels by Hyatt. Luxury boutique hotels with sophisticated style, locally inspired cuisine, and vibrant social areas with a kaleidoscope of local culture. And Hyatt Centric hotels are “located in the heart of the destination, designed to be your launchpad to seeing, tasting and feeling everything a city has to offer”.
IHG’s Hotel Indigo “serves the curious – people who are inspired by new places, new people and new ideas”
Another brand from IHG EVEN Hotels helps travellers embrace wellness healthy lifestyles by providing choices that keep them on track. Their Wellness Advisory Board, studies latest trends and science behind staying well on the road inside and out.
Canopy by Hilton promises “The energizing new hotel in the neighborhood. Where you’ll find simple pleasures, thoughtful extras “and nice surprises that go beyond a boutique-hotel experience. For a stay that’s positively yours.
Two Roads Hospitality (previously Commune hotels and resorts) is making waves in the boutique hotel space with a range of unusual and authentic brands focused on design and the guest experience. Their brands include Alila, Thompson, Tommie and Destination.
Trend potential and takeaway
Will the term “boutique hotel brands” become an oxymoron with its inherent contradiction?
Can boutique hotels be scaled many times over?
The answer may well lie in the level of personalisation (without spooking the guest) using the power of big data. Applying prescriptive analytics throughout the customer journey to anticipate needs while training and empowering on-site hotel teams will drive success.
While hotel chains figure out how to deliver the true “boutique experience”, popular online boutique hotel specialists like iescape, Mr and Mrs Smith and Sawdays continue to attract travellers to mainly independent hotels. Newer companies like Doris and Dicky and Further Afield focus on niches within the boutique hotel segment.
Other relevant online booking concepts like One Night focuses on the experience more than the price. Instead of targeting travellers looking for deals, the app is deliberately designed to capture the mood of those spur-of-the-moment decisions with a focus on a feeling of spontaneity.
With Stayful, you can tell them what you’re looking for in a hotel, and they’ll find the perfect match for you. Stayful offers a curated list of over 1,700 independent and boutique hotels in 33 cities — and suggests bids the hotel is likely to accept as well as a discounted “book now” rate.”
Oasis pioneered the ‘Home Meets Hotel’ concept, combining the quality and service of a hotel with the authenticity and comfort of a private home rental. Guests can book hand-picked homes with hotel-like amenities (e.g. in-person check-in, fresh linens and toiletries, and on-demand concierge services).
Hotels aiming to deliver authentic experiences will find it useful to learn from the online booking propositions of these online booking companies specialising in boutique hotels.