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Boutique Hotels:
Have They Gone Too Far?

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by Harry Nobles & Lisa Jackson
March, 2010

They have certainly gone far in distance; we recently encountered the boutique concept in Asia. While on a consulting project in Thailand we visited several small hotels that, in our opinion, combine all the best boutique characteristics. We were most impressed with the elegant and intimate atmosphere these properties display without any of the trendiness we have seen in some U.S. self-named boutique hotels. We do not intend any criticism of American boutique hotels; we have seen some truly excellent examples. In fact we have recently worked with an architectural firm to design a 73-room property for a client.

Ask Harry and  Lisa

We encourage readers to email us with questions on ratings, guest services, design, decor, etc. We'll directly respond to your questions. Email Harry and Lisa at: hospsvc001@aol.com


When completed, we believe it will be a superb combination of a luxurious physical facility, intimate atmosphere, and the ultimate in personalized service, thereby truly deserving of the term boutique. We  readily admit to some bias on this point. 

The trendiness, to which we refer will, in our opinion, be short-lived. We believe guests will quickly tire of properties that cater to the quirks and idiosyncrasies of what we see as a very small segment of the market. We feel that boutique hotels choosing this option will enjoy only short-term success. We would do well, however, to remember H.L. Mencken’s satiric quote  "no one ever went broke underestimating the American public’s taste". 

This taste to which we refer includes themes such as Sex, The Occult, Yoga & Spiritualism, and Tall Guests. The list goes on and on. The Sex themed hotel, decorated with satin fabrics in passionate reds and seductive blacks, is located in a major city at the hub of political activity. 

Do our over funded and mostly under productive politicians really need any additional encouragement to visit a “boutique” hotel rather than taking care of the people’s business?

Some of us can remember the old timers who were able to do both. Do the names “Wilbur” and “Fannie Fox” at the Tidal Basin ring a bell?

The room rate for guests at the Tall Person hotel is based on guest height: the taller the guest, the lower the rate. Might this be considered discrimination against short people? 

We agree there should be accommodations to suit just about everyone's personal taste, but should every small hotel with a theme be labeled as Boutique? We  think not.
 
We are convinced there will always be discerning guests who expect, will seek out, and will be willing to pay for a memorable hotel experience. These guests do not want and will not be fooled by gimmicks and fads. They will demand and will patronize those properties that offer elegance, both formal and informal, individualized guest rooms, attention to detail and impeccable, tailor-made service: In our opinion, these are the things that define a bona fide boutique hotel.
 
Several of the Asian properties we visited epitomized the boutique concept. They were small, one has only six rooms; and each had a special and unique "feel". The decor ranged from simplicity to elegance. Service was personalized without being familiar. Staff was totally attentive and very guest oriented but neither robotic nor intrusive. We experienced the perfect balance between superb service when we wanted it and privacy and serenity when we wanted that: A very refreshing change from so many "cookie cutter" hotels. 

We were also enlightened on this trip. We had previously associated "boutique" with elegance. We now know that this is not a firm rule. Our favorite discovery was a six-room hideaway that opened our  eyes: A boutique resort with an atmosphere of absolute simplicity and understated beauty.  While we will admit that the location on a secluded mountain with a magnificent view of two oceans adds a lot, this would be  a very special place in any setting. It was a truly memorable experience, and we have already planned a return visit. 

Our experience accomplished the ultimate goal of any hotel manager: it made us want to stay longer, come back soon, and tell others. What more could one expect?   We  could rave on but you get the point. We found some real gems in Asia and can't wait to talk about them with anyone who will listen.  We also came away with so many exciting ideas for our next boutique hotel design project.
We have always heard of the important role that harmony plays in oriental life but had  never thought of it in terms of hotel accommodations until experiencing it first hand in Asia.
 
Harmony, both physical and spiritual, is one more characteristic we will be looking for when visiting boutique hotels in the future.  We believe harmony is one of the more appropriate elements for boutique hotels, not just in Asia, but anywhere in the world. 

Have boutique hotels gone too far?  If trying to be special by just being trendy, faddish, or radical is too far, maybe some have gone to the extreme.  On the other hand,  maybe some adventurous soul needs to be willing to experiment and explore the outer limits of this concept.  We certainly do not see this as a bad thing.  We trust the public to decide what it will accept and support.  The ultimate decision on what is boutique, special,  or just different will not be up to us or to the industry.  The final judge, as always, will be the guest.  

Contact:

Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
www.nobleshospitalityconsulting.com
hospsvc001@aol.com
(757) 564-3761


Also See: Does AAA Approval Help? / Harry Nobles / November 2009

Which Training Plan is Right for You? / Harry Nobles / June 2009

Is Hospitality For Hotels Only? / Harry Nobles / June 2009

How Important is Service? Very! / Harry Nobles / May 2009

What to Do? Improve Guest Services or Upgrade Facilities / Harry Nobles / December 2008

My Dream Hotel? / Harry Nobles, October 2008

Hurricane Ike:  Challenges and Opportunities? / September 2008

Who Should Train Your Employees?/ Harry Nobles / September 2008

Designing for the Future a Key to Earning 4 or 5 Star/Diamond Rating / Harry Nobles / February 2008

Look for the Ducks / Harry Nobles / April 2007

How Should Casino-Hotels Be Rated? / Harry Nobles / April 2007

Is 'Mega Boutique Hotel' an Oxymoron / Harry Nobles/ December 2006

Hotel People I Have Know / Harry Nobles / October 2006

Now I’ve Seen Everything -  “Food Servers Employing the Internet to Divulge Names of Customers Who Tip Less than 17%”/ Harry Nobles / September 2006

Does Hotel Room Size Matter? / Harry Nobles / September 2006

If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating / Harry Nobles/ May 2006

AAA Evaluation Procedure: Is It Fair? / Harry Nobles/ May 2006

Four Star vs Mobil Four Star / Harry Nobles/ February 2006

Rating Condominiums / Harry Nobles / January 2006

AAA Five Diamond Lodgings; Chain vs Independent / November 2005

Katrina & Rita: Silver Lining or Opportunity? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / October 2005

Our Dream Hotel / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / July 2005

Losing a Diamond or Star / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs /  March 2005

Ratings vs Guest Satisfaction / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2005

Our "Pick of the Month" / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004

5 Star vs 5 Diamond: What’s the Difference? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / November 2004

Strategic Alliance Announced, Committed to Hospitality Excellence / August 2004

Family Resorts: Suggested Strategies / Cheryl Griggs / July 2004

Are Small Resorts Unfairly Treated by the AAA and Mobil Rating Criteria / July 2004

Designing For Optimum Global Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / June 2004

QualAsia Formed to Provide Authoritative Organization to Inspect and Evaluate Hotels Across Asia; Harry Nobles Appointed Chairman of New Asian Hotel Rating Service / May 2004

Validity of Online Hotel Ratings / Cheryl Griggs / April 2004

Resorts Ratings Redux / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Griggs / February 2004

Are Your Trainers Trained? / Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson Grigg /  January 2004 

The Language of Service / Cheryl Griggs / October 2003

Hotel Renovation Ideas vs AAA Ratings Criteria / Harry Nobles / October 2003

New Employee Orientation: Necessity or Luxury?  /  July 2003

Save the Best - Replace the Rest / July 2003

AAA and Mobil Ratings As a Sales Tool / May 2003

How Well Do You Know Your Competitor? / May 2003

Our Favorite Hotel?  / March 2003

The Current Value of AAA Hotel Ratings / Feb 2003

Stars and Diamonds; Some Similarities and Some Differences / January 2003

AAA's Delay: Good or Bad? / July 2002

Timing Is Everything, Or Is It? / July 2002 

Boutique Hotels: Have They Gone Too Far / May 2002

People Really Do Make the Difference / Jan 2002

What Is a Boutique Hotel? / Dec 2001

The Non-negotiable Traits of Leaders / Oct 2001 

How Important is Service? / Sept 2001

Front Desk Service Mistakes / Aug 2001

Food & Beverage Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001

Bell Staff Mistakes & How to Correct Them / July 2001 

Attitude vs Aptitude / June 2001

Female Business Travelers' Expectations / June 2001

Is Outsourcing Your Training a Viable Alternative? / June 2001

Unique Identity + Consistent Service = Success / May 2001

AAA Standards vs  Guests' Expectations / May 2001

Are Your Guests Better Informed Than Your Staff? / April 2001

Are U.S. Hotels Rated Differently From Other North American Hotels? / April 2001

The Design Theme - AAA / Mobil Ratings Connection / March 2001

Attitude Can Make the Difference / January 2001

How Should Casino-Hotels be Rated? / Dec 2000

Does AAA Rate Resorts Fairly? / Nov 2000

Is Your Property Suffering From Design Deficiency? / Nov 2000 

The Future of AAA Ratings / September 2000

What Is Your Optimum AAA Rating / August 2000

If You Disagree With Your AAA Rating…../ June 2000

Are AAA Ratings Always Accurate and Objective / May 2000

Creating Atmosphere / Jan 2000

What is "Atmosphere"? / December 1999

Maintaining Your AAA Rating / Nov 1999

Earning a AAA Rating vs Maintaining a AAA Rating: Which Is More Difficult? / Oct 1999

Can Outstanding Service Offset Hotel Physical Deficiencies in the Rating Systems? / Harry Nobles / June 1999 

Consistency: The Hallmark of a Fine Hotel / September 1999

Who Should Train Your Employees  / Aug 2000 

Mobil Travel Guide Announces 1998 Mobil Four-and Five-Star Award Winners / Jan 1998 

Key to Success: Training + Follow-Up / June 2000

The Legend of the Pineapple / Harry Nobles / Feb 1999 

To Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting Index Page


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