Hotel Online  Special Report
What Is a Boutique Hotel?

Harry Nobles & Cheryl Thompson,  September 2001

What specific attributes qualify a hotel for this appellation?  What makes one hotel a boutique while another is not?   We believe there are several characteristics that contribute to the accurate application of the term.  One is size.  What is the maximum number of rooms allowable for a boutique hotel?  In our opinion, and in the opinion of some others,  100 rooms seems to be the upper limit.
Is atmosphere a factor?  We believe atmosphere is a very important component of all boutique hotels.  If atmosphere is considered the sum total of the physical facilities and all the intangibles that comprise a memorable hotel experience, this may be the single 
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most critical factor.  Our definition of atmosphere includes decor,  ambience,  personalized service, the attitude of management and staff, and how all these ingredients must combine to create a genuine sense of intimacy.

An intimate atmosphere may be the one absolutely essential component without which a hotel cannot be called boutique. In our opinion, the difficulty lies in creating an atmosphere of intimacy without familiarity.  We define intimacy as caring, warm, personalized,  yet totally professional.  Familiarity involves  using guests’ first name,  hugs,  excessive hand shakes, and other physical contact.

The boutique environment also includes anticipating  guests’ needs and desires rather than simply responding to a request.  Knowing what a guest wants, when they want it, and how they want it is a major difference between  good service and great service.  The goal of any fine hotel, boutique or otherwise,  must be great service.

We suggest that a unique theme is one important component of “boutiqueness”.  We are seeing a variety of interesting themes around the country , ranging from a library concept in New York City to a hotel in Washington, DC for guests interested in the occult.

We find this quite interesting and feel that a segment of the public will respond positively.  Our only question is where does a trend end and a fad begin.

So, what is a real boutique hotel?  Can you create a checklist of  very specific characteristics that will apply to every property?  Can you develop a profile that applies to all?  

We suggest it is a hotel that makes guests happy to be there, makes them feel special, makes them want to return soon, and makes them want to tell others. 

That description makes a boutique hotel sound like any other fine hotel, only smaller, right?  

As  with many intangibles, “boutiqueness”, like beauty may be in the eye of the beholder. 


Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
POC:  Harry Nobles
Phone:  757-564-3761
Fax:        757-564-0076


  • Former head of AAA Lodging/Dining Ratings Program. 
  • An independent consultant serving the hospitality industry. 
  • A Special Training Consultant to the Educational Institute, American Hotel/Motel Association
Also See: 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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