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Is 'Mega Boutique Hotel' an Oxymoron?

by Harry Nobles
April 16, 2010

In a September 2001 article we discussed the question: “What is a Boutique Hotel?”  In that article we mentioned the number of rooms as one factor that has an impact on the correct usage of “boutique”; we even speculated that 100 rooms might be the upper limit.  Things certainly have changed in five years.  There seems to be no upper limit at this time.
We subscribe to, and almost daily, I see hotels with plans calling for 200-300 and even more rooms, yet being called “boutique” by the developer.
We have recently visited several very large hotels, some with 2,000 rooms or more, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the combination of genuine staff cordiality, personalized service, and attention to detail resulted in a level of guest service delivery that we thought impossible at a mega-hotel. In that atmosphere one could almost forget that there were three to four thousand other guests in house, presumably experiencing the same level of service at the same time; the operative word here is “almost”.  That said I want to make it clear that “almost” achieving that goal is no small accomplishment; it doesn’t happen overnight, and it only comes through hard work and firm dedication.

That feeling may be favorably compared to what I had previously experienced only in small owner-operated properties with a few dedicated employees.  I have to admit I never thought it could be achieved in a 3,000-room hotel with more than 2,000 employees and several thousand guests;   I was partly wrong; actually some properties came close to creating a sense of intimate personalized service delivery.

So, what is the difference between a 15-room “boutique” inn with a small intimate dining room, and a 3,000-room “mega-boutique” complex with 2 spas, 25 shops, and 9 food outlets?  It surely is not just the number of rooms and other physical facilities. I believe it involves other things like a truly dedicated and genuinely hospitable staff, and a strong sense of owner commitment.  Now that I think on it, that is all that is needed at any hotel.

I was initially concerned about what I saw as a potential problem of the public being confused by the use of “boutique”.  I can see now that my concern was for naught.  Guests who go to the 15-room inn usually have different expectations than those who go to the 3,000-room mega-resort.   Actually many go to both depending on the purpose of the trip, and whether it is for business or leisure.
Like so many other words, “boutique” may come to mean whatever the user wants it to mean, and that could be different from the hearer’s interpretation.

The good news is that this could turn out to be a very minor problem or no problem at all.  If guests receive the creature comforts and the personalized services they want, it will matter little whether this magical experience occurs in a 15-room inn or a 3,000-room resort.  Those guests who demand the best, and are willing to pay for it will go where they find it and they will return.
If we give our guests genuine hospitality in a professional and competent manner, they will reward us, and we can call our hotel whatever we want to.
To paraphrase the Bard:
“What’s in a name?  
That which we call a boutique hotel, 
By any other name would be as special”


Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
(757) 564-3761

Also See: Boutique Hotels: Have They Gone Too Far? / Harry Nobles & Lisa Jackson / March 2010

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 

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