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Chaos in the Lodging Ratings World and Defining "Boutique" - A Solution?

by Harry Nobles
August 25, 2010

During my 27years in this business I have met hundreds of interesting people managing and working in hotels.  The more memorable ones have a common denominator; they are very ambitious and very enthusiastic.  They also know that success doesn’t come overnight and is not free.  They are willing to work hard to achieve their goals.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than to meet a General Manager whom I had first encountered when he or she was a young desk clerk or server just beginning their first hotel job.   It doesn’t happen every day, but it is worth waiting for.
I met an enthusiastic, ambitious, and articulate young lady for whom these words seem barely adequate.  Her excitement is obvious, as is her commitment to success.  Her enthusiasm is genuine and contagious; more so what this phone call led to was totally unexpected. 
She introduced herself as Dinka Bojanova, calling from Los Angeles, and mentioned something about being in the hotel business, I think.

She talked about the chaos in the lodging rating world, and how no one understood the ratings anymore and how the word “boutique” as a type of hotel has been abused by the media and hotel owners.
There have been attempts to unify the classification system so that it is internationally recognized, but large differences exist in the quality of the accommodations and the food within one category of hotel. Simply put, the star system has flaws. It has also become obvious that the approach of the star system does not effectively set apart the top hotels from the rest.
Here is what the history shows in terms of the appearance of new types of hotels. In an effort to create a remedy to the homogeneous ‘big hotels', typified by the Hilton and Marriott empires, Anoushka Hempel's 51-room Blakes Hotel in London and Bill Kimpton’s Bedford Hotel in San Francisco broke the mold of hotels.

The term ‘boutique hotel’ was initially used to describe Ian Schager’s first hotel, in collaboration with Andre Putman, the Morgans Hotel opened in 1984 in New York City. Along with Philippe Starck, Schrager’s concept introduced groundbreaking design to the hospitality world.

Unfortunately, two major mistakes were made in the process:
  1. The definition of a “boutique hotel” was never made clear to anyone.
  2. Lack of a trademark protection led to brutal abuse by anyone who had more or less to do with hotels.
Since then, there has been nothing new in the market. Typical example is “The Hotel “ in Las Vegas with 1100 rooms. The truth is the maximum number of rooms cannot exceed 150- (max 200) in order to label a hotel as “ boutique”.

Ms Bojanova posed some of the most important questions that the luxury hotel industry is facing today:
  • How can a luxury hotel effectively increase its ADR without spending a lot of money?
  • How can a luxury hotel position itself in the market to stand above the cluster of competitors?
  • How can a high-end hotel excite the market with a new offering?
  • How to protect from marketing abuse and fake representation of their precious brand image?
  • How to bring the traveler a true luxury experience and match it with the customer’s dollar?
She said she had the solution to the confusion in the various “star” rating systems, and that her “new concept” had the answers for the luxury segment as it enters its latest transformation.

I tried to get the answers out of her on the phone, unsuccessfully, and then I mentioned that I was involved in the initial project to compile, finalize, and implement the original AAA manual of standards, the AAA Diamond Rating Guidelines.
It was only then that she asked to meet with me in person and arrange for my trip to Los Angeles. I hesitated, remembering that I was preparing to depart for Thailand and Singapore to testify in court involving a high-end resort in Phuket. Bojanova, not willing to take “no” for an answer, she immediately offered to fly to Virginia to meet with me. Two days later we were sitting face to face discussing my potential involvement in the concept.

This is how the manual of standards for this new type of hotel was born, which represents my 27 years of experience in the industry and the fresh view of the new generation expressed through her ideas.
Determined to avoid the mistakes of the “boutique concept”, Dinka had acquired the rights to the new type of hotel, the concept, and manual of standards and currently is talking to several luxury hotel companies in search of the best partner for Luxutique®.

I can only reveal for now that the new type of hotel is called “Luxutique” which by definition takes only the best of luxury and the best of boutique hotels.
Later, as our collaboration continued she shared with me that she met with the creator of the Ritz-Carlton hotels, the brilliant hotelier Horst Schulze, who now has his own brand - Capella Hotels.  Mr. Schulze was so pleased with the model that he endorsed the Luxutique concept in writing.
Ms. Bojanova is a licensed real estate broker in the state of California and received her education at UCLA. Currently working with Financial Capital Investment Company she is involved in the company’s hotel acquisitions, due-diligence, branding, and hotel management.
Her ability to determine the unsatisfied demands in the market has triggered the commencement of the company’s unique hotel projects. Ms. Bojanova’s distinctive way of looking at new ideas has earned her the label of entrepreneur.

I am pleased to be part of this not only exiting, but also very much needed  project; my promise to the reader is to reveal more details in our next article.


Harry Nobles Hospitality Consulting
(757) 564-3761

Also See: When is the Right Time to Worry About Your AAA or Forbes Rating? / Harry Nobles / July 2010

Is 'Mega Boutique Hotel' an Oxymoron? / Harry Nobles / April 2010

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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