Tapping into the boutique and lifestyle hotel look and feel doesn’t necessarily require the creation of an entirely new brand. A hotel of any size and in any location can deliver a similarly curated guest experience through intentional design and diverse programming that’s rooted in the surrounding community.
Below are some ways larger existing properties can emulate the boutique experience:
Adopt a one-of-a-kind mentality. Boutique hotels are known for having a distinctive look, which can be achieved in any property. A simple way to do this in an existing hotel is through locally sourced artwork, including pieces that reinforce a sense of place and would only make sense in that location. Whereas before larger hotels that were operating under the same brand looked very similar to each other, today we are seeing greater diversity in the designs, with the goal of immersing guests in their surroundings.
Tap into underutilized space. Memorable stays are not only tied to local design, but also experiences, some of which extend beyond the hotel itself. By activating spaces that would otherwise sit empty, hotels can more easily host programming such as wine tastings, game nights, fitness classes and meditation sessions. These types of offerings become a value add that makes the stay unique and even helps forge social connections. They can also lend themselves to positive reviews on travel sites and free marketing via social media.
The mixed-used City Club Apartments Crossroads Kansas City from BKV Group. The amenity space that serves the hospitality guests and residents is an adaptive reuse of the historic former Midwest Hotel.
Focus on local partnerships. Breakfast pastries from a local patisserie, specialty coffees from a nearby roaster, soaps and lotions from a neighborhood apothecary – all of these localized alignments of hospitality and place create a distinct experience for the guest while supporting the community in which the boutique hotel is located.
One real-world example is the Westin Dallas Southlake Texas, a 261-room property located in the city’s northwest suburbs. Paul Barham, chief executive officer of Harrell Hospitality Group, the operating partner of hotel owner SRH Hospitality, was determined to bring a hotel to the city of Southlake that would become a destination for the local community. One successful strategy: hosting social events, including weddings, high school proms and other special occasions, as well as daily happy hour gatherings and dinner events. The hotel was also marketed as a site for business conferences, political rallies and other community programming. To reinforce this, Barham used the marketing tagline, “I wonder what’s happening tonight at the Westin?” It encourages local and visiting guests to discover something new and return time and again for their next adventure.
The hotel organizes live music twice a week in the lobby and has built a large stage in the “Backyard,” an open lawn area adjacent to the pool, for music, movie nights and entertainment. It has also partnered with a local distillery and showcases their infused bourbons at the Curve Bar, located in the middle of the lobby. Locally renowned executive chef Jenna Kinard brings her culinary expertise to Jellico’s, the chef driven restaurant at the Westin, which helps draw local traffic to the hotel, even if diners don’t always stay for the night.
Through these local partnerships and engagement with the community, the Westin maintains a boutique hotel feel not usually found in a larger property. This translates to a fun active environment for locals and out-of-town guests alike.
In this new era, consumers are seeking memorable experiences through their travels and in their local communities, while hotel companies are bringing new brands to market and refreshing longstanding concepts to keep up with evolving expectations. Because it aligns so well with travelers’ thirst for something fresh and distinctive, the boutique format will continue to be a driving force in the hotel industry’s broader recovery.