What classifies a real boutique hotel?

There is a wide array of properties that try and distinguish themselves as a boutique hotel. The Locum Destination Review came up with a reasonable criteria list –
• Appeal to leisure and business travelers, particularly women.
• Although some are small (Blake’s Hotel has only 51 units), several have more than 400 rooms. Most are between 150 and 200 rooms.
• All stress homelike atmosphere, highly personalized service, and distinctive style with generous amenities including easy access to the internet.
• For the more sophisticated traveler, they are the “right? place to stay.’

Lucienne Anhar has put together an informative article over at HospitalityNet that helps define a boutique hotel.

The definition of a boutique hotel varies, especially among the hotel industry’s primary players. However, the majority of boutique hotel operators, creators, and owners can all agree on the following primary features of boutique hotels:

* Architecture and design
Style, distinction, warmth, and intimacy are key words in the architecture and design of boutique hotels, which seem to attract a niche of customers looking for a special and differentiated property able to fulfill their individual needs. Boutique hotels are not boxed into standards; the definition and expression of a theme is a crucial path to success.Many boutique hotels introduce different themes in each guestroom, making every single stay unique, even for their repeat guests. For example, the Library Hotel in New York City offers a different theme (from romance to music) in every guestroom. Many hotel owners are revitalizing older hotels, repositioning them as boutique properties. While true modernism and newly born design generally become “hip” in no time, it is usually those properties that succeed in combining historic details with chic elegance that outlast the fads.
* Service
The question that blurs the meaning of boutique hotels is, “Does size matter?” Most boutique hotel “celebrities” insist that it does, and that boutique hotels are properties that do not exceed 150 rooms. They believe that what distinguishes boutique hotels from standardized hotels is the connection that hotel guests experience with members of the hotel staff. Most of these hotels impose the acknowledgment of guest names by all hotel staff members, an experience that is clearly difficult to achieve in a large-scale hotel.Nevertheless, Ian Schrager, founder and president of Ian Schrager Hotels, which currently comprises approximately 3,000 guestrooms in nine properties, is among those who do not believe in this commonly accepted facet of the typical boutique hotel. With creative people as his target market, he defines “boutique” as an approach and attitude, with no regard to hotel size. Personalized service does not appear to be important at Schrager properties, especially in his “biggies,” such as the Paramount Hotel (594 rooms) and the Henry Hudson Hotel (821) rooms. Instead, Schrager hotels place the emphasis on entertaining their guests by creating a theatrical atmosphere that attracts all senses: through architecture, design, colors, lighting, art, and music.
* Target Market
Boutique hotels generally target customers who are in their early 20s to mid-50s, with mid- to upper-income averages.

Read the rest of Lucienne’s article…

There will always be the impostors, such as the Inn at Pearl Street, that is a very simple B&B in Austin, TX who mistakingly tries to fall under the category of boutique hotel. On their sub-par website they claim to be one of ‘Austin’s finest and most historic boutique hotels’. Looking closer at the property it is essentially an average looking house with a below average ranking on TripAdvisor.

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