The Future of Luxury Boutique Hotels

By Roger G. Hill Chief Executive Officer & Chairman, The Gettys Group Inc. | April 24, 2010

Boutique hotels are a continually evolving segment in the industry. Defying our definitions, boutiques can be historic or modern, adult or family-oriented, heavily themed, or eclectic. Once clearly identified as independent hotels with less than 100 rooms, well-known brands are adopting their characteristics in an attempt to capitalize on growing demand among travelers for a differentiated travel or lifestyle experience.

Likewise, our sense of luxury is constantly changing. A luxury isn't absolutely necessary to survival - but whose standards apply? In the hospitality industry, in-room Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions, and high thread counts are no longer considered luxurious. As technology evolves, guests become savvier, and hotels step up their services, many hoteliers are struggling to stand out in the crowded luxury market.

These forces present both a challenge and an opportunity for luxury boutique hotels. On one hand, they are faced with innovative competitors and always-increasing standards of service, design, and amenities. But on the other, they encourage experimentation, being bold and setting new standards of excellence.

It's all too easy for hoteliers to fall back on tried-and-true formulas in designing the next crop of boutique hotels. Today's formula is working, as evidenced by the growing popularity of boutiques. However, the segment's hallmarks are innovation, creativity, and risk-taking. As we move into the future, boutique owners need to embrace the same fresh thinking that earned boutiques their reputation 20 years ago.

Inspiration can come from virtually anywhere - if you know where to find it.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.