Thinking Outside the (Big) Box: 5 Forgotten Advantages of Boutique Hotels

By Stephen Westman General Manager, The OUT Hotel, NYC | June 22, 2014

Competing against big box hotels can be a daunting task. For the thousands of independently owned and operated boutique hotels it may even feel paralyzing. In absence of a widely recognized brand, a robust loyalty plan, premium hospitality software, and endless internal mobility and professional development opportunities (to highlight just a few), it's easy to lose sight of the many advantages and opportunities that exist for independently owned and operated boutique hotels.

The next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or simply can't emerge from the shadow of your big box neighbor, take a deep breath and focus on these "5 Forgotten Advantages of Boutique Hotels":

1. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

React quickly. Corporate hierarchy and red tape make it nearly impossible to react quickly to problems OR opportunities. Celebrate your independence and autonomy by creating a culture that encourages innovation, creativity and CONTINOUS experimentation. Embrace new ideas and acknowledge the inevitability of failure in an always-evolving organization. Take advantage of what's trending – in every aspect of the business – and share it with the world. I am currently piloting a new loyalty program for boutique hotels ( It's very simple – 5% back via PayPal when you sign up with your email address. No strings attached. This start-up company shared a comprehensive presentation with data suggesting this no-nonsense program is the way of the future, and who knows, it may be.

Fortunately, because I run an independently owned and operated boutique hotel I can take advantage of this pilot opportunity and implement immediately. If you experiment and it works, you're a hero! If not, you simply try something different until you find what works. The process of trial and error can be so rewarding, motivating and fun – you just need to be patient and understand that failure is part of this very positive process and company culture. The ability to experiment and try new things may quite possibly be the most impactful advantage independently owned and operated properties have against the big boxes. There is no worry about corporate conformity or the inevitable resistance from partners or franchisees. No design and development committee or debate on the rollout strategy - we can just get it done. You don't have to worry about your big box neighbor stealing your thunder - that same great idea will spend weeks getting vetted and over-analyzed while you enjoy a feature in the New York Times "Travel and Leisure" section.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.