Boutique hotels are an increasingly popular option for business and leisure travellers, making the sector a growing one. While we all generally have an idea of the ambience and experience we can expect at a boutique hotel, what exactly is a boutique hotel? And what are the things you need to know if you’re considering opening a boutique hotel or transforming your hotel into something more boutique?

In this blog you’ll find everything you need to know about what defines a boutique hotel and how to make yours special.

What is a boutique hotel?

The words “boutique hotel” are evocative, and when you think of a boutique hotel you likely have a clear image in your mind. But transforming this image into words is sometimes a little more difficult.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a boutique hotel as “a small, stylish and fashionable hotel that is not part of a chain (= group of hotels belonging to one company).”

We can also use examples to convey what we mean by a boutique hotel. Hanging Gardens of Bali, Italy’s Byblos Art Hotel, Emaho Sekawa Fiji and Finland’s Artic Light Hotel are very different places and offer a very different experience. But all show what a great boutique hotel offers: something a little special, a little out of the ordinary and definitely something more than just a place to stay. Boutique hotels offer a memorable experience.

What are the differences between a boutique hotel and other hotels?

Compared to the ‘average’ hotel, a boutique hotel will generally have a unique theme or strong personality and character.  Perhaps it’s a culinary-focused property or is housed in an historic building? Whatever it is, this special focus will flow through the hotel’s aesthetic, services, amenities and more.

All this adds up to style, as per the definition above. Much attention is paid to carefully selecting everything about the hotel, from pools to websites and beds. These hotels inspire and delight the senses.

Size also matters when you go boutique. With so much attention to style and detail, a boutique hotel typically offers less than 100 guest rooms. A smaller size also means hotel staff can deliver exceptional service and truly cater to the guest experience.

Difference between a boutique hotel and a bed and breakfast (B&B)

A B&B is often a private residence that has been converted to accommodate paying guests, with the owner still living there. This makes a B&B a very different experience from staying at a boutique hotel, which generally has more rooms along with round-the-clock services provided by professional staff.

Which guest types does a boutique hotel attract?

A boutique hotel attracts guests looking for something a little different. Perhaps it’s something more “personal” or something that will give them a better insight into the location. Other times, it might be a secluded retreat they’re after or an opportunity to explore the quirkier side of a city.

Each boutique hotel will need to get clear on the types of guests they should be focusing on when marketing their hotel. 

Key features to include when opening or running a boutique hotel

When deciding on the features for your boutique hotel, you need to think about how you’ll create the memorable and unique experience that boutique hotel guests will expect.

Of course, you’ll also need to offer the standard features hotels offer and guests expect these days – a clean, hygienic and comfortable room along with things like car parking, free Wi-Fi, TV, virtual concierge, room service, food and beverage options and a modern website.

But what are those features that will align with your hotel’s style or theme? Examples include:

  • Art: local artists works displayed, exhibitions, art books in foyer, souvenir shop with affordable art
  • Food: local products featured at restaurant, organic and sustainable options, artisan chocolates on pillow
  • Luxury: high-end toiletries, pillow menu, spa options
  • Health: on-site yoga, meditation sessions, water-based fitness activities, plant-based menu.

Is a boutique hotel a profitable business?

A boutique hotel gives you a headstart when it comes to marketing – its distinct personality and style is part of the unique selling point that will help you sell your hotel. Boutique hotels with the right location, style or theme can also develop a cult-like following, with rooms booked out for months or even years!

However, starting up can also involve a larger than average initial outlay, and having a distinct aesthetic or theme can also mean narrowing your available target market. It’s also a time intense business, with attention to detail a critical part of this style of accommodation.

To boost your chances of turning your boutique hotel ideas into a profitable business, make sure you plan for success with the right metrics, features, management style and software.

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By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).