First let me first tell you that I have a very narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I think that the term "boutique" when used to describe a hotel is often misapplied. A boutique hotel is not defined by simply a trendy or expense design, as many would argue. I believe boutique hotels are often luxurious because of their authentic country locations and superior service models. Luxury doesn't always mean expensive. My friends at Hotel Retreats weigh in with their opinion on the current UK boutique country hotel market:
Hotel Retreats was founded because the UK luxury hotel market is too swamped with websites that try to sell you everything. Very rarely can you find a platform which just tells you what you want to know. Hotel Retreats offers a comprehensive list of luxury hotels and country retreats in the UK and by talking about local attractions, helps the user to plan their itinerary more easily.
In my opinion, a boutique luxury hotel is a property that is uniquely significant in four ways:
1. Architecture and Design.
2. A high level of service. A property must not exceed 150 guest rooms, enhancing the guest to staff ratio.
3. Sell to a specific demographic.
4. Are independently owned and operated (this is where some will disagree with me).
A country hotel must be an independent operation. The hotel must not be part of a collection that is more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into having a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in running a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Boutique luxury hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never gets bored and look to stay at the latest new, hip and cool property.
UK and European travelers chose to stay at a boutique hotel because of the story, or the experience. The experience is very important and must be unique and somewhat cutting edge. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age*, work in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the market with what many consider to be the first boutique hotel, this demographic discovered that they could use their travel budget get them a room at a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique luxury hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, cutting edge interior design and in some cases a rustic location. The market is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is beginning to bleed into others. You might very well find a Fortune 500 CEO staying at a boutique hotel. It is hard to ignore the hype.