Opportunity to Build a Worldwide Brand of Boutique Hotels

16 Dec

Thai Boutique Hotel - BangkokTourists visiting new cities are certainly not all looking for the same thing out of their experience. Some seek inexpensive or unique shopping experiences, some seek thrills and adventure, others seek the opportunity to say “I went, I saw, I … took a picture.” What generally unites people when they are traveling, particularly in parts of the world that are new and unfamiliar to them, is the desire to sample and taste a bit of the culture that makes their destination unique.

For tourists, selecting a hotel is a challenge of balancing their desires. In most cases, they want:

  • A hotel they can afford
  • A hotel where they feel they will receive the level of service they are accustomed to
  • A hotel that is comfortable, safe, and clean
  • A hotel that is conveniently located to the places they want to visit

Trying to satisfy these four challenges is difficult enough, and in many cases lead people to choose the Marriott, Hilton, or Sheraton, even as they aspire to “immerse themselves” in their experience. They settle for these international chains because they are reliably consistent, delivering fundamentally the same hotel experience wherever you go.  Yet that, inherently, is their fundamental flaw – they fail to meet the truly differentiating fifth and sixth criteria for a truly remarkable hotel experience:

  • A hotel that reflects the culture and local flavour of the surrounding city
  • A hotel that is exciting and unique; an adventure unto itself

I have little doubt that in nearly every corner of the world there are wonderful local hotels that meet all six of these criteria (though, sadly, not all – Jizan, Saudi Arabia comes to mind). The challenge for the tourist is how to FIND these hotels. For the more adventurous, sites like TripAdvisor can help. Where you are lucky enough to have a local friend to serve as your guide, you might be directed as to the best place to stay.

Moroccan Boutique HotelBut, at the end of the day, CatLover245’s rave reviews and assurances of good customer service really aren’t enough for most people to choose the Little Damascus Inn over the Sheraton. At least you can be reasonably confident that you won’t find bed bugs at the Sheraton.

The challenge of building confidence with consumers that a hotel can, in fact, meet all of these criteria creates a significant opportunity to build a network of branded boutique hotels in major tourist destinations throughout the world.

An entrepreneur with good financial backing could make a small number of hotel investments in high-growth tourism cities such as the Middle East and Northern Africa, bring them up to international standards of quality and service, unite them under a brand, and market them to tourists from abroad. With time, as CatLover245 and her friends write positive reviews, and as more and more customers experience the benefits of the hotel in its diverse locations, it will build a faithful following of advocates and frequent stayers.

I would choose to first target the developing world, where many hotels miss out on substantial opportunity to attract visitors merely by lack of a web presence with photos and a map, written in fluent English. With an understanding of the increase in revenue that could be expected by linking a hotel into online reservation systems like Orbitz and Hotels.com, investors could value properties higher than their current owners.

By upgrading service, renovating and redecorating rooms, and bringing in an additional infusion of local flavours and colours, the hotels could start charging more for rooms. Substantial changes to management and workforce wouldn’t be necessary so much as bringing a few leaders who can help oversee the transition to world-class standards.

How long this opportunity will remain untapped is questionable. Already, chains like Joie de Vivre and Kimpton are building branded networks of boutique hotels throughout California and the United States. Companies like Mexico Boutique Hotels are taking that concept to other popular mainstream tourist destinations. It’s only a matter of time before the same basic concept is carried to other parts of the world.

Further reading on Boutique Hotels:

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