Every hotel of the not-huge variety seems to call itself a boutique hotel. But what does it this term actually mean?
Unlike the open-to-interpretation meaning of luxury hotel, the definition of boutique hotel is quite clear. Here are some elements that distinguish a boutique hotel.
A Boutique Hotel Is Intimate in Size
First and foremost, a boutique hotel is small. Most hospitality pros agree that for a property to be considered a boutique hotel, it should not be much bigger than 100 rooms. (But not too small: if it doesn't have at least 10 rooms, it's not a boutique hotel but a B&B or inn.)
A boutique hotel's intimate size produces its characteristic personal feeling and heady ambiance. Some luxury travelers enjoy the compact size and enveloping atmosphere of a boutique hotel. Others prefer feeling like observers in a big, busy grand hotel.
Example of a boutique hotel with a strong personality:
A Boutique Hotel Is an Independent Hotel (or Feels Like One)
Or It's the Boutique Brand of a Bigger Hotel Label
Some boutique hotels wear the boutique label of a larger hotel brand. Example:
- MGallery Burdigala in Bordeaux, France, part of Accor Hotels' MGallery boutique line
Or It's the Boutique Wing of a Big Hotel
A definite boutique hotel trend: sometimes it's a wing of a larger hotel. The boutique section feels more or less like a separate hotel. It as its own reception, lobby, and decor -- not to mention a more exclusive identity and better service. Example:
- Example: Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace in Vegas, a quiet enclave within the massive Caesars Palace casino-hotel
A Boutique Hotel Has a Bull's-Eye Urban Setting
Boutique hotels tend to be in the city, where their buzzy ambiance feels just right. Often, the small size of an urban boutique hotel affords it a chi-chi, dead-center location in the heart of town. Examples:
A Boutique Hotel Has a Contemporary Vibe & Spirited Guests to Match
A boutique hotel is not generic, blah, or bland. It strives to be one-of-a-kind, and has an independent attitude. Its clientele is individualistic, too.
If a hotel has cookie-cutter décor and/or is filled with traveling suits, it fails the Luxury Travel boutique hotel test. Examples of no-doubt-about-it boutique hotels:
- Thompson Hotel Toronto, a cutting-edge hotel in a forward-looking city, with a handsome, happening crowd
- Mexico City's lively Condesa DF, whose rooftop lounge is one of the hippest hangouts in town
- Southern California's deluxe Rancho Valencia, which encourages guests to exercise by day...and socialize by night
A Boutique Hotel Has Modern or Designer Decor with a Quirky Touch
Typically, a boutique hotel's design is in keeping with its of-the-moment point of view.
Décor in a boutique hotel runs toward sleek materials and stark palettes with bold color splashes. (Fusty furnishings like chintz, brocade, tassels and swags are not boutique-hotel hallmarks.) Chic boutique examples:
- W St. Petersburg Hotel in Russia, whose fantasy décor resembles a space-age disco
- Vila Joya in the Algarve in Portugal, with Buddhist art and Asian motifs in its 18 all-different rooms
Often, a boutique hotel conveys a strong sense of place. with a look that reflects the location's heritage. Example:
A Boutique Hotel Has Ultra-Personal Service
A small hotel means better service. And a good boutique hotel makes exceptional personal service its mission. Examples:
A Boutique Hotel Is Eccentric, with a Sense of Humor
Boutique hotels express their singularity in light-hearted, mildly rebellious room details and guest programs.
A boutique hotel can surprise and delight guests with winsome touches: a tiger-shaped faux-fur rug before the fireplace, a vibration-platform machine in the gym, your own (and not very corporate) temporary business cards. Example:
- Viceroy Riviera Maya in Mexico, whose mock-serious "soap butler" slices guests a fat bar in fragrances like margarita or chocolate
A Boutique Hotel Focuses on F&B (Food & Beverage)
A boutique hotel can usually be depended upon to feature outstanding restaurants and bars that draw a city-wide crowd.
Often, the hotel boasts a celebrity-chef eatery in its lobby. And just as frequently, it offers a stylish bar or lounge with a delectable modern cocktail menu. Examples:
- Taj Campton Place San Francisco, with a Bay area-beloved two-Michelin-star restaurant in-house, Campton Place
- Ace Hotel Portland, with the acclaimed Clyde Common gastropub and Stumptown Coffee java joint