BLLA 2016: Turning Profits in Boutique and Lifestyle Brands
I had the pleasure of attending my second BLLA Conference in NYC last week, along with many of the icons within the boutique lodging industry today.
The conference opened on a very inspirational note, with keynote speaker Pilar Guzman, editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler, speaking on how a hotel is "the microcosm of culture" within its local community. She went on to talk about how hotels, and boutique / lifestyle brands in particular, have become like fashion runways, inspiring travelers to put on their "best self," and have often become a "style-muse" of fashion for travelers. Guzman mentioned that boutique lodging has become the stage for our fantasies and, because of that, they have become role models for aspirational living among those who travel to them. This rings very true for many, as recent trends have seen the boutique lodging space changing quite a bit to accommodate the influx of experience-based travelers.
Much of the discussion that followed circled around the idea of creating authentic experiences for not only the guests, but also the local community to enjoy. Guzman also noted that about 78 percent of Millennial travelers are looking for experiences over tangible goods.
Lately, lobby spaces have become the heart and soul of boutique properties. With Ace Hotels starting the trend, boutique and lifestyle hotels have started to monetize from the lobby by creating a second market and revenue stream. Some of the ways they do so include:
- Adding communal spaces within the lobby area so guests feel a sense of community and togetherness, without forcing interaction on them
- Improving these communal spaces with the addition of amenities such as game rooms, bars and lounges (Stacy Shoemaker Rauen, editor-in-chief, Hospitality Design)
- Becoming a local gathering place for non-guests within the community to help create a unique and authentic atmosphere
- Not ignoring the "day-life" aspect of boutique hotels. Typically, the "night-life" is what attracts guests and locals to the property, but many brands are working toward increasing their "day-life" experiences as well
- Adding a well-executed F&B component within the common space. Ian Schrager, the OG of the boutique hotel industry, commented that this F&B should not be a full nightclub in the lobby, but instead needs to be moderate and welcoming to all types of travelers and guests, creating an inviting atmosphere
However, whatever your hotel's presence represents, boutique and lifestyle brands in particular have to pay closer attention to details both in and outside of the property. Boutique and lifestyle brands are under additional scrutiny in their efforts to keep up with other major brands. Not only do they have to keep up with trends, continually reinventing and innovating to appeal to the experience-focused traveler, but they also have to pay closer attention to their service offerings through unique and flexible distribution channels and partners.
Although being an independent brand can allow more flexibility to innovate and customize offerings without the influence of rules from a corporate office, getting in front of the end-user while also lowering costs can be difficult. Without the buying and negotiating power of a multi-national brand behind you, finding best-in-class marketing and technology partners can often be daunting.
Look no further! Not only does Sabre provide boutique hotels with industry-leading distribution technology to meet the challenges of competing with well-capitalized brands and OTA's, we also provide independent properties with industry-leading digital marketing technology to help bring guests directly to your website. Contact an account manager and inquire about how Sabre Hospitality Solutions can help your brand inspire and execute on providing authentic experiences to each and every guest.