Style and Meaning Are Necessities for Boutiques



C-suite executives of four of Europe’s most innovative hotel companies spoke recently to explain that being boutique for the sake of it will lead nowhere, that differentiation is key as long as any offering is authentic, and that it is important to make sure authenticity is equably applicable to staff as much as to guests.

The first point the panelists who participated in “Revolutionizing hospitality” at Deloitte’s European Hotel Investment Conference agreed on is that the term “boutique” is flung around far too liberally, but the niche is far from dead as long as brands have a definite vision and purpose.

“There is a feeling among some that boutique is hastily made, and at high (average daily rates), but the idea of bringing luxury into boutique is a game-changer as it will introduce service,” said Christopher Norton, CEO, Equinox Hotels.

Charlie MacGregor, CEO and founder of The Student Hotel Group, said investors are more likely to fund projects they believe in, but that’s just the start of developing and sticking with a brand plan.

“Our capital partner invested in us, I believe, because we do have a very strong ‘why,’” he said. “Three hotels in 2014 to 19 today, increasing to 25 to be secured in the next 12 months. We came into it from a student housing market where if you are lucky there is one staff person downstairs for 500 beds upstairs.

“That (investment) allows us to look at things with fresh eyes, but we know private equity will exit its hold. The future is determined by how we will create value but not stifle the original and changing idea.”

The other two panelists—Florian Kollenz, chief development officer of 25hours Hotels, and Christian Giraud, SVP of development, Europe at AccorHotels—now are partners following AccorHotels’ deal to acquire a 30% stake in 25hours Hotels in November 2016.

“A joint venture can be successful if both sides are allowed to concentrate on their own strengths,” Kollenz said. “We would only want to partner with a company with strong networks and infrastructure, to grow internationally and to add to the value proposition.”

To succeed in the boutique space, the panel agreed that hotels require the very best staff.

“And you need the best environment to keep them. You have to be seen to be a change-maker, a sexy group,” Giraud said.

“We have a lot of employees coming to us because of our (corporate social responsibility) policy,” MacGregor said. “I was surprised to hear that, but it is coming more and more.”

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