COLUMNIST EXPERT VIEWS
DAVID OR GOLIATH?
CONOR KENNY CHALLENGES BOUTIQUE HOTELIERS The recession has increased our innate desire to understand value, leading to the need for expertise, niche and trust in business. The challenge of being noticed has never been greater – and there is plentiful opportunity for clever visionaries. The independent and boutique sectors are at the forefront of this challenge. Get it right and you can sail with the wind; get it wrong and you’ll go over the edge. It’s a fine line. However, with a little resetting of the compass, success will come. So let’s consider the practical questions a boutique hotelier should be asking of their business: What do you mean by “boutique”? The definition of a boutique hotel is confused and inconsistent. That means your market already has an idea and that is dangerous. Your first step is to define clearly what you mean by boutique. Is it small and intimate? Is it luxury? Is it design? Is it truly different?
“BOUTIQUE HOTELS MUST DO WHAT BIG BRANDS FAIL TO DELIVER” Who are you talking to? If the answer is “everyone”, you will fail. A boutique hotel is a niche market and you must identify who you are talking to and how you will communicate with them. The real question a guest is asking is, “why should I stay with you?” If you anticipate that, you are half-way to success. But remember, great food, great
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service and great people remain the fundamentals. Boutique hotels promise difference. Great boutique hotels deliver decidedly different signatures. Do you? If so, what are they? Boutique hotels must do what big brands fail to deliver – and smaller operators have agility on their side. You can move faster, be more responsive, take risks and implement with speed. This must be your culture and attitude – something which must come from the top. Design, by its very nature, is transient. Boutique hotels need to reinvent regularly. If you don’t, you date. If you date, you die. The devil is, of course, in the detail. A really good boutique hotel is full of eye-catching innovation. It makes us smile and it makes you memorable. The very essence of boutique hotels is to be at the leading or cutting edge. Is your online presence doing that or, if you’re honest, are you “more of the same”? Finally, I would like to leave you with three questions: 1. Are there elements of fun? There should be. Think of how Sir Richard Branson built Virgin. 2. Are you value? Not price, but a price the guest is willing to pay for the service they received. 3. Are you really challenging the competition? If so, great. If not, isn’t it worth walking away from the crowd?
AUTUMN 2012 | HOTEL INDUSTRY MAGAZINE 23