We’ve spent a lot of time discussing and debating exactly what constitutes a lifestyle or boutique hotel at the Lifestyle/Boutique Hotel Development Conference the past three years. It’s a topic that has come up on just about every panel discussion, from financing to operations to design, every year, and the answer is always different, and never conclusive. Much like pornography, I guess as the famous quotation goes, you know a lifestyle or boutique hotel when you see it.
Two promises: We will try not to define what a boutique hotel is this year at the Fontainebleau (Oct. 17-19 in Miami). And this will be my last editorial comment (read self promotion) about the conference. Yes, it’s an event we here at Lodging Hospitality, with help from HVS Hotel Management and The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University, produce, but it’s also legitimately one of my favorite events to attend.
I enjoy lifestyle and boutique hotels, or more specifically, the stories behind them and the people who bring them to life. The owners, designers and operators are some of the most creative, innovative and often most colorful people in this industry.
They’ve taken an old warehouse, falling apart and used for cold storage, and remade it into one of the coolest and most comfortable hotels (the Iron Horse) in the country, an independent boutique catering to business travelers and bikers (wait, what?). They’ve created a museum, open to the public, with first-class hotel rooms upstairs and now have a burgeoning brand (21c Museum Hotels). They’ve taken the old motor court concept, exterior entry rooms and all, and revived it with hopes to expand the concept into a brand (Lone Star, Valencia Group). They’ve taken a crumbling hotel, filled with pigeons, drugs and prostitutes, and turned it into a popular and thriving boutique in downtown Phoenix (the Clarendon). I could go on.
All the authors of those stories, and many more with similar ones, will be in Miami for the Lifestyle/Boutique Hotel Development Conference. Others will come with just a dream, hoping to find a partner, capital or a break.
We may not be able to define exactly what these hotels are or where they fit in the more traditional hotel world, but it’s inspiring to hear from the people behind them.