Boutique hotel is a term popularised in North America and the United Kingdom to describe intimate, usually luxurious or quirky hotel environments. Boutique hotels differentiate themselves from larger chain/branded hotels and motels by providing personalized accommodation and services / facilities. Sometimes known as "design hotels" or "lifestyle hotels", boutique hotels began appearing in the 1980s in major cities like London, New York, and San Francisco. Typically boutique hotels are furnished in a themed, stylish and/or aspirational manner. Although usually considerably smaller than mainstream hotels, often ranging from 3 to 100 guest rooms, some city-centre boutique hotels may have several hundred. Boutique hotels are always individual and are therefore extremely unlikely to be found amongst the homogenity of large chain hotel groups. Guest rooms and suites may be fitted with telephony and Wi-Fi Internet, air-conditioning, honesty bars and often cable/pay TV, but equally may have none of these, focusing on quiet and comfort rather than gadgetry. Guest services are often attended to by 24-hour hotel staff. Many boutique hotels have on-site dining facilities, and the majority offer bars and lounges which may also be open to the general public.
Despite this definition, the popularity of the boutique term and concept has led to some confusion about the term. Boutique hotels have typically been unique properties operated by individuals or companies with a small collection. However, their successes have prompted established multi-national hotel companies to usurp the term and/or try to establish their own brands in order to capture a market share. There is some overlap between the concept of a small boutique hotels and a bed and breakfast
In the United States, New York remains the center of the boutique hotels phenomenon, as the original Schrager-era boutique hotels remain relevant and are joined by scores of independent and small-chain competitors, mainly clustered about Midtown and downtown Manhattan.The French Quarter and Garden District, New Orleans have several dozen boutique hotels, most of which are located in old homes or inns. These usually provide an ambience based on 19th-century antiques, artwork with New Orleans themes, vintage or reproduction furniture and decor and/or interesting historical associations.Miami and Miami Beach also have a large number of boutique hotels, mostly found along the beachfront streets Ocean Drive and Collins Drive. Most of these are in buildings from the heyday of the Art Deco period. Their attractions include the Art Deco ambiance, beach access, nouvelle and Latin cuisines and tropical-themes interior decor. Spain has boutique hotels distributed all around its geography.
The concept of boutique or design hotels has spread elsewhere outside the US. A good example is Thailand where many boutique or design hotels are sprouting, especially in resort locations, such as Phuket and Hua Hin. Boutique hotels are even now appearing in such places as Indonesia, Shanghai, Iceland, Peru and Turkey. Boutique and design hotels are becoming increasingly popular in Far Eastern cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and even Beijing.
Currently, there are a few publications dedicated to the boutique hotel. One is boutique DESIGN magazine, which is published quarterly. Another is Deluxe Traveller Magazine, which is available in print and online. The online version can be downloaded for free at their website, www.deluxetraveller.com Boutique hotel resources are more commonly available online. Two such sites dedicated to boutique hotels are Chic Retreats, Epoque Hotels, Avantgarde Hotels and Tablet Hotels. There are also a number of stylized design and coffee table books highlighting various properties throughout the world.
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A boutique hotel is one that is generally not chain-affiliated, features an intimate, stylish appearance and provides impeccable amenities. Also referred to as lifestyle or design hotels, the trend and related name began in the 1980s by Northern Americans. Although many boutique hotels are small, ranging from single digit rooms to less than 100, some in major cities have well over 100 rooms.
Considered among the first boutique hotels are The Blake’s Hotel in South Kensington, London, and the Bedford, a San Francisco hotel. The Morgans Hotel in Murray Hill, New York, is also considered by many to be one of the original boutique hotels, as is the Hotel Village Court in San Francisco.
The definition of boutique hotel is rather vague. Boutique hotels are sometimes hip and at other times historic. Some are unique in design, architecture or theme. However, a boutique hotel usually distinguishes itself in these areas: design, service and target market. Some boutique hotels are themed; many attempt to be unique by either offering themed rooms or choosing an overall theme for the hotel.
A boutique hotel can be equally appropriate for business, honeymoon, or vacation. The target market for most boutique hotels is the 25-55 age range, most within the middle to upper income level. For some boutique hotels, the target is the corporate traveler who will provide repeat business for the hotel, refer others and is one whose business is not based on a particular season.
Service might be the distinguishing feature of what classifies a hotel as a boutique hotel. The goal for a boutique hotel is a level of personalized service not necessarily doable in a larger hotel. At many boutique hotels, the staff may know each guest by his or her name. Most offer 24-hour guest services. Some offer the comforts of canopy beds, bathrobes and fireplaces in the lobby. Others offer healthy food choices, mind and body themes and on-site bookstores.
As a boutique hotel varies in other features, so does its technological amenities. While some offer the latest in technology, others focus on a calm, soothing environment. To some patrons, the bed and breakfast concept may be similar to that of the boutique hotel. Many boutique hotels have on-site, reputable dining, as well as bar and lounge areas that are also open to the public. As the trend continues to grow, many hotels market themselves as boutique; most being small, luxury type hotels worldwide.