Big chain lifestyle brands are no threat to us says industry


Each month we hear news of an international hotel chain launching their lifestyle brands, hoping to grab their own slice of the buoyant boutique market pie. But with each new release, is there a fear that the boutique hotel model will become diluted and its true definition blurred?

Dan Visser, marketing director, Langdale Estate
Since so many independent and corporate chain hotels class themselves as boutique lifestyle operations the model is already diluted. Where an operator is delivering a truly great experience in a luxury contemporary stylish surrounding with some genuine originality their individuality will shine through and resonate with guests. Where operators fail to deliver, guests will decide if the boutique credentials are sufficient and vote with their wallets and go somewhere else. Maybe it is time for someone to coin the next catchy classification for interesting fun hotels.

Adam Raphael, editor, Good Hotel Guide
Boutique is one of the more overused words in the hotel lexicon. At the Good Hotel Guide we believe that irrespective of what it calls itself, a good hotel stands on its own merits. Big chains do their own thing, small owner-managed hotels in which the Guide specialises, play a different tune. I don’t believe that small boutique hotels have anything to fear from competition from the big chains; different markets, different styles, different customers.

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Peter Hancock, chief executive, Pride of Britain Hotels
No, I don’t think the concept of stylish luxury hotels with a modern twist will be diluted by these new brands at all, but the actual term ‘boutique’ is already being abused so that over time it will mean less to consumers.

Shara Ross, general manager, Hotel Felix
No there is little danger; creating a boutique hotel takes more than shades of taupe, a bold colour splash and a few art pieces. Whilst imitation is the highest form of flattery it is difficult to understand how in an effort to move away from blandness, chain hotels so used to rolling out concepts can allow a hotel to breathe organically. A boutique hotel has to have more than forced style. Warmth, personality and soul stemming from private ownership is what hotel chains find hard to capture and the savvy traveller is able to spot carbon copy a mile off.

Martin Edwards, general manager, Adnams Hotels
Hotels are certainly not one size fits all, and I would say that during my years in the hospitality industry I have witnessed guests develop loyalty to either a brand or privately owned hotels. Over the years, as these properties have evolved, the guests have stayed loyal. Boutique is synonymous with great service and fantastic food, with menus that reflect provenance and seasonality, thus allowing for greater individuality and personality, whereas with big brands you can rely on them delivering a consistent offering. Will the big brands dilute the boutique model? No, there is space in the market for both and a varied offering can only benefit the industry as a whole by providing greater customer choice.

George Watkins, proprietor, Castle House Hereford
No, definitely not. I don’t think you can beat an independently-owned hotel. In my experience, many guests say they can tell immediately if the hotel is privately-owned or part of a chain. We have a fantastic team at Castle House that is able to respond to guests immediately, without having first to check with a hierarchy, when something needs to be done or fixed. We have the time to personally get to know and care for our guests and can be individual and unique, without having to follow some corporate ‘design lifestyle’ line, drawn up by an HQ which could be based in a totally different hemisphere.