EXCLUSIVE: Boutiques a major inspiration for Virgin Hotels

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Virgin Hotel opened in Chicago in January after a hotly-anticipated five-year wait, and the group’s CEO has revealed exclusively to BH that the boutique hotel model was a major inspiration when designing the brand’s first hospitality establishment.

Despite the initial set back from announcement to launch, Virgin Hotel Chicago’s January opening was a huge success, and Branson’s right-hand man has cited key boutique figures such as Andre Balazs (of Chiltern Firehouse fame) as influences when finalising the brand’s debut hotel offering.

Raul Leal spoke to BH and explained how reinventing the boutique and lifestyle was key for the brand. “We wanted something that was a world away from the typical Hyatt or Marriott offering. We looked at many boutique hotels for inspiration and wanted to create something more like a Balazs’ hotel, while creating a legacy through a vibrant food and beverage offering.”

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Leal also revealed that Virgin Hotel Chicago prides itself on a consistent and comfortable room offering, something he believes many hotels still lag behind on. “A lot of the major hotels still forget that the consumer ultimately wants a beautiful room,” he explained, “they tend to focus on shining F&B offerings when the emphasis should start with the bedrooms.”

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