Everyone Talks about Boutique Hotels, But What Does that Really Mean?
Every hotel of the not-huge variety seems to call itself a boutique hotel. But what does this term actually mean? Leaving the hype and buzz aside, what is a boutique hotel?
Unlike the open-to-interpretation meaning of luxury hotel, the definition of boutique hotel is quite clear. Here are some elements that distinguish a boutique hotel.
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A Boutique Hotel Is Intimate in Size and Feeling
The #1 Defining Aspect of a Boutique Hotel: It's Petite!
First and foremost, a boutique hotel is small.
Most hospitality pros agree that for a property to be considered a boutique hotel, it should not be much bigger than 100 rooms.
(But not too small: if it doesn't have at least 10 rooms, it's not a boutique hotel but a B&B or inn.)
A Boutique Hotel Is Small...But Has a Big Personality
A boutique hotel's intimate size produces its characteristic personal feeling and heady ambiance. Some luxury travelers enjoy the compact size and enveloping atmosphere of a boutique hotel. Other travelers prefer feeling like observers in a big, busy grand hotel
Some Unique Boutique Hotels
Examples of boutique hotels with strong personalities:
• The celeb-studded, 91-room Hotel Byblos in St. Tropez on the French Riviera
• A stylishly updated former convent with only 20 rooms, the Amalfi coastline-hugging Monastero Santa Rosa
• A 12-room, 400-year-old gem in ancient Akko, Israel, The Efendi... Hotel
• All 21 suites of Southern Ocean Lodge open onto the wild coast of Kangaroo Island, called "Australia's Galapagos"
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A Boutique Hotel Is an Independent Hotel (or Feels Like One)
A Boutique Hotel Strives to Be One-of-a-Kind
A boutique hotel has an independent attitude and works hard to not feel like a corporate hotel.
It may be independently owned. And/or it may be a member of a luxury hotel association. Such as:
• The Point in the Adirondacks of upstate New York: 11 antiques-filled rooms in a former Rockefeller estate, now a Relais & Châteaux hotel
• Inn of the Five Graces in Santa Fe, New Mexico, also a Relais & Châteaux: 24 mosaic-walled suites nestled in the oldest homes in the United States, adobes from the late 1500s
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Or It's the Boutique Brand of a Bigger Hotel Label
Some Boutique Hotels Wear the Boutique Label of a larger hotel brand
Sometimes, a boutique hotel belongs to the boutique brand created by a more conventional hotel company.
An example: MGallery Burdigala in Bordeaux, France, a design-forward hotel that is part of Accor Hotels' MGallery boutique line
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Or It's the Boutique Wing of a Big Hotel
A Boutique Hotel Is Sometimes the Wing of a Larger Hotel
Sometimes, a boutique hotel is "a hotel within a hotel" tucked into a bigger hotel.
The boutique section feels like a separate hotel. It has its own reception desk, lobby, and decor.
Guests quickly sense the boutique wing's more exclusive identity, better service, and (often) newer technology and connectivity.
An example: Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace in Vegas, a quiet enclave within the massive Caesars Palace casino-hotelContinue to 5 of 13 below.
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A Boutique Hotel Has a Contemporary Vibe & Spirited Guests to Match
A Boutique Hotel is Not Generic, Blah, or bland
A boutique Hotel strives to be one-of-a-kind, and has an independent attitude. Its clientele is individualistic, too.
If a hotel has cookie-cutter décor and/or is filled with traveling suits, it fails the Luxury Travel boutique hotel test. Examples of no-doubt-about-it boutique hotels:
• Thompson Hotel Toronto, a cutting-edge hotel in a forward-looking city, with a handsome, happening crowd
• Mexico City's lively Condesa DF, whose rooftop lounge is one of the hippest hangouts in this going-out town
• Buddha Bar Hotel Prague, a 39-room hotel run by the global music club name, with see-and-be-seen restaurant and bars
• Elma Arts Complex Hotel in Zichron Ya'akov, an Israeli arts village, has its own state-of-the-art theater
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A Boutique Hotel Has Modern or Designer Decor with a Quirky Touch
A Boutique Hotel's Design Is in Keeping with its Up-to-the-Minute Attitude
Décor in a boutique hotel is modern, often cutting-edge. Their style runs toward sleek materials and stark palettes with bold color splashes.
Fussy furnishings like chintz, brocade, tassels, and swags are not boutique-hotel hallmarks. Some chic boutiques:
• W St. Petersburg Hotel in Russia, whose fantasy décor resembles a space-age disco
• Vila Joya in the Algarve region of Portugal, with Buddhist art and Asian motifs in its 18 all-different rooms
• The Crawford Hotel shares a vintage-meets-trendy attitude with its settting, Denver's Union Station, a mecca for foodies
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A Boutique Hotel Usually Has a Bull's-Eye Urban Setting
Boutique Hotels Tend to be in the City
Often, the small size of an urban boutique hotel affords it a chi-chi, dead-center location in the heart of town. The hotel's buzzy boutique ambiance feels just right in its lively location.
• Hotel48 Lex, a small, all-suites hotel, sits steps from Grand Central in midtown Manhattan, NYC
• The Scarlet Huntington perches on tony Nob Hill in San Francisco
• With 75 fashion-forward rooms, Quirk Hotel is the belle of the ball in Richmond, Virginia, the South's latest style destination
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But a Boutique Hotel May Be a Designer Country Villa
Some Boutique Hotels are Sophisticated Country Inns
You know a small town is upscale if it houses a fine boutique hotel.
• Palazzo Margherita (shown) in sleepy Basilicata in southern Italy, one of director-winemaker Francis Ford Coppola's Coppolaresorts, is a 1904 mansion imaginatively updated by designer Jacques Grange
• In rustic-chic Sonoma County, California, The Inn at Occidental, a Victorian manse with 16 artfully eclectic rooms, is considered one of the Golden State's best small hotelsContinue to 9 of 13 below.
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A Boutique Hotel Is Rich in Local Flavor
A Good Boutique Hotel Reminds You of Where You Are
Often, a boutique hotel conveys a strong sense of place. with a look that reflects the location's heritage.
• The Jefferson, an elegant property in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to bon vivant and third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, with the kind of French furniture and Madeira winee he collected
• Accommodations at Esencia in the Riviera Maya, Mexico, combine all-white minimalism with bright Mayan weavings and rugs
• Bela Vista Hotel on Portugal's Algarve coast is a castle-like mansion with rooms done in sunny Iberian blue and yellow
• Auberge St-Antoine on the St. Lawrence riverfront in Quebec City, Canada, displays artifacts discovered when it was built
• You have only to look out the window at Hotel de la Cité in Carcassonne, France, to know you're within an iconic medieval fortress
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A Boutique Hotel Offers Ultra-Personal Service
A Small Hotel Means Better Service
And a good boutique hotel makes exceptional, personal, five-star hospitality service its mission.
• At Phulay Bay Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Thailand, every suite's private butlers is part personal assistant, part ladies' maid or valet
• At Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe, New Mexico, staffers know your name and hometown, and ply you with fresh-baked cookies
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A Boutique Hotel Is Eccentric, with a Sense of Humor
Boutique Hotels Are Full of Spirit
Boutique hotels express their personalities in humorous, mildly rebellious room details and guest programs.
A boutique hotel can surprise and delight guests with winsome touches: a tiger-shaped faux-fur rug before the fireplace;
a chocolate treat shaped like your first initial; your own (and not very corporate) temporary business cards.
• At Viceroy Riviera Maya in Mexico, a mock-serious "soap butler" comes to your room to slice you a bar of soap in fragrances like margarita or copal wood
• A Swede owns The Maidstone in East Hampton, New York, where every guest room offers Swedish wooden clogs for your ABBA karaoke moment
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A Boutique Hotel Focuses on F&B (Food & Beverage)
You can count on a boutique hotel to house an outstanding restaurants and bar that draw a city-wide crowd.
Often, the hotel boasts a celebrity-chef eatery in its lobby. And just as frequently, it offers a stylish bar or lounge with a delectable modern cocktail menu. Examples:
• Rancho Valencia, a fashionable Relais & Chateaux near San Diego, draws non-guests to its stylish restaurants (shown)
• In Spain's Ribera del Duero wine country, the 30-room Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine offers its own delicious wines and Michelin dining
• Many Bahamians feel that their country's best restaurant is at Graycliff, a pirate's mansion turned boutique hotelContinue to 13 of 13 below.
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A Boutique Hotel is Often Furry, Furry Pet-Friendly
Many Boutique Hotels Welcome Four-Legged Travelers
Boutique hotels tend to have fewer rules and restrictions than bigger, more conventional hotels. Many, perhaps most, boutique hotels are very pet-friendly, welcoming your furry friend.
• See the elements of a truly pet-friendly hotel policy
• See 29 adorable animals in our hotels with their own pets slideshow
• Hotel Gault in Montreal, Canada not only welcomes dogs and cats, but will set up a tray with crunchy food, mineral water, and treats
• Las Alamandas on Mexico's Pacific Coast offers stables for your horse