Top tips for developing a boutique or lifestyle hotel

Top tips for developing a boutique or lifestyle hotel

Una Barac of Artelior shares her insights in to what makes a successful boutique hotel project.
• Understand your guests and their needs
As obvious as this seems, knowing your guests is critical in ensuring that they enjoy their stay, return to your property and recommend you not only to their friends, but hundreds and thousands of their social media followers. In today's ever-evolving, fast-paced world it is harder than ever for the hotel owners and operators to keep up with their guests' needs. Hotel operations are investing more time and money in market research, marketing and PR campaigns in order to understand, reach-out and connect with their guests.

• Understand your site/building
Getting to grips with site constraints and opportunities is the first step in successful hotel development. Doing your homework and preparing at the start with all the necessary site surveys and gaining a good understanding of the planning process that lies ahead will go a long way in mitigating development risk.

It sounds obvious but a good consultant is essential in the early stages of the design and development process. Daunting as it may seem, you will spend considerable sums of money on all the necessary surveys and hiring an experienced team of consultants it is a sure way to save both years in the planning and development process and hundreds of thousands of pounds on claims and fire-fighting later down the line.

• Create comfort throughout the hotel
Comfort is key in the design of all boutique, lifestyle and upscale hotels. Business guests face gruelling travel and meeting schedules, giving them very little time to relax and restore their energy levels. On top of that, they are far from home and loved ones, often travelling alone so, their needs will often be different to those on holiday.
Holidaymakers are looking for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Even if they are busy exploring the local sites they need to recuperate once they return to the hotel.

At Artelior we aim to provide all guests with a great night's rest in comfortable beds. Fabulous showers are now really key as guests often don't have the time for a long bath! Welcoming public areas with good F&B provision; and space to work, exercise and relax are crucial. Comfort is at the epicentre of all the aforementioned experiences and hotel zones. It is imperative that the guests are feeling comfortable both in terms of ergonomic design of facilities and furniture. But comfort also extends into the service that is provided. We work closely with the owners and their operating teams to enable them to provide high levels of service and ultimate comfort for their guests.

• Create a memorable experience
Experience is the buzz-word of the moment, with the rise of the Millennial culture. We see young people turn their backs on the big brands in all aspects of their lives. They are seeking unique experiences instead and this is now becoming intergenerational.

In the past only boutique hotels and upscale branded hotels, aimed to create spectacular atmosphere and experience within their public areas with destination bars, restaurants and spas. The rise of Lifestyle Focus in hospitality, has created a considerable shift and even the large brands are jumping onto this trend by creating Lifestyle brands within their portfolios at mid-scale. Hilton has Canopy and Curio; InterContinental Hotel Group Kimpton and Indigo; Accor M Gallery and Mama Shelter; Marriott acquired a number of lifestyle brands with the merger of Starwood.

In order to assist our clients to create memorable experience for their guests we approach each project with a check list:

  • Bedrooms are of course at the top of the list, a sanctuary for the guest to retreat to. We covered essentials for good bedroom design in tip No.3. Simple as it may sound, the bed and shower are the foundations of good bedroom design;
  • Welcoming entrance and reception, as first impressions really do count. It is important to ensure that all guests feel welcome, aware of the facilities and service that is on offer. For the more progressive guests it is important to offer quick and interactive check-in and check-out. Reception has evolved from classic desk to smaller, more personal pods, mobile and tablet check-in, dynamic concierge and mix of staff and latest technology. Guests are offered both a personal and a technology-lead experience, to suit different guest profiles and needs;
  • F&B is the heart and soul of every successful hotel. Open-plan, welcoming, allowing fluid interaction between different zones; In order for every experience to be memorable and unique F&B explores different cultures through fusion. We work closely with the hotel owners and operating teams to link our design to all aspects of the F&B design. Design is not just spatial planning and FF&E; Good design connects to the F&B offering, menu, staff uniforms through to the music that is played in the public areas.
  • MICE is not just a revenue generator for large brands. Boutique and lifestyle hotels have a lot to offer to smaller, less corporate clients, which are on the rise along with the growing number of start-ups, entrepreneurial, tech and creative businesses. Team building can no longer afford to be a corporate chore, but instead it needs to be a unique experience one finds in a Members Club. Weddings, parties, celebrations all need to be memorable and unique. 
  • Spa should not be a box-ticking exercise with small pool, sauna and treatment rooms banished to the depths of the basement. Space planning with a good spa consultant needs to be integrated with interior design; functional spaces; different facilities and treatment offer, all focused on a high level of service that gives the guest a memorable experience.

• Create a strong and unique identity 
In order to set their hotel apart from the others owners need to focus on three corner-stones:

  • Service is critical for a satisfied returning guest. Exceptional and personable service provides the guests with unique and memorable experience. Without good service no amount of money spent on the building will encourage a guest to return to a hotel.
  • Design closely follows service. From cleaver architecture and space planning which ensures smooth operation of the hotel, through to interior design which should be  comfortable, restful, different and memorable; In the world of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and the general rise of social media, interior design has become even more critical and we've never had so many fans and critics. Outstanding approach to design encourages the former and discourages the latter;
  • Technology is becoming an essential part of hospitality service. We work from home, hotel room, lobby, bar, restaurant, on the go. The world has become our office; we increasingly socialise through our phones, our tablets and laptops.  These devises have become almost as essential as having food and drink, sadly. Time is becoming more precious and guests expect faster and smoother service in terms of check-in and check-out. Intelligent rooms and buildings provide guests with all necessary comforts, they also assist in smoother operations of the hotel, and monitor energy saving for example. 
  • Creating a unique experience is a sure way of ensuring your hotel guests return and recommend you to the world at record speed, through powerful social media platforms.

In our projects we aim to create unique hotels deeply rooted in their locality. By creating a memorable destination, we encourage the visitor to return to that hotel when next visiting the location.
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