A boutique hotel is one that is generally not chain-affiliated, features an intimate and 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 of these hotels are small, ranging from single digit rooms to fewer 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 originals, as is the Hotel Village Court in San Francisco.
The definition of this type of hotel is rather vague. They are sometimes hip and at other times historic, and some are unique in design, architecture, or theme. The hotel usually distinguishes itself in these areas: design, service, and target market. Some are themed, and 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, a honeymoon, or a vacation. The target market for most is the 25-55 age range, most within the middle to upper income level. For some hotels, the target is the corporate traveler who will provide repeat business, 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 boutique. The goal of a hotel is a level of personalized service not necessarily doable in a larger establishment. At many, the staff may know each guest by his or her name, and 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. Many 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, with most being small, luxury establishments.