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By Frances Kiradjian

Even for an industry known for being in a constant state of flux, the hospitality industry was barely prepared for the sea change that came over it with the arrival of boutique and luxury lifestyle hotels two decades ago.

The repercussions of that change are still being felt today, as the boutique sector has consistently remained a driving force for changing trends in the hotel industry. From design havens to signature restaurants and a focus of local suppliers, many of the big stories of recent years have originated in the boutique and luxury lifestyle environment.

This is due in no small part to the independence of these establishments – being free of allegiance to any large chain leaves them free to innovate and experiment. Also, boutique hotels are often themed around an overarching concept or vision – an approach that allows them freedom to try new things and often this leads to the creation of trends. Boutique is also relatively new in the overall history of hotels, as the big-chain era dominated for such a long time, so the sector still has the advantage of feeling relatively fresh.

What this means in practice for those of us working in the boutique and luxury lifestyle sector is that we should focus on innovation, rather than trying to appeal to an established idea of perfection. If novelty and originality are our strengths, then we sell ourselves short if we strive for tried and tested ideas of luxury. We are in the fast lane of the hospitality industry, early adopters who will be renowned for outrunning the herd and finding the next big thing first.

Staying abreast and keeping an eye on others in the industry is also must. Find what works; borrow an idea; add three of your own and give it your personal twist. Recent trends that have surfaced in the marketplace include the creation of unique vacation experiences and a tight focus on the local and specific; high-design interiors and one-off collaborations; and new technology making hotels customizable and interactive. As for what will bubble up next? Well, you’re in the perfect place to find out.

So, will boutique and luxury lifestyle hotels continue to drive trends for years to come? They’ll definitely stay focused on trends as top of mind, but there are other rival factors at play right now.

The soaring popularity of short-term rental services such as Airbnb, although often aimed at a different demographic to boutique hotels, have changed the vacation landscape. The rise of ‘soft brands’, with large corporations chasing the boutique dollar, also plays a part, as now we have another force (with a huge marketing budget) shaping the public perception of the forward-thinking hotel of today. And, of course, it’s impossible to discount the influence of apps and social media in transforming the way we view and interact with the world around us, with Silicon Valley whizzes sparking countless mini hospitality trends.

Nonetheless, by being independent, agile and unafraid to try the new, and by putting personality and intelligence to the core of their business model, boutique and luxury lifestyle hotels are guaranteed to lead exciting trends for many years to come. Read the full report in the BLLA fall issue of the Stay Boutique™ Magazine being distributed at the leadership conference in Los Angeles October 3-5.

About Frances Kiradjian

Founder of the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA), Frances Kiradjian, a 25-year hospitality and travel industry seasoned professional, created BLLA to give a  voice to independent properties as well as small brands around the world, offering them the opportunity and the means to compete on a level playing field with major hotel  companies. BLLA serves more than 750 members, including hotels and the suppliers that sustain them.

Frances states why she created the BLLA. “My passion for independent boutique & lifestyle hotels are what drove me to create a place where leaders in this hotel sector can meet on common ground,” said Frances. “I wanted to institute programs for enhanced awareness to global travelers and offer vendors the opportunity to focus their marketing efforts through sponsorship of BLLA programs, events & conferences.”

Kiradjian is a graduate of the highly respected Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California (USC).

Contact: Frances Kiradjian

francesk@blla.org / 818-264-4810

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