What Are Boutique and Lifestyle Hotels?

Both names are used by many properties, so definitions help.

With even 1,000-room properties using the label ‘boutique hotel’, the phrase is in danger of being overused, as is the moniker ‘lifestyle hotel’. So what should agents be looking for when a client asks them to book one? Some travel industry experts argue that there is no true definition. International hotel chains have introduced their own boutique or lifestyle brands, such as Marriott’s Edition, InterContinental’s Indigo, and Starwood’s Aloft, and each brand is quite varied.

The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association is the only association attempting to bring together properties around the world that use these names. It defines a boutique hotel as an intimate upscale property, usually luxurious or quirky, with 100 or fewer rooms. Lifestyle hotels, meanwhile, combine living elements and activities into a functional design and have 300 rooms or less.

The association has implemented strategies to make it easier for sellers to work with its hotel members, such as making special rates available through GDSs under the code Stay Boutique. Customers are increasingly aware of the segments. One travel specialist who deals with entertainment industry clients says that many of her clients ask specifically for boutique hotels.

“We do prefer they be part of larger groups like Leading Small Hotels or Small Luxury Hotels, because then they have gone through a screening process and we trust our sales reps in those companies,” she says. But another specialist, focussing on business travellers, says that few of her clients ask for them as they tend to be more expensive.

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