With the hospitality industry in the midst of a transformative period, the newly-formed Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) provides an opportunity for boutique properties to prosper through collaboration and unification. The BLLA (www.blla.org), which has moved into a distinct and vacant space on the Internet, unites all of the world’s boutique and lifestyle brands for the first time onto one reservations platform.
Founder and president, Frances Kiradjian, believes the BLLA will fill a vital niche in the evolving hotel industry. Boutique hotels, which are independently owned and operated, are sprouting up everywhere, and even the big chains like Starwood are starting brands dedicated to that segment. With over twenty years of travel and hospitality experience to her credit, Frances established the BLLA to provide the world’s boutique and lifestyle properties with the ability to present a clear and distinct distribution channel and search engine for consumers and travel agents. It is this progressive approach that sets the BLLA apart from every other hospitality association out there and precisely what the boutique and lifestyle industry needs to sustain growth and build momentum.
WHAT DEFINES A BOUTIQUE PROPERTY?
So what is a boutique hotel exactly and how does that differ from a lifestyle property? According to Ms. Kiradjian, they go by many different names to express their unique amenities: lifestyle hotels, bed and breakfasts, inns, villas, and boutique resorts to name a few. “The BLLA intends to lead the charge to sanction a definition, which will be determined by a vote from all the membership made up of the boutique properties themselves and the brands they belong to,” she explained.
As a foundation, the association is defining boutique hotels as intimate and often luxurious and upscale hotel environments for a discerning clientele. They average around 100 rooms or less and can be charming, cutting–edge, trendy, and classic. What makes them stand out in the hospitality industry is a close attention to detail, distinct quality, and high level of personal service. A lifestyle hotel may have many of the same attributes as boutique hotels, but they are usually a bit larger in room size, up to 250-300 rooms. Additionally, they combine innovation, authenticity, and everyday living elements and activities giving guests the opportunity to explore and find the experience they desire.
The BLLA will lead research in the areas of marketing and branding, as the industry needs to better understand consumer behavior. The global traveler is demanding a more distinctive and personal offering, with everyone from boomers to the X/Y generation looking for an experience that delivers on their expectations in the areas of design and services. Boutique hoteliers now have the means to distinguish their brands and communicate their offerings via the support of the BLLA.
FULFILLING AN INDUSTRY NICHE
Communicating with over 80,000 travel agents and 20 million boutique customers, the association gives property owners the means to compete on price, distribution, and marketing while remaining true to their promise of that special and unique experience.
By virtue of an empathetic and easy-to-use selection process derived from a carefully vetted list of boutique and lifestyle properties, association members receive business from a targeted group of consumers that are searching for a product type vs. just a price. The BLLA also provides members with direction on industry suppliers and their offerings. The wealth of research and educational resources, combined with valuable networking opportunities, enables members not to simply maintain their business but to improve their business.
But perhaps most importantly, the BLLA gives boutique hoteliers an opportunity that is long overdue – the chance to participate in and help decide the evolution of their sector. By providing the platform for property owners and brands to define what boutique and lifestyle hospitality stands for, the BLLA allows members to take ownership of the industry’s future and potential.
With the global economy improving and the hospitality industry regaining its momentum, 2010 holds great promise for independent hotels, said Ms. Kiradjian. In addition to the launch of the initial booking platform and the association’s consumer–facing site (www.stayboutique.org) to be launched early in 2010, the BLLA will be focusing on the formation of its strategic boards and committees aimed at creating value and business for its members, while leading the charge for research in this sector. With the expected divergence of the hotel sector upcoming, the opportunity for boutique and lifestyle brands to collaborate through the BLLA will become crystal clear.
For further information, visit www.blla.org . To view the recent interview in the Hotel Yearbook 2010, starting on page 146, go to the Hotel Yearbook site at http://www.hotel-yearbook.com/ . BLLA members may log-in to the BLLA site to view a copy.