BLLA Defines Boutique Hotel Categories

NEW YORK—The Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) has created a categorization of the various kinds of boutique hotels in the world.

With an initial list of 14 unique types of boutique hotels, BLLA re-establishes and cements the boutique hotel enterprise as a field of its own, no longer simply a subtype of a broader hotel enterprise, the association reports.

In the 11 years since BLLA was created, the definition of the boutique hotel has expanded to include a number of boutique types never previously considered in the earlier stages. This evolution into a world of its own has given the boutique hotel sector a scope every bit as significant as the traditional hotel. BLLA’s goal is to define the modern boutique hotel for both the hospitality field and the travelers themselves.

Most recently, it became clear that this new movement was deserving of a title of its own. In 2019, BLLA coined the term “modern renaissance” in hospitality, for the astounding period of renewal and expansion that the boutique hotel field continues to experience. This “modern renaissance” brings awareness to the multiple types of boutique hotels and associated boutique businesses—such as fitness studios, retail stores, art galleries, craft coffee shops—all of which are associated with this emerging new industry.

With such a broad range of boutique hotels shaping and influencing the modern boutique renaissance, BLLA partners and founders began to undertake the task of defining and categorizing the many types of overnight experiences. Among the various diverse boutique hotels are the expected traditional and luxury properties as well as singular additions. These include hotels like the “boutique on a budget,” with its emphasis on social space and limited amenities, and the “adventure boutique,” with a focus on interactive adventure travel.

The result of such extensive research into the numerous boutique offerings available today, the first draft of BLLA’s comprehensive Boutique Hotel Category List includes specifications for design type, price point, food and beverage programs, and other amenities offered. The list fulfills BLLA’s ultimate goal of providing a guide with transparency for the hospitality industry’s perusal, as well as brings some insight for travelers, enabling them to identify boutique options available for their patronage.

Here are BLLA’s categories and descriptions:

Classic Boutique

The classic boutique hotel is what likely comes to mind when one considers the definition of the boutique hotel; these locations are essentially living organisms within their cities. Often the classic boutique hotel is decorated with comforting furnishings that emulate the residential neighborhoods within which they are located. Food and beverage services at the classic boutique hotel are generally exceptional as well as locally sourced.

Luxury Boutique

The luxury boutique hotel provides unparalleled aesthetic and services. Luxury boutique hotels can be noted by their upscale design, high-quality amenities, luxury, often Michelin-starred food and beverage programs, and spacious rooms. Often, the luxury boutique hotel is a beloved destination of recognized cultural visionaries.

Boutique on a Budget

This hotel type is designed for the traveler treasuring a boutique experience at a more accessible price. These are particularly appealing to those active on social media, as the budgeted boutique hotel is generally characterized  by intricately composed design, particularly within public spaces, providing the full experience of boutique aesthetics. The budgeted boutique hotel is an emerging facet of boutique that offers the boutique experience to those who previously may not have been able to feasibly afford it.

Boutique Resort

The boutique resort is designed for a leisurely stay; it is often a draw to families. The resort, by general structure, is designed for experience, which is why the defining factor of a boutique resort is its independent ownership; the boutique resort is never owned by a larger conglomerate.

Hipster Boutique

The hipster boutique is designed for the traveler driven by immersive experience with the comfort of amenities: those who attend concert festivals and return to hotels, or travel seeking unique stimulation. The hipster boutique boasts interactive public spaces and partners with local events, providing relatively ordinary room accommodations that encourage guests to explore the cities.

The Concept Boutique

The concept boutique is built around a particular experience or lifestyle. There are many subsets of the concept boutique; the most common include the “art,” “wellness” and “glamping” experiences. However, what each holds in common is that these locations are designed to provide as stimulating an experience in a hotel as within its surroundings.

Micro Boutique

The micro-boutique hotel is designed to discourage the guest from spending an excessive amount of time in the room, pushing them to enjoy their surroundings. The micro-boutique hotel is characterized by small rooms with minimal storage, social and lively public spaces, and locations in the heart of their respective surrounding cities.

Historic Boutique

Historic boutique hotels gain an element of authenticity by developers applying specific features into a building that is considered historic by the very nature of its beginnings, whether it was a hotel to start with or a building that has been adapted, converted and/or renovated to be a boutique hotel. Many times, a hotel may get extra financial assistance or tax credits, as an example, to assist in the development of these properties. Having the ability to market these properties with their historical references makes them highly desired as long as design aesthetics and service elements are actually in the close-to-luxury category. Those can includes experiences throughout the property. 

Boutique B&B

B&Bs have typically been known for large home conversions and small inns that offered a comfortable stay including a breakfast of some sort. Notch that up 10 times and you will get much more than that. Boutique B&Bs have stepped up their game by thoughtful design upgrades, luxury food choices, phenomenal amenities and very customized, personal services for local experiences.

Residential Boutique

The serviced apartment, unlike its counterpart, the sublet, is designed to accommodate long-term stays with the benefit of luxury amenities and services. While boutique serviced apartments are designed most often for the traveling businessperson required to take long-term stays, it is generally open to the public wishing to travel with the comforts of the home and small luxuries of the hotel.

Branded Boutique

The branded boutique is an emerging powerhouse; as trends move consumers back to boutique travel, chain hotels such as Marriott and Hilton have taken to developing their own boutique collections that retain the definitive qualities of boutique, making them more conducive to personal and leisure travel. While these locations boast boutique features, they are maintained by a major brand, but are independently owned. 

Boutique at Sea

Boutique cruise lines have a smaller number of rooms per ship (i.e. 200-300 vs. 1,000 and up) and pay attention to the overall experience, similar to boutique hotels. From luxury extras like amenities, upgraded food and beverage, a well-trained staff and a higher staff-to-customer ratio, there is a good selection of upscale, on-board activities as well as carefully curated tour selections at each destination.

Adventure Boutique

This is a boutique hotel or resort that is located in a unique destination with breathtaking landscapes and which offers myriad outdoor activities, including guided tours and unforgettable experiences while enabling guests to feel pampered by experienced hotel staff and guides.

Convention Boutique

These are hotels that are located near convention centers and offer unique, custom services to customers attending events, as well as upscale services for travel bookers/meeting planners; they can also be boutique hotels that are connected to a convention center or large meeting space, but clearly fit as an independent, boutique hotel.