HB on the scene: BLLA Conference celebrates boutique hospitality

After a three year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) recently held its annual Boutique Hotel Investment Conference at the Grand Ballroom at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

Nearly 200 attendees came together to celebrate the flourishing sector of boutique hospitality and gain top-tier insight into where the industry is heading.

The conference day was filled with a variety of panels, case studies, debates and think tanks—all pointing toward the passion and resiliency of the boutique hotel community. During the opening session, Ariela Kiradjian, COO/partner, BLLA, emphasized that “Boutique is lifestyle, and lifestyle is boutique.”

It was particularly conveyed during a surprise finale Keynote session with Horst Schulze, cofounder of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company and Capella Hotels, and Frances Kiradjian, CEO/founder of BLLA. “And think about what the beautiful thing this is—that we can care for people,” said Horst. “That’s our business. And to create surroundings in a happy way, what a great business. And I think in fact, your group, boutique hotels especially. And if you don’t mind, I can tell you this: I think this is a very unique moment for all of you in boutique hospitality because the big names (you know who they are) are all moving very fast to what is becoming a sleeping commodity without hospitality. This is your (BLLA’s) time!”

It also the time for boutique hotels in general, according to James Bermingham, CEO of Virgin Hotels, “Consumers are following the boutique hotel world because it’s different,” he said. “It’s authentic, and they pay a premium for it…so it’s a great time to be in the boutique hotel business.”

BLLA is leading the way to unite the world’s best boutique hotel executives and creators and shine a light on the thriving and lucrative sector that is boutique hospitality, according to Frances Kiradjian.

Owners, investors, developers, and other forward-thinking professionals were immersed in an environment where they could learn from one another and engage in fruitful discussions. As Robin Kennedy, EVP, chief development officer, Montage International shared, “There are people that are very interested in the same types of ideas. Everybody is trying to find their space in the market and understand that there can be something different.”