HB ON THE SCENE: BLLA’s Conference Highlights Programming Investments

NEW YORK—What makes a boutique hotel successful? A boutique property, one that’s defined by its focus on experiences, relies on hotel programming. Held here at TheTimesCenter, this year’s BLLA’s Stay Boutique Live conference, Financing the Modern Renaissance, featured boutique hotel leaders who spoke about how to successfully invest in a property.

“Size doesn’t matter anymore,” said Jean-Luc Naret, CEO, La Reserve Hotels and Spas, in his keynote address as he chuckled, but was serious in that guests are moving further and further away from prioritizing amenities and guestroom size within the boutique space.

Time is now spent outside of the guestroom, soaking up the local culture—but within the hotel’s walls. For Naret, this programming shouldn’t just be memorable but Instagrammable, as he snapped a selfie of himself with the audience.

According to Naret, the boutique space is headed in the direction of creating these types of moments, advising hotels to stay unique, unique, unique, with even the big chains trying to differentiate now (Hyatt with Andaz, Marriott with Edition, etc.) The takeaways:

  • Be bold with location; pioneer your hotel with a focus on locale
  • Foster a strong sense of place with programming and art, and invest in those
  • Keep things trendy, but locally sourced
  • Cheap becomes expensive over the years—again, invest
  • Entertainment was once the focus but now, boutique guests’ priorities are F&B experiences, top-notch service
  • Lobby design is crucial and makes an impression

These are all components of building a boutique experience and one that’s genuine, authentic and makes the most of hotel investments.

“The human condition is about wanting to belong,” said Michelle Grey, creative director, Absolut Art. “Brands need to figure out what community you want your guests to belong to.”

Hotel programming—everything from F&B to cultural programming—is all tied to this, creating a sense of place within the hotel, forming a community of its own. “There has to be some level of participatory programming, especially in the hospitality space,” Grey said.