BLLA recently hosted its first in-person event of the year with a dinner at The Pendry West Hollywood in Los Angeles. This intimate event was the third installment of the StayBoutique Social Club dinner series, designed to encourage meaningful discussions and to propel ideas that will strengthen the global sphere of boutique hospitality. Mews, a BLLA Premier Plus member, was a principal sponsor and collaborator for the event.
“The purpose of the BLLA social club dinners is to gather boutique hotel visionaries in a local market to come together and strategize the future of hospitality in an intimate environment,” said Ariela Kiradjian, partner/COO, BLLA & StayBoutique. “We expertly curate these small events to ensure that the future of the boutique movement stays authentic and true to its original essence.”
To start the evening, the guests engaged in a lively round of luxury bowling. Spirits were high as each person stepped up to the line and put their bowling skills to the test.
“It is crucial that the right minds debate about integral topics in our industry,” Kiradjian said. “It is very tough for small businesses to compete with billion-dollar companies—aka huge chains—and independent boutique hotels are stronger together, than apart. BLLA has always been the voice for the world’s boutique hotels, so this is another way we can be a tool for these types of hotels to flourish.”
Kiradjian got the idea for the dinner series back in 2016 at BLLA’s annual Leadership Conference when, as the event organizer, she observed the revolutionary topics happening off-stage in small groups.
“I realized the importance of not only inspirational talks on stage, but also small and focused talks where everyone involved feels like they are in a safe environment to really speak to what is on their mind,” she said.
After a few rounds, they made their way back to the main room. Seated at the dinner table were a group of fervent leaders who shared an optimism for the advancement of the boutique segment: Dan Daley, principal, Ten Five Hospitality and COO Relevant Group; Megan Schroder, managing director, AKA West Hollywood; Philip Bates, managing partner, TMC Group & CEO, Bode; Ross Walker, founder/ managing partner, Hawkins Way Capital; Cristina Riveroll, SVP, operations, AutoCamp; and Carl Lambert, president, Lambert Investments Inc./founder, Venice V Hotel.
“My favorite part of the event is sitting back and watching the magic happen between all the guests,” Kiradjian said. “I work hard to ensure every tiny detail is perfect. I then use my talent of ‘breaking the ice’ to get a good sense of comfort integrated and then I just enjoy all of these disruptive minds begin talks of the future.”
A variety of questions were posed to the guests that tackled topics of business, labor and operations.
“I also greatly enjoy the end of the event, when everyone leaves glowing, refreshed and immediately makes plans to see each other very shortly,” Kiradjian said.” I also really enjoy working side-by-side with amazing companies, like Mews. We are immensely particular in who we work with and they have been an event planner’s dream. We also have similar values and visions of the future, so it was great to have the same goal in mind when it came to our event we created together.”
Hoxton Hotels, Inhabit Hotels and Mews have all been co-hosts of the association’s past dinners.
The BLLA, through open collaboration and constant innovation, believes the community can only become more successful, and as the industry sees an uptick with in-person events, this will only be made easier. The association’s events tend to be more intimate—its conferences never exceed 400 attendees on purpose.
“The more intimate and curated, the more ability to create a raw and real relationship,” Kiradjian said. “There is also a greatly ability to not only listen, but embody what you are learning. However, she noted that there will always be a need for larger events, too.
“We have always enjoyed smaller, more intimate events, and so do our members,” she said. “Thus, it made sense for us to pivot to this business model moving forward.”
BLLA has plans to partner with like-minded companies—limited to one per dinner—to create these experiences. In 2022, the association will continue to produce digital conferences, YouTube shows and will begin planning its social club dinners around the globe. BLLA will also change a few things in terms of its model and hopefully launch that in 2023, Kiradjian said.