Takeaways from BLLA's Boutique Hotel Investment Conference
Here are the trends and topics you need to know.
Lifestyle is the new normal, according to SIXTY Hotels partner and ceo Jason Pomeranc. Speaking last week at the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association’s (BLLA) Boutique Hotel Investment Conference in New York, Pomeranc added that today’s travelers were raised with different expectations when it comes to hotels (as in, they don’t expect to have to book into big boxes).
Panel discussions during the BLLA event included "Other Industries Getting into the Boutique Hotel Game," which was moderated by Andrew Fay, Gettys Group, with panelists David Bowd, West Elm Hotels; Tony Kurz, Brandmark Collective; and Christopher Norton, Equinox Hotels. Photo: BLLA
Great news for boutique hotels’ longevity, but it also means upping the game. That’s a given, but as Pomeranc and his fellow speakers on the “Boutique Hotel Development” panel—Allie Hope, global head of development & acquisitions, Virgin Hotels; Michael Fuerstman, co-founder and creative director, Pendry Hotels; Chris Pardo, co-founder, Arrive Hotels; Michael Tall, president and coo, Charlestowne Hotels; and Matthew Livian, senior vp & cio, Sydell Group—agreed, that doesn’t mean being all things to all people.
In an exclusive interview with Boutique Design during the conference, Tony Kurz, ceo, Brandmark Collective, said that has to extend to guests’ taste as well. “Versace is designing a hotel in Lisboa Palace, Macau, just like Karl Lagerfeld is (Brandmark is partnering with Lagerfeld to develop his hotel brand). We know that people will check out their lobby and ours and decide which they like, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take.”
When it comes to F&B, think more “F” and less “B.” “Night clubs and stand-alone lounge business are no longer as popular--our focus is on ‘food & vibe’ business; places where you can eat and get a little action,” says EMM Group co-founder David Birnbaum. For David Bowd, principal-experience, West Elm Hotels, spas are a nice-to-have, not a must, depending on the market.
That market will be more important than ever as a piece of a hotel’s identity. The trend toward eschewing high-barrier to entry markets like New York in favor of up-and-coming destinations will continue. Even in major markets, off the beaten path neighborhoods like WeHo also got a lot of love. “Emerging neighborhoods are where it’s at -- make the buzz and own the space,” said Fuerstman. For Ennismore (parent company of Hoxton Hotels and the upcoming NoCo brand) ceo Sharan Pasricha, it’s also the connectivity to that neighborhood that counts; for him, that’s the measure of success.
Digital connectivity is key—and social media is taking an even bigger role as an ad channel. Birnbaumm argues it’s worth making items just for the social media wow—think a massive cake at his Catch restaurant. Influencers are still a key market to target, but the key is relevance to the industry, not raw numbers of followers. Peer-to-peer pull also counts.
In design terms, expect an even richer mix of influences. Kurz says that they’ll be doing a hi-lo approach for Lagerfeld. Equinox and West Elm will pull from their own visual iconography to add spice to their hotels’ aesthetics. Dual-branded developments like a co-located Pendry and Montage property will cross-pollinate.
Media maven Arianna Huffington is interviewed for the BLLA crowd. Photo: Courtesy of BLLA
And if all that is overwhelming, go to bed. Arianna Huffington said so. The Huffington Post and Thrive Global founder shared the importance of quality sleep in optimizing productivity.
At the event, BLLA also unveiled the Stay Boutique, a worldwide platform for boutique and lifestyle hotels that will include direct booking for all BLLA members. It's set to launch this fall.
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