Yet another glossy trade magazine has plopped onto our doormat.
Boutique Hotelier is a magazine full of lovely pictures of beautiful people running their fabulous places.
The editor asks in her foreword of a couple of issues back what is a boutique hotel? A good start perhaps but then she goes straight into telling us that the concept of boutique hotels, coined at the back end of the 1980s is now dead.
It’s dead because so many people have jumped on the boutique bandwagon that the original concept of quirky and individual has been lost as every other hotelier seeks to homogenise and package the idea of boutiqueness.
Ask yourself this: If an independent clothing store in a small market town stops selling individually designed dresses and starts selling High Street fashion because that’s what everyone else is doing, is it still a boutique?
On the first few pages of the magazine we read about multi national hotel chains Marriott and InterContinental Hotels rolling out their own boutique brands. Surely boutique and brand shouldn’t be found in the same room let alone sharing a bed!
The editor of the new magazine seems to acknowledge this and goes on to say that since every Tom, Dick and Harry is claiming their hotel is boutique none of them actually is anymore and so a new moniker is needed: Welcome the lifestyle hotel.
The originator of the original boutique hotel label says a lifestyle hotel is the same as a boutique hotel – it’s not just about design but about attitude, approach and focus.
Hmm, another convoy is preparing to leave town folks, all aboard the lifestyle bandwagon.
Of course there are many of us who have always known what makes a true boutique hotel and it isn’t something that those big global brands are going to be able to emulate. James Lohan, founder of the hotel website Mr & Mrs Smith says the number one element of the boutique hotel experience is design. Rubbish. Those interContinental and Marriott brands can have all the cash in the world thrown at them and they’ll not be individual, quirky and interesting which is what a boutique anything is supposed to be.
But he does go on to regain his credibility when he says that after design comes service and by good service he doesn’t mean slick, he means authentic. Customers want to be close to the hotel, they don’t want to just feel like a guest anymore, they want to feel part of it, he argues.
Spot on Mr Lohan and that’s something no brand can deliver.
We have never called ourselves a boutique hotel but that is exactly what we are, although I do prefer the lifestyle badge.
A stay at Augill Castle is not a stay in a hotel. It is a slice of life in a real family country house. We don’t sell services, we sell an experience. That is what makes us unique. What we do and the way we do it do not suit everyone and that’s what makes us, and others like us boutique. It means there is a place out there for everyone but everywhere is not for everyone. We consciously strive to reach a certain type of guest who will enjoy the experience of staying in our castle because the whole thing hinges on a castle full of happy people. We aren’t all things to all people, don’t try to be and don’t want to be.