Boutique hotels and franchise are remarkably different business models despite effectively offering and identical service. The boutique hotel is predicated on freedom and flexibility, the opportunity for adventure and the chance to experience a different (often, more personalised) mode of hospitality to what you may typically expect. Franchise hotels offer something almost diametrically opposed to this philosophy. They are presented as a known-quantity, with a high standard of luxury and service which can be replicated the world over. With this, the customer can feel a sense of familiarity and as if the hotel is a home-from-home, thousands of miles away.
Perhaps you are unsure of the implications that these two different models have for you, the potential customer. Well, here are your four need-to-knows:
Price is always going to be a major factor in anyone’s selection and the differing concepts of the boutique and franchise hotel can lead to variation in pricing strategy among them.
Franchise hotels have their own regulations and company-wide processes which lead to associated costs, standard pricing strategies and latency when changes are being implemented. Individual hotels are likely to have greater flexibility to adjust their pricing strategies in response to fluctuations in supply and demand, a feature that can lead to more reasonable rates and offers. Freedom from the commercial strategies of a major hotel chain can liberate a manager to make effective price changes quickly but this does not necessarily ensure improved rates for the customer.
Similarly, the large franchise hotels such as Hilton and Marriott have the power to enforce relatively low commission rates on booking websites but this saving is not necessarily passed on to the consumer. One thing the online booking companies do offer is a huge range of hotels from which to choose, and with this the opportunity for direct price comparison. This is really where the price variations between the boutique hotels can be seen and the persistent customer always has the potential to find a suitable hotel at a very reasonable price.
One of the great advantages of the boutique or independent hotel is the sheer number of them open for business and the huge choice of location this offers the customer when deciding where to stay. The freedom associated with running a boutique hotel allows the management to integrate it more seamlessly with its locality and thus present a more authentic abode for the adventurous or curious traveller. When staying in far-flung corners of the globe, it is more exciting to experience the local culture first-hand rather than at arms-length in an airport hotel bar.
The Hanoi La Siesta Hotel Trendy in Vietnam is a boutique hotel that can more than compete with international franchises like Marriott and InterContinental with its great location, homemade local cuisine and friendly staff. The great thing is that in the era of online reviews, booking a boutique hotel in an unknown city thousands of miles away is no longer the risk it may once have seemed and can really add to the experience instead of merely acting as a place to lay your head at night.
That is not to say that there are no well-positioned franchise hotels in all the major cities in the world, of course there are. For many of us, the familiarity of the franchise in an unfamiliar environment may even be its greatest attraction. They can offer solace and comfort in foreign climate, although they often look slightly out of place in many cities.
- Amenities and Facilities
As a rule, franchise hotels tend to have excellent facilities whereas boutique hotels can be a little more inconsistent in terms of what is being offered. Most hotel chains offer a standard amenities package across their fleet of premises. These typically include gyms, elevators and room service to encourage their guests to relax however they choose to. Children are generally well-catered for with a separate menu or family package booking and businesses are always welcome to use conference rooms with audio/visual equipment, internet access and perhaps a photocopying service. These are all part of the service expected from one of the major hotel chains and are one of their major selling-points.
There is less certainty regarding the facilities on offer when considering a boutique hotel. Some may not offer any access to a gym; others may provide no real support to business meetings or conferences and accessibility via ramps and elevators may not be suitable for everyone’s needs. Having said that, the facilities and amenities provided by a boutique hotel does not pose a risk to the potential customer but does require a little thought about what one really requires and some research into what precisely the hotel is offering. Websites such as Trip Advisor should make shock upon arrival somewhat less common than it has been in previous decades.
- Personal Experience
The fourth and final thing you need to know about boutique hotels vs franchise hotels relates to the personal experience associated with each and leads to a question that must be answered by everyone at some point…what exactly is it I am looking for from the hotel I am intending on staying in?
Generally speaking, there are two contrasting approaches to attracting the potential customer. The first approach presents the safe and the known as a primary attraction. Travelling can be an occasion for stress and a franchise hotel removes at least one component of this with its reliable standard of service and even the air of familiarity. Take the Hilton hotel chain as an example, where an overnight stay in Mumbai can be enjoyed in surroundings remarkably similar to those at the Hilton Paris Opera in France.
The second approach is to sell adventure and the local culture as part of the service. Boutique hotels must be expected to deliver a more personalised and unique experience than their more prolific rivals. Offering a window into the local community and culture can act as a counter-balance to the safety provided by the chains where the service and presentation is very often standardised. The Bavaria Boutique Hotel is situated in the midst of everyday Munich, with one customer who recently reviewed their stay there stating that “It was great to feel like we were in a real München neighbourhood”. The hotel is close to Christmas markets and the site of the Oktoberfest and is a good example of what may be expected from a quality boutique hotel.
The differences between the boutique and franchise hotels are real and tangible to the would-be guest and with the sheer volume of hotel rooms available across the world a few moments of consideration before making a booking can serve the customer immeasurably. It seems clear that there are different benefits to be gained from the two separate styles of hotel as well as from the various hotels within each genre so there is no reason why anyone putting in a little effort cannot find themselves the perfect hotel in the ideal location.