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“Feeling special” – Short history of how boutique and lifestyle have transformed hotel guest experience

“Boutique and “Lifestyle” – two words describing qualities that many holiday or business travellers now expect to find when choosing 5-star luxury accommodation. While there are more than 42,000 bedrooms and similar accommodation in Cyprus, according to a 2018 Statista survey, there are only around two dozen or more hotels in Cyprus that may be properly described as “boutique”. A smart, select number overlook Limassol’s historic Mediterranean shoreline, each offering its unique take on catering to the specific needs of their guests.

Personalisation is at the heart of a lifestyle hotel

In recent years the redefining of a luxury experience has transformed the hotel environment and its guest services. Personalisation is at the heart of a lifestyle hotel, aimed at making their particular guests “feel special”. This new way of feeling special was introduced to hotel accommodation nearly forty years ago.

The first hotels in the world now considered to be the earliest examples of a “boutique” aesthetic were the Clarion Bedford Hotel in San Francisco and Blakes London, established in 1981. But it wasn’t until 1984 that a hotel was specifically classed as “boutique” by American entrepreneur and hotelier, Ian Schrager, who, together with his business partner, Steve Rubell, opened the Morgans Hotel in New York in 1984. Rubell went on to explain that, “Hotels are like department stores. They’re trying to be all things to all people. This is different. It’s like a boutique”.

“Boutique” was a radical departure from the large global hotel chains, which offered a standardised “cookie-cutter” approach to traditional luxury and facilities, no matter where they were located. From now on, the hotel experience had to be about “uber exclusive designer interiors adorned with sumptuous fabrics, fabulous art, and state-of-the-art technology”. And that’s even before guests immerse and indulge their senses in the Infinity Pool.

Exciting new hotel hybrids began to emerge

A generational shift was ignited, as exciting new hotel hybrids began to emerge from designer themed properties to location-specific accommodation. In the age of affordable, mass-globalised travel, the search for the “authentic” and “meaningful” linked to a hotel’s location and surrounding culture took on even greater importance.

It’s a view underlined by more than 40 international industry professionals who were commissioned by the Boutique and Lifestyle Lodging Association. They report that not being part of a chain means that boutique hotels are typically smaller, offer high levels of service, and provide unique and interesting facilities with “many, high quality in‐room features”. It was concluded that the most important defining features of a boutique hotel are Cultural, Historical and its Authenticity.

Wellness and life‐enhancement key to guest experience

A lifestyle hotel tends to be small to medium sized with up to 100 rooms. They are particularly focused on innovation and providing a more “personalised experience” than the traditional, global chain brands. A more contemporary aesthetic allows for unusual, innovative design and architecture, with high level technology. A lifestyle hotel is also highly focused on wellness and life‐enhancement as key to their guest experience.

Holidaymakers and, increasingly, business travellers now come to expect a sense of “feeling special” which, involves an enhanced sense of wellbeing. A healthy lifestyle is definitely to be followed rather than temporarily abandoned whilst on holiday. Staying at a lifestyle hotel increasingly means the availability and access to a fully equipped spa, gym, sauna, a 5-star restaurant with a range of healthy-eating options, including vegetarian and more recently, vegan.

The Association research also reveals that both the boutique and lifestyle hotel experience should provide guests with the key emotional and immersive responses of “Discovery”, “Curiosity”, “Intrigue and Amazement”. Other important emotions include, “Happy, Joyful, Amused” and “Sensual, Sexy, Romantic”. It’s clear, therefore, that a luxury hotel is now increasingly redefined as the richness of a meaningful personalised, experience.

Expectations transforming the luxury hotel niche

Inevitably, the concept of the boutique and lifestyle hotel continues to evolve and adapt to consumer demand. Increasingly, a boutique or lifestyle hotel may not necessarily be classified as “luxury” but could be positioned within the other traditional groupings of mid-range or even budget accommodation.

The demands and expectations of holidaymakers, business or other frequent travellers are not only transforming the luxury hotel niche but have created a domino effect across the accommodation sector. Urban districts, Nicosia and Larnaca, have seen budget hotels (1 and 2-star hotels) increase by nearly 90 per cent whilst available beds in luxury hotels fell by 10 per cent (Cyprus Hospitality Report KPMG, 2019).

The clear popularity of the boutique hotel concept has invariably led to many following in its footsteps but with different quality levels of guest experience. The truly discerning and culturally curious, alike, will always recognise the mindfully blissful moments of insight.

But only when interest has been intrigued by subtle hues, delicate lines and evocative textures of an interior décor. Or senses immersed and re-energised by sublime spa therapies, and tastebuds excited by poolside healthy-eating platters of pure golden Mediterranean splendour.

DISCOVER:
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