Don’t ride the wave, be the wave!
In two short weeks, BLLA will gather the most eclectic mix of superstar speakers from every corner of the hospitality world at the Stay Boutique Leadership Conference! From hidden speakeasies to members only clubs and hotels, our speakers have centuries of executive level experience, and are joining us to usher in the next wave in boutique living.
With this conference, the Stay Boutique crew plans to disrupt hospitality in the best way possible. In an age where digital footprint is everything, and consumers hold more power than ever, it’s essential to implement new business practices that will curate an experience that a guest or patron will want to have time and time again.
Convention is the enemy of progress. What worked for a hotel, restaurant or bar twenty years ago does not apply today. One of the great benefits of being boutique is our ability to swiftly adapt to changes in market trends. Our illustrious line up of presenters will arm you with the knowledge you will need to excel in boutique.
A small sampling of what is to come this October:
With a line up like this, there’s no way you won’t gain from the knowledge that will be imparted by these leaders. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the UCLA Luskin Center from October 3rd through 5th!
This week’s articles showcase some of our presenters and their recent ventures. We are in for one heck of an event! Register today at StayBoutiqueConference.com.
One of the many exciting things about the boutique hotel world is its ability to absorb exciting elements from disparate areas—from the art world to music, fashion and cuisine—anything it can harness to add character and interest to a hotel’s offering. And this diversity of influences was highlighted this week at the BLLA Boutique Hotel Investment Conference, where a panel of luminaries from very different backgrounds converged to discuss their shared interest in the boutique space.
Chaired by Gettys Group president Andrew Fay, the panel featured David Bowd, principal of West Elm Hotels; Tony Kurz, CEO of Brandmark Collective; and Christopher Norton, CEO of Equinox Hotels. Each has a very different approach and back story, each of them fascinating, and it was fascinating to hear their stories and what they bring to the boutique and lifestyle hotel sphere.
Bowd described starting out as a bellman before progressing to working with luminaries such as Ian Schrager and Andre Balazs, as well as working together with West Elm Hotels and Williams Sonoma on a chain of unique lifestyle hotels. Kurz talked about his experience of opening fashion hotels for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Lagerfeld. And Norton recalled being drawn to the hotel business by “a love of the smell of coffee and toast” before an illustrious career at Four Seasons and striking out to create his mold-breaking current venture, Equinox Hotels.
The panelists were asked how they went about applying the tenets of their existing businesses to the hospitality industry. Bowd talked about wanting each hotel to feel like a unique and special space, “not just a showroom”, and a place that is very unique to the location. The focus was on the customer experience and the relationship with the local area, an aesthetic he summed up by saying that he suggested replacing the concept of a hotel manager with an “innkeeper”.
Kurz said that he had learned not to build the brand on one person—so the Karl Lagerfeld hotel is not just about the designer himself, but a combination of elements inspired by the “DNA” of his fashion brand.
Norton said that the Equinox chain was inspired by “watching the millennials” and witnessing a new, different definition of luxury, which is defined less by white-glove service than by “how you make people feel”. For example, he said the chain’s gyms will be open to local public, so that rather than standing empty and soulless, they are full of atmosphere and energy.
The next question Fay asked was how the hoteliers present leveraged the assets of their existing brands through the creation of a hospitality offering.
Bowd replied that the existing database of 15 million people who loved Williams Sonoma and West Elm brands created a ready-made starting point. He also said that the brand was very much focused on engaging with a local population and bringing employees without formal education who know the area, through purpose-built West Elm Academies.
Kurz said that the association with a well-known fashion brand brought with it an opportunity to hit the consumer press and a much larger marketing span. He also hinted at a new initiative, currently under wraps, that would allow his hotels to “shake up the industry” and rely less on “filling beds with heads”. And Nash said Equinox’s core loyalty was to its members as it focused in going after key markets and being in the right spots.
The panelists were also asked about the importance of design in their hotels, in response to which Bowd talked about the fact that it was a domestic retail brand tackling a hotel space, and so the residential feel was all-important for West Elm Hotels; and Kurz reiterated that the “DNA” of each fashion brand was the deciding factor in the design of the properties.
It is this proliferation of ideas and energies from different industries, converging in a space that is both diverse and full of life, that makes the boutique sector such an exciting and unique place, and never has this been clearer than at this year’s conference. We are grateful to the panelists for giving us an insight into their experiences of working in the boutique space and we look forward to ever more innovation in the year to come.
Checking into a BLLA Event feels more like a welcome to a family gathering than attending a conference. Why does the association call itself a family rather than an industry?
The BLLA Family is a community and a safe haven for boutique-minded thinkers and doers. The world is quickly shifting, right before our eyes, into a place where small businesses finally get the recognition they deserve. Boutique and lifestyle hotels and small brands that are independent of very large chains are a part of this and while small, play a very large role in the shift of the evolution of lodging on a global basis.
The Family is where we experience the greatest opportunity to do good together and for the benefit of all. As spoken previously, boutique and lifestyle hotels are not in competition with each other; they are part of a very small contingent and thus, they share many things include deep vulnerabilities which they can work on together as well as great triumphs to be celebrated.
This holiday season, whether you are a hotel or lodging property or a supplier, vendor or manufacturer, show your support of BLLA by
From disruption, to consolidation, to the sharing economy, to millennials. What else is new?
DIRECT BOOKINGS– or so they say – is the newest, latest and greatest process for our industry to focus on, talk about and spend more marketing dollars on.
REALLY? Isn’t that something we’ve been doing all along? Independent hotels have always focused on direct bookings. It’s nothing new. It’s what we talk about at all the BLLA conferences. If hoteliers just focused on their core competencies, the direct bookings (or let’s call it ‘organic growth’) will come naturally. We will discuss it once again in October and many things will be debated and some new things will be revealed to support our hotels efforts in increasing their direct bookings naturally.
You really can’t force a horse to drink water or a customer to choose your hotel over others. If we spend more time focusing on our strengths and opportunities, the guests will follow. One step at a time. Focus, focus, focus!
Let’s take a look back at some of the great discussions we’ve had with the best and brightest in hospitality below.
Video 1 – Ian Schrager Interview 2016
Video 2 – Pilar Guzman, Editor-in-Chief, Conde Nast Traveler
Video 3 – All Star Food & Beverage 2016
Video 4 – Top 5 Defining Features of a Boutique Hotel
Video 5 – Why Invest in Boutique Hotels?
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