Opinion

The trends shaping boutique hotels

Johan Åséll, COO of Brøchner Hotels, discusses surprising initiatives, localised solutions, and technology advances in the boutique hotel industry

In this industry, it’s important to always keep on challenging the norm. The hotel industry at large is one of the most conservative sectors. In many cases, we do the same things because we know they work and this limits ourselves from different perspectives.

Our 'Wine Hour' is one of our best examples of how we've broken from convention. Every day we invite our hotel guests to enjoy a glass of wine or port from 5-6pm, but it really is much more about hosting than about the wine. For us, 'Wine Hour' is about creating experiences and a place where the guest feels at home. It gives us the framework for one of the most important elements in hospitality – hosting. Through this initiative, we create a fantastic atmosphere in our bars, show generosity, and people stick around after the hour because they’re having such a great time. It’s a concept that our guests talk about and are excited for.

In turn, this affects revenue positively. During 'Wine Hour' our bar revenue is the highest of the day. Some guests may be coming in for the complimentary wine, but usually they’re combining it with drinks from our bar menu. Some don’t necessarily like wine, but they experience the ambience in the bar and want to join. So, an initiative that people said wouldn’t work actually ended up being a success.

The importance of localisation

We spend a lot of time making sure that our properties are just as interesting for locals as they are for guests from abroad. For example, our ‘Hey Neighbour’ initiative offers the surrounding community special benefits at our hotels, restaurants and bars. By catering to them, we are ensuring a steady stream of revenue, even during periods of low occupancy, and by offering them incentives they also act as our ambassadors to visiting friends and family.

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Hotel Ottilia Rooftop Bar
Brøchner Hotels' 'Wine Hour' encourages guests to enjoy the atmosphere of its lobby bars. Image: credit to Hotel Herman K

 

When we travel today, we are looking for local experiences. We want to stay in places where we feel like we’re at one with the surrounding community. People are travelling more and more, which means they don’t necessarily need to search for the security of a well-known brand anymore. They’re increasingly comfortable with staying at independent properties. The chains are realising that and, as a result, we’re seeing everyone starting to tap into the boutique sector. This means it’s becoming more difficult to differentiate independent properties from the chains, but I think for the former it will always be much easier to localise because they don’t have as many restrictions.

As I look to the next 5-10 years, I think this trend will grow stronger, and localising your property and amenities will continue to be important.

Technology to watch

One of the other big trends I’m currently noticing is the different ways properties are tapping into new digital solutions - making sure guests can check-in prior to arrival and use their phones as a room key, for example. We have a digital solution now for all our hotels where guests are able to select any available room in their chosen category when they check-in. This allows the guests to feel the freedom of choice. It also opens the possibility of selling upgrades: by seeing the available options, they may discover a larger or more suitable room they would like. We experience that nearly a third of all guests choosing their own room would opt for an upgraded room category.

Airlines have been doing this for years and that industry is still way ahead of the hotel sector in terms of revenue management. The benefits of adopting solutions like this are that you can create a much better guest experience (if you do it right) and it will allow you to find new potential additional revenue streams.

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Hero image: Hotel Herman K

Takeaway
  • By ensuring your property is as interesting to locals as it is for guests from abroad, you can ensure a steady stream of revenue - even during periods of low occupancy. 
  • Travellers today are looking for local experiences and don’t necessarily need to search for the security of a well-know brand anymore
  • Brøchner Hotels now have a digital solution that allows guests to select any available room in their chosen category when they check-in - opening the possibility of selling upgrades

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