If you stay up-to-date with hotel industry news, you’ve noticed the stream of announcements from major hotel chains about their new boutique hotels. Pick a major chain and it’s likely they’ve recently launched a new brand, acquired an existing one, formed a collection of properties or will be doing one or all of the above very soon. Guest demographics and preferences are evolving and major chains fear their cookie-cutter, branded properties are becoming less desirable to modern travelers, especially Millennials. To remedy this predicament, they’re attempting to position their new brands as small, independently-inspired hotels. However, there’s just one problem…. they’re not independent hotels!
The big hotel chains are in the business of pretending they aren’t big chains.
They want you to think they are boutiques.
– Pauline Frommer, Editorial Director, Frommer’s
Try to imitate, but unable to duplicate
As we spoke about earlier this year, large hotel chains are jealous of the hyper-local position many independent hotels occupy. In addition to lodging visitors, they serve as gathering places, support neighborhood initiatives and partner with other businesses to ensure their community remains vibrant.
Major chains envy the localized hospitality that independents naturally deliver to guests, so they’re attempting to duplicate and sell their own version of this experience. Autonomy is a major advantage held by independents that runs counter to the structure and nature of chain hotels, so only time will tell if their repackaging strategy will succeed. However, not to state the obvious, but it might be hard to sell travelers on “local expertise” when you’re the newest hotel in the neighborhood.
Travelers know the difference
Travelers who normally bypass chain properties in favor of an independent hotel experience will quickly recognize the difference between a truly independent property and a subtly branded chain hotel. From speaking to an on-site front desk team member versus a call center agent to getting “locals only” insight for off-the-beaten-path activities, independent hotels have long-delivered service that is unique to their property, not summarized from a global brand standards manual. Again, chain hotels can try their best to act as independent hotels, but their success will ultimately be determined by the discerning and locally curious tastes of their guests.