London: Hotel industry professionals gathered for the annual Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel Summit and BoHo awards at the Kimpton Fitzroy Hotel in London this week.
The one-day event, hosted by the Boutique Hotel News team, brought together almost 200 professionals from more than 50 companies for a day of curated debate sessions and workshop and problem-solving exercises to stimulate collective thoughtful conversation with the aim of driving each respective business forward.
It was the ninth edition of Europe’s only b2b boutique and lifestyle hotel conference and coincided with a boom in the international boutique, hybrid and lifestyle hotel sector.
One particular recurring theme that was brought up in the discussions was the need for hoteliers to create unique experiences that are tailored to suit the needs of a wide range of hotel guests.
The day commenced with a keynote panel discussion on “the future of distribution” led by Avvio CEO Frank Reeves, with Krishan Kadodwala from Expedia and Google’s Satyan Joshi gazing into their crystal balls to see how the hospitality space would be evolving in the distribution space over the coming years.
Following that, Jonathan Humphries from HoCoSo and Alan O’Dea from Campbell Gray Hotels presented the a hotel study case as they gave the audience an insight into the new Hotel Alex Lake Zurich, which will open in July. Humphries and O’Dea explained that it had been very tough to find building space in the city but Alex would be the first luxury boutique aparthotel to sit next to the lake.
Georgian House general manager Adam Rowledge delivered his own view on the current state of recruitment in the UK hospitality sector and advised the gathered guests on how managers can pick and retain their best talent.
He said: “One strategy I use is VRIN – you have to present something that is valuable, rare, inimitable and non-substitutable. It is about creating something that people want to have.”
Rowledge advocated targeting the millennial segment when recruiting, especially using social media as “40.2 per cent of UK 18-25-year-olds have been influenced in terms of career decisions by social media posts”. He also cited resources such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn for employer branding and relationships with colleges and universities as a way of breeding success in hospitality recruitment.
In the increasingly vibrant boutique hotel sector, Sophie McCrow from Four Communications gave a masterclass presentation in the growing importance of concentrated digital marketing for hotels.
Her advice for succeeding using digital marketing tools included:
• Use key SEO terms such as “boutique”, “retreat”, “exclusive”, “escape” and “experience” to finish higher up the list in Google searches and present a more attractive and appealing proposition to potential guests
• Engage valuable market segments by making your brand more personal and consider the “Instagram effect” to make guests feel like part of the overall journey
• Make your guests your advocates by looking at Facebook Audience Insights and getting an insight into demographics, purchase activity, page likes, language and location
• Produce content for people who connect with your offering, inspire them and establish an efficient booking process given that ease of booking remains a key purchase driver
In keeping with the aforementioned recurring theme, Eight Inc’s Steve Lidbury said that people “seek memorable experiences and meaningful recognition”.
Eight Inc, a multi-discipline experience design studio, specialises in designing “meaningful human experiences that change the way people think, feel and do”. In his talk, Lidbury highlighted a number of principles to create the future of hospitality, which included offering storytelling and human interaction through familiar and sensorial stimulation, creating signature moments for guests who desire touches of indulgence and designing holistically to tailor to the diverse needs of guests.
The conference concluded with a set of in-depth workshops, which involved guests convening in smaller groups to share their ideas before feeding back their findings to the collective audience.
The first development workshop centred on creating a unique boutique hotel concept and focus group huddles included:
• Social spaces and community
• Sleep science
• Investor considerations
• Services and operations
• Marketing and distribution
In one such talk on technology, Jeff Swanson from RMS Cloud suggested that guests were looking for a seamless, personalised guest experience, and hotel managers could employ technology in factors such as housekeeping and concierge systems to achieve this.
In a second informal speed workshop, SpaceMize head of business development Tzvete Doncheva discussed the popular phenomenon of co-living / co-working. Doncheva revealed that, as firms such as The Hoxton and The Collective roll out co-living / co-living spaces, these types of accommodations will typically become populated by young professionals who have relocated from home and are looking for connections, and people who have built their careers over a decade or so but whose friends have already started their own families.
As the Summit came to a close, a decorated prize draw was held before a drinks reception preceded the 2019 Boutique Hotel Guest Experience Awards (BoHos).
The BoHos recognise UK and international boutique, lifestyle and hybrid hotels for providing excellence in guest experience, across a number of categories including Best UK Hotel overall, Best International Hotel overall and Best Group Brand.