another publication by IMAGE asia

What makes a Boutique Hotel or Resort?

October 2019

There are almost as many answers as there are boutique places to rest your head. But as this is one of the fastest growing sectors in the hotel industry, the question really does deserve an answer.

First base for a boutique hotel should be taking special care with even the smallest of details, from location to design to outstanding personalised service to the best ingredients in its restaurants. The ‘boutique objective’ should be to become a one-of-a-kind host.

Some boutiques are based around concept (such as our very own The Boathouse Phuket), while some may offer individually themed rooms or suites (like the Mustang Nero Hotel featured in our Jan-Feb issue). But what really should make a boutique hotel special is its unique personality – as defined by the personality of its creator or manager. Just as you won’t find two people exactly alike, you should not find two boutique hotels exactly alike.

Which really begs the question: are the ‘boutique’ brands of the major hotel chains REALLY boutique hotels? Let’s set that aside for another time while we focus on some definitions of what makes a boutique hotel…

Every hotel that doesn’t boast hundreds of rooms seems to want to classify itself as a boutique hotel. But what does that actually mean? What is exactly is a boutique hotel?

How about this for a start…?

  • It must have a team with deep knowledge of its local neighbourhood
  • The design must be high-end design
  • It must offer authentic, top quality food

Well… maybe, but surely there must be more. And there is. Below are a few more key characteristics that aim to set boutique hotels apart from other types of accommodation.

  • It’s small. The industry generally agrees that a boutique hotel should not be much bigger than 100 rooms – but less than, say, 10 rooms would make it a guest house or B&B.
  • It has a strong ‘personality’, an independent attitude. It goes all-out to be one-of-a-kind.
  • Its clientele is distinctive as well. It appeals to guests who eschew the corporate, follow-the-leader, chain ‘ambience’.
  • It may have a quirky edge to it, but not always. At the least, a boutique hotel will not be fuddy-duddy at one extreme or no-feeling ‘plastic’ at the other.

Now let’s hear from one of Phuket’s first and most distinctive boutique resorts – a resort still managed by its owner and original developer, the Mangosteen Ayurveda Wellness Resort, – which describes itself as Phuket’s most romantic adult-only boutique resort… No kids, no tour groups!

“We believe,” say Rose and Hajo, the couple who own and run The Mangosteen, “a genuine boutique resort should…”

  • Be small, usually between 10 and 100 rooms – no bigger!
  • Make guests feel special
  • Offer individual, very personalised service, ideally by the owners
  • Incorporate a special, not common design or at least, a different design
  • Be a little bit eccentric
  • Incorporate a world class spa because guests want to spend time in-house
  • Be in a location away from mass tourism, offering the chance to meet and interact with the local culture
  • Support local culture, local people and local products
  • Include a top restaurant with high quality and authentic cuisine, great drinks and the right atmosphere
  • Cater for individual travellers whose objective is to avoid everything ordinary

A recent Facebook post by Hajo gives an inkling of what this boutique resort is all about. “I went for a walk today, again and again amazed how beautiful the garden looks... Now, it’s flower time, everything blossoms!” That surely sums it up. The owner takes a morning walk through his own property and reacts just as a guest might do. That’s a boutique resort!

  Photo gallery : What makes a Boutique Hotel or Resort?