In a society dominated by large corporations and chain businesses, it can often seem like the appeal of a boutique or independent hotel is overlooked. Consumers are always on the hunt for the next best (and big) thing – and that can be a hospitality marketing challenge for local or mom-and-pop tourism businesses. 

To add to the problem, the global hotel industry is booming. It’s expected to grow by nearly 20 percent in the next year alone. Tourism is finally restarting after the COVID-19 pandemic, and after a year of travel restrictions, people are eager to jumpstart their next vacations.

With this amount of projected growth in the travel industry, independent and boutique businesses must maximize their marketing strategies to stand a chance against big hotel brands.

The good news? Boutique hotels actually have some serious competitive edges in the tourism market.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the benefits of small hospitality businesses – both for the owners/employees and for the travelers that use them. Our goal is to reveal how small hotels can engage modern travelers with hospitality marketing in ways that franchise hotels cannot.

Hospitality Marketing for Boutique Hotels – 5 Distinct Advantages

Here are five solid reasons why boutique brands might have a bigger advantage in the travel industry than chain hotel brands.

1) Independent Hotels Can Change Course Quickly 

It’s challenging and time-consuming for a large ship to change directions – but a small speed boat can turn on a dime.[KS4] 

The same often goes for large corporations in comparison to small, nimble companies. Unlike franchise hotels that have a set approach to marketing, boutiques are able to quickly make changes to their overall hotel sales strategies when needed.

For example: let’s talk about COVID-19.

The pandemic showed us that when it comes to marketing, businesses of all industries need to be able to adjust their strategies to fit the needs of their consumer base – and global events. Consumer behavior has changed greatly over the past few decades, but COVID-19 shifted it dramatically in the past year.

According to research conducted by Bazaar Voice, roughly 49 percent of global consumers reported that they are searching and shopping for products and services online more than they did before COVID-19.

To adjust to the increase in online consumer shopping habits, many will need to focus heavily on their hotel brand identity and digital marketing strategies. People aren’t booking based on TV commercials or magazine advertisements – online platforms are the place to be, and the companies that have quickly adapted to this digital shift are the ones that will survive.

Big chains – like Marriot and Hyatt – took a while to roll out digital changes, as well as to highlight their new sanitation and COVID-19 policies in their marketing. If you were a small business during the pandemic, that wasn’t such a hard process. You didn’t need to jump through hoops to change your ad strategy quickly and efficiently.

2) Boutique Brands Can Take Advantage of Influencer Marketing

Next, let’s talk about small-sized hotels and their connection with “influencers.”

Influencer marketing has become a key hospitality marketing tactic, especially for brands in the tourism and travel industry. According to data from Musefind, approximately 92 percent of modern consumers trust an influencer more than a celebrity endorsement or traditional advertisement.

Younger consumers find influencers more trustworthy and relatable than many other sources of marketing. They want to see people “like them” on their social feeds, then do what they do – for instance, stay at the same hotels or take similar vacations. [KS5] 

Boutique hotels can use their size to their advantage when partnering with influencers. Travel influencers can show off the unique experience and services of an independent hotel – without huge contracts or long timelines.

For example, look at how the blogger and social media influencer @LuxuryTravelExpert reviewed independent hotels from across the globe. 

In this example, The Luxury Travel Expert posted a full-length blog review, YouTube video, and post for an independently owned Mount Engadine Lodge in the Canadian Rockies.

By partnering with an influencer that works with and knows their target audience (young adventurers in Canada), Mount Engadine Lodge was able to show off its unique qualities to potential guests. They gained relevant brand exposure through the Luxury Travel Expert’s 107k followers on Instagram, 792k followers on YouTube, and his thousands of blog readers.

3) Small Brands Create Unique Travel Experiences 

We’re noticing that today’s consumers are more interested in traveling like a local than they are at staying at 5-star hotels or doing “touristy” things.

Fortunately, boutique and independent hotels are better suited to appeal to that kind of demand. Boutiques have full creative control in their design and service offerings, so they can match their hotels to fit the surrounding area.

Let’s take a look at an independent hotel that successfully created an environment to match the trendy New York City neighborhood it’s in.

The Modern Haus is an independent hotel located in the Soho neighborhood of NYC. The hotel owners wanted to capture the artistic heritage and creative spirit of Soho.

The property features a curated selection of famous sculptures and paintings from local museums. The 114-room hotel is complete with modern furniture to match the contemporary feel of the neighborhood. This allows consumers to feel fully immersed in the culture of Soho, both inside and outside the hotel.

To summarize, independent hotel brands can quickly adjust their lifestyle marketing strategies to capture the attention of their target audiences. Big brand hotels can only slowly adjust lead generations for their hotels.

4) Boutique Businesses Offer Highly Personalized Services

In general, small businesses are able to offer more personalized services than a large corporate chain.

One of the biggest downsides for franchise hotels is that they have less opportunity to provide personalized services. This is because they have more staff and can hold more guests than boutique hotels, which limits their ability to connect one on one with guests. 

Research shows that approximately 55 percent of customers are willing to pay more to receive better and more personalized service. However, with an independent hotel, consumers can spend less for that kind of personalized service. Independent hotels are generally 10 to 20 percent less expensive than franchise hotels – but they also have a high level of dedication to individualized customer service.

For instance, guests and staff can easily get to know each other due to the smaller room capacity and size of the hotel. When guests and staff get to know each other on a first-name basis, it’s easier for the hotel to deliver personalized guest service.

The Ho’oilo House bed and breakfast in Maui, Hawaii is a good example of how a boutique brand can offer highly personalized services that big brands might not be able to offer.

Their employees offer individualized activities for their guests. For instance, they tailor bike rides to explore the areas their guests wish to explore and provide culinary recommendations to match the guest’s preferences. People feel truly taken care of by this small, local business.

5) Small Brands Have More Autonomy Than Big Chains

Boutique hotels often have the freedom and ability to make creative decisions that corporate hotels cannot. Unlike big brand hotels, they don’t have strict corporate guidelines that limit them. 

When a boutique takes full advantage of its autonomy, both employees and visitors can benefit. Employees have more flexibility to serve as they see fit, and travelers experience a more personalized, custom experience.

According to Reference for Business, autonomy within the workplace is often correlated with increased motivation and happiness, as well as decreased employee turnover. When employees are happy, guests receive higher quality service and leave with a positive experience.

When you stay at a Best Western or Embassy Suites, you know what you’ll get. All of these chains have set policies, employee guidelines, and protocols – but small brands can alter these elements to better serve and attract customers.

In Conclusion

Modern consumers have changed the ways in which hotel brands need to market and service themselves. The ability to adjust marketing strategies, provide personalized service and autonomy sets independent hotel brands apart from larger ones.

If you’re an owner of a boutique or independent hotel and are interested in developing your marketing strategies, an integrated marketing agency such as LURE Agency can help. We are a hospitality marketing agency located in Lakeside, California. Our team specializes in planning and implementing digital marketing for hotels and other tourism brands.

At Lure Agency, we can help you boost your boutique or independent hotel marketing strategy to attract your target audience. If you would like more information about how our digital creative agency can benefit your brand, reach out to us here. 

Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash