Project Management Institute

Boutique boom

hotel portfolios are responding to travelers' desires for greater personalization


In the Airbnb era, many consumers are tiring of cookie-cutter hotel rooms. So industry giants such as Marriott and Hilton are launching projects to create more personalized accommodations. But so-called boutique hotels, which alter or eliminate many of the features of traditional hotels, can require project teams to spend more time in planning.

“The world of travel has changed, and today the expectation of good design, technology and personalized experience is more critical than ever for consumers,” says Vicki Poulos, global brand manager of Moxy, Marriott International, Washington, D.C., USA.

As part of Marriott's global program to build 10 of its Moxy hotels by the end of this year, project teams are including a floor-to-ceiling signature “art wall” in each room to reflect the hotel's location. Sites include cities in Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom.

InterContinental Hotels Group's fast-growing Hotel Indigo boutique brand also aims to reflect local surroundings and culture. Sixty-three projects are in development, which would more than double the existing locations. And in 2014, Hilton debuted two new boutique brands, Curio and Canopy.


“People wanting a more unique experience is a huge trend that's impacting everything we're doing.”

—Doug Demers, B+H Architects, Seattle, Washington, USA

“People wanting a more unique experience is a huge trend that's impacting everything we're doing,” says Doug Demers, managing principal, B+H Architects, Seattle, Washington, USA. The firm is working on hotel projects with global brands such as Starwood and Hilton, as well as boutique brands such as Noble House.

But all this uniqueness doesn't make planning easy for project teams.

“The project schedule requires more time for upfront activity, including more robust market and locality analytics, and a lot more time spent focusing on user experience,” Mr. Demers says. Hotels with well-established brands and robust internal resources might require 10 percent more time on the early design phase, he estimates. Smaller portfolios with fewer onboard brand resources or more unique locations might take as much as 20 percent more time.

W Hotel in Amsterdam, the Netherlands


No Reservations

Number of Moxy hotels Marriott plans to open in Europe by 2020

Number of AC boutique hotels Marriott plans to open in the U.S. and Latin America by 2018

Portion of InterContinental Hotels Group's pipeline of approved or projected projects that consists of boutiques

Annual growth of independent or small-brand boutique hotel inventory in the U.S.

Annual growth of nationally franchised boutique hotel inventory in the U.S.

Rate of U.S. boutique rooms booked in first three quarters of 2015, compared to 67.1% for non-boutique rooms

Making these boutique projects even more challenging is sponsors’ desire to restore historic buildings rather than construct new ones. For example, boutique brand Hyatt Centric renovated a 1927 office building in Chicago for its first hotel in 2015. The project team incorporated features of the original building, along with a cow path by the front entrance dating to the 19th century.

Project teams are also rethinking interiors, throwing out the default project plan for lobbies and rooms. For Starwood Hotels’ W Hotel in Amsterdam, which opened in 2015, the traditional lobby format has been supplanted by “creative incubator” spaces, where locals can showcase art or fashion.

For other boutique hotel projects, conference rooms and business centers—once a standard design feature—are being reconsidered. Traditional check-in counters are now absent, with slim kiosks taking their place. In rooms, bulky armoires are being replaced with wall hooks, and downsized desks often double as a nightstand. These kinds of requirement shifts can mean a downsized project budget: At hotel chain Best Western, the Vib boutique brand built rooms that are both smaller and simplified. The construction cost per room? Around US$60,000, about half the typical cost for a regular room. —Kate Rockwood

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