Staying in a full-service hotel can make guests feel as if they’re in a luxury bubble, as just about every need can be fulfilled 24 hours a day. Craving a Kobe beef hamburger at midnight, or a Swedish massage at 10 p.m.? No problem. But midnight cravings aside, some travelers prefer the intimacy of a boutique hotel, and there’s never been a better time to check into one.
Boutique hotels came of age in the 1990s, thanks to game-changing players like Anouska Hempel’s Blakes in London and Ian Schrager’s crop of hotels. After decades of copycat experience, it’s safe to say the lodging industry is ushering in a new era of boutique hotels that go beyond colorful wallpaper and living room lobbies. Major hotel companies have been in the game for years—even Marriott has opened its first three Edition properties in London, Istanbul, and Miami, in partnership with Schrager.
In the past year, other major hotel groups such as IHG and Shangri-La have rolled out new boutique brands and there are plenty of independent players on the scene, such as Salt, The Graduate and Lark. Why the renewed popularity? Many chalk it up to millennials, who crave curated information and every tech convenience as well as stylish surroundings that are Instagram-worthy.
“Boutique hotels speak to how people travel now,” says Rob Blood, the founder and CEO of Lark Hotels. “Millennials want experiences, and not just a room to stay in.” But Blood is quick to point out that it isn’t just millennials driving the interest.
“People really want to connect with their hotel in a different way, and get insider information about the area they’re visiting,” says Blood.
The newest generation of boutique hotels are also offering stylish, design-driven experiences in destinations that aren’t always known for having trendy accommodations. Lark Hotels opened The Attwater in Newport, R.I., in 2012. Old school Newport is better known for its mansions, grand hotels, and quaint B&Bs, which often have four poster beds and an overabundance of doilies. Blood says he wanted to offer a colorful, playful option and the result is more One Kings Lane than L.L. Bean., nary any lacework in sight.
Here’s a look at some of the latest boutique hotel brands with properties around the world.