Boutique vs Chain: What kind of hotel should you book?

4 min


As lockdowns start to ease and more and more of us get vaccinated, it’s now high time for us to dust off our suitcases and plan our first trip in a good while. We all know that one of the most important factors for a good holiday is the hotel we choose to stay in, however, there are so many options available right now. Seeing as we want to start our travelling days with a bang, it’s essential to choose the right accommodation.

Assuming you want to stay at a hotel and not an apartment, you have two options: chain or boutique. While the former is stable and recogniseable, the latter is more chic and customisable. In other words, with chains you know exactly what you’re going to get — boutiques are the new kids on the block. This is reflected in their respective modernisation efforts. “Hotel chains have size on their side but are still grappling with the question of how to integrate digital capabilities into the organization. Meanwhile, the online players are working to use data to anticipate the demand for new customer experiences,” the experts at leading management consultancy firm Egon Zehnder explain.

So, should you go for a trusted chain hotel or an exciting new boutique option? Here we compare the two to allow you to pick the right one for you.

Cost

The cost element of a hotel is an important one — you want to get the most value for money. It’s hard to give an exact answer regarding the price of a boutique versus a chain hotel. It depends on a myriad of factors, from the location, to the number of stars, all the way to the kind of chain it is (a Holiday Inn is not going to hurt your pocket as much as a room at a luxury Hilton, although they’re both chains, for example).

That being said, on average, your stay will be cheaper in a boutique hotel. These will also usually bring more bang for your buck, because they are built around giving their guests a personalised luxury experience — so if you pick the correct boutique for you, it can give you the best holiday for less. However, if you don’t care as much about the individualised element and you’re after a generally great experience, you may be able to find more affordable alternatives in a chain hotel.

Design

Think trendy, local, cool and quirky. That’s what the design at a boutique hotel is all about. These hotels design themselves around customised goals depending on the spirit of the venue and the location they are in. A boutique hotel in New Orleans might incorporate jazz-y features, while one in Stockholm would instead let the scandi feel truly reverberate throughout. Creativity is the name of the game.

At chain hotels, however, the design goal is different — it’s all about creating consistency between the branches. Once you stay at one location of a chain, you should expect the same experience no matter where you stay. Nothing more, nothing less. They can be picturesque and

artistic or simple and minimalist, but they would look almost identical everywhere you go. This is great if you know what you like, but if you want to experience the local vibes in your accommodation too, a boutique hotel is probably the better choice design-wise.

Location

If we had to pick one essential element of a good choice of accommodation, it would be a fantastic location. You’re on holiday — you don’t want to spend hours trekking around to get to your desired attractions, and you’d rather not stay in a dodgy area that would ruin your trip. Chain hotels usually have branches spread around any touristic neighbourhood, so if you want to stick to a central location, they are a great choice.

However, boutique hotels specialise in setting up exactly where their target audience — which is far smaller in size than that of a chain — would want to go. So, if you find a boutique hotel that really speaks to you, it’s probably going to be located in the ideal place for you, in an almost tailored manner. Even if you aren’t thinking of a specific brand, boutique hotels are known for picking more up-and-coming, trendy areas, which will allow you to experience a town in a more authentic way.

Customer service

Both types of accommodation will offer you excellent customer service, as all hotels nowadays understand the significance of making guests feel at home. However, the style you’d experience would be very different. A chain hotel’s emphasis on service is embedded in its uniformity. The staff all around the globe are trained with the same mannerisms, etiquette and processes, to give your overarching experience a similar feel no matter where you stay.

Whereas, personalisation is the crux of boutique customer service. Every employee will try to give you the answer you are looking for, even if they have to move heaven and earth to do so. Their job is to tailor their style of service to their visitors, rather than represent a known brand in a consistent manner. If we had to sum it up in one word, service at a chain would be systematic, while at a boutique it would be authentic. Of course, there are benefits to each, and it just depends on the style you enjoy best.

Convenience and amenities

Boutique hotels boast a unique and authentic experience. Their smaller size allows the staff to personalise this for you, while some hotels will even provide room service from local restaurants, feature local artists and musicians, or offer other quirky aspects. Take the Crane Hotel Faralda, for example. Located in the hipster Amsterdam Noord neighbourhood, the hotel offers luxury suites based in a converted crane. It’s fair to say the views are incredible — but it’s not for the faint hearted. You don’t have to go for such an out-there option, but any boutique room would be a one-of-a-kind stay that is cosier, trendier and more genuine than a chain hotel, however, those still have their benefits.

Chain hotels are great for anyone who likes to know exactly what to expect. Most will have similar furniture and bedding with the same features in each of their branches. What’s more, a chain hotel is more likely to be able to handle big parties, and provide amenities that aren’t commonly available at boutique hotels, like a fully equipped gym or an olympic sized pool.  Some hotel chains even boast a whole sub-chain that focuses on wellness — the Westin brand, owned by the Marriott, provides fully-equipped fitness studios and programmes (including Peloton bikes), nutritious food, and even workout gear for their guests.

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