So you want the threshold to be able to pack the hotel and sell it out from a business point of view. But you want the exclusivity as well.
Ten years ago, boutique hotels were still like ‘Wow, I found this cool hotel.' Now, they are the mainstream; they're everywhere. So the question is how can they be different, how can they keep that unique personality? It needs to identify with the guests. Meaning: when you have a boutique hotel, you're not going to be able to cater to everyone.
I've run into a lot of hotels that are confused as to who they are so to speak, and who their guests are. So if I were to open a hotel myself, and spend a lot of time and effort on understanding who I think my guests are and creating an environment that caters to them.
[For a group of hotels] the challenge is to keep the uniqueness that comes with being the one-off hotel and applying it to several hotels. And as you expand with anything, the challenge is you just don't have the intimacy anymore because of the scale of the operation.
Perfect example is the Firmdale Hotels in London. They are a collection of hotels that are essentially townhouses in London. They have a similar recipe and feel to them, but they do change. You know what you are going to get but they are still unique. And they are small. They've been able to create a brand of several properties that operate as several unique hotels.
It's taking that philosophy and applying it consistently and almost religiously to the properties. I think that's where some of the hotel groups lose sight. "We got a great one, let's make ten more." And suddenly they lose the experience.
Many of these one-off hotels, it's all about the people and their passion for the one property. So when you suddenly expand it to ten, it's hard to manage and make sure that level of detail is at the ten.
There's a lot to be said if you're traveling to an area where you've never been. You don't want to risk ruining your trip by staying in a terrible hotel.
I think the worst experience for me, consistently, is coming into a dirty room. I've had friends tell me some pretty disgusting stories, but to come into a dirty room is probably the worst feeling you can get at any hotel. Sheets that are not clean, rooms that are not cleaned, either: that whole feeling that they don't value my presence there.
If you can, go right to the general manager. Hospitality is one where it's essential that they cater and resolve those issues. It's a real good test for a hotel.