Make Your Boutique Hotel More Unique

March 8, 2022
Jeremy Wells

The boutique hotel segment has become a quite crowded space. And let’s face it, being unique is a challenge. Chances are that your competitors are doing much of the same things as you are; and as a whole, invention and innovation in hospitality have seemed to plateau. It’s getting harder and harder to stand out as a hospitality brand, especially in extremely saturated markets like Miami, Los Angeles, and New York.

Being unique is certainly a challenge, but it’s one that boutique hotel owners must tackle head-on in order to succeed. With a little creativity and some ingenuity, you can create a boutique hotel brand that stands out from the rest.

Here are a few ideas that can help your boutique hotel stand out among the rest:

Make Guests Feel “At-Home” and Like They’re a Local

The best boutique hotels become extensions of their neighborhoods and offer an at-home experience off the beaten path. As more travelers seek immersive experiences, this trend will continue to grow.

Additionally, people go on vacation to get away from home, but that doesn’t mean that they want to completely leave behind the comforts of home — particularly when it comes to relaxing after a long flight or day of sightseeing. Give them what they want by creating a comfortable environment, with things like plush bedding and large bath towels. Consider providing extra amenities such as popcorn for watching movies or making s’mores for enjoying by a fire pit.

Make your guests feel special

Give your guests something that other hotels don’t have: a sense of belonging to a community, or a feeling of inclusion in a family. It could be as simple as having an in-house dog (or cat) that greets guests when they arrive, which is one of the most memorable features of Hotel du Gaspard in Paris, France.

You could also send a personalized email to your guests, asking what their interests are, so that you can have your concierge team prepare an itinerary for them. Many boutique hotels design their own branded apps these days, that provide a one-stop-shop for all of the hotel’s information and services. From the app, guests can contact the hotel at any time with questions or requests.

Tap Into All Five Senses — Even Smell

You need to focus on the small details, and unique touches throughout your hotel lobby, rooms, and design, as well as your wider location.

For instance, create a custom scent. Scents can be very powerful when it comes to creating memories. You can use this to your advantage by creating a signature scent for your boutique hotel. A custom scent will make guests feel like they’re arriving home when they walk into your lobby every time they visit. You can also make guest room sprays available for purchase from your gift shop so guests can enjoy their favorite scents when they return home.

Let Guests Add Their Own Personal Touch

Many hotels try to ensure that their customers receive the same experience by creating a standard set of rules for them all to follow. While this is effective in certain segments of hotels, it can be damaging for smaller, boutique hotels. Instead of delivering one identical experience for everyone, give your guests the chance to “choose their own adventure”.

Joie de Vivre, San Fransico-based hospitality company, and the second-largest boutique hotel operator in the USA, offers guests the option of choosing their “vibe” when they book. According to their website, the options are “business,” “party,” “rest & relaxation,” and “romance.” This allows guests to tailor the experience that they want.

Let guests add their own personal touch – you can even let your guests decide on things like pillows and room fragrances or add an extra touch of character with personal items like their own books or magazines. Guests could even have the option to create a bespoke itinerary or choose the time they’d like breakfast served each morning rather than sticking to a rigid schedule that everyone else has to follow.

The Right Team Makes a Difference

One of the best things you can do to make your hotel stand out from the competition is to provide amazing customer service. While it might sound like a no-brainer, it is surprising how many hotels fail to provide a great experience for their guests.

A great staff will make your hotel stand out. Hire employees who are genuinely friendly and have high emotional intelligence. Train them on the best customer service practices, and encourage them to go above and beyond for guests’ comfort and satisfaction. Resolve any customer complaints quickly.

As well as having an amazing staff, you should also look into ways that you can automate some parts of the process. This will allow your staff to focus on providing customers with a great experience rather than doing boring tasks.

Find Your Hotel’s Identity

A unique hotel brand identity is vital for small, boutique hotels to thrive. A hotel without a defined identity is like a ship without a rudder. It will float along aimlessly, bouncing from one design style to another until it has lost its way completely.

However, a hotel’s identity should be more than a name, tagline, and logo alone. The journey towards finding an authentic identity begins with asking some pertinent questions:

  • What makes your hotel unique?
  • Are you offering something that no one else in the area has?
  • What is the history of the building?
  • Does it have any stories to tell?
  • What are the defining features of the building?
  • What do we want our guests to feel?
  • What experience should they have while staying here?

Don’t worry if you don’t have answers to every question right away. Finding your identity takes experimentation and practice, as well as a willingness to listen to customer feedback and make changes as needed. It’s like finding the perfect pair of jeans — it might take a while to find the right fit, but when it works, it really works.


Unique doesn’t mean original, but it does mean different, or notable in some way. It takes more than just a unique locale and a few offbeat perks to present a truly unique boutique hotel. It requires creativity, a dedication to quality service, and attention to detail that is all too rare in the world of hospitality.

Every boutique hotel has to walk a fine line between standing out and attracting an audience while also maintaining the feel that their customers are looking for. Relaxed, laid-back, cool, and stylish: these are all traits that might go into a boutique hotel experience, but incorporating them seamlessly into your space is the challenge. Figuring out how to do it is the challenge that owners of the best boutique hotels must face every day.

Jeremy Wells

Partner at Longitude°

Jeremy is the author of Future Hospitality and Brand Strategist at Longitude°. As a member of the Education Committee for The Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) and a content contributor to Cornell University’s Hospitality Vision and Concept Design graduate program, he is a committed thought leader in hotel branding, concepting, and experience strategy.