The real estate industry has adapted to culture, technology, and artistic trends for the past two centuries, Jay Digiulio says. He is the president and owner of Boutique Real Estate Advisors, a consultancy company that helps luxury builders develop properties and, in this position, he has had a chance to look back at history to see how hotels, resorts, and other destinations have adapted to trends.
An article from the New York Times reflects these ideas. Imagine the age of rail: It is the mid to late 1800s, and those with the means to vacation and stay in hotels had the wealth to do it in style. In response, hotels and upscale properties began mimicking European architecture. These “palace-like” destinations impressed a sense of nobility upon visitors. Each one was unique and had low occupancy, allowing vacationers a sense of privacy and seclusion over a long period.
The U.S. entered the age of the jet, and a new form of commercial hotels took over the industry. According to the article, the forerunners in familiarity include Sheraton and Hilton, two brands that are popular to this day. These hotels kept a uniform style regardless of location, an aesthetic that allowed visitors (usually professionals moving in and out of cities in a short span of time) a familiar level of comfort and service.
These sleek, jet-age hotels may not have been incredibly unique or appreciated in an artistic sense, but the convenience factor allowed more people to stay in functional rooms with basic living amenities.
Within the past three decades, a new form of hotel has emerged. The computer age brought the world the mass boutique, hotels with European influence that focused on being unique. These hotels are largely based on art, edginess, and even a bit of pretension. Boutique hotels, like the Phoenix, which was built around Rolling Stone Magazine aesthetics, offered the same old comfortable bed and amenities as others; however, the idea was to fulfill social and physiological needs in guests. These ideas seem a bit far-fetched in modern terms, though the most popular hotels (even ones by major brands) play off of environmental landscapes and art to bring something extra to the stay experience.
Boutique hotels are challenged by commodity destinations. According to Jay Digiulio, design expert, boutique hotels are typically directed at high-class vacationers who appreciate, or want to appreciate, artistic elements and culture. The boutique crowd is willing to spend $300 a night on high fashion, whereas hotels down the street may only charge $140.
“The luxury real estate industry needs to meet customers on both sides of the equation,” Jay Digiulio says. “Often, families will pull out the stops for a boutique-style stay while on vacation but ‘settle’ for more convenient, cheaper, and simpler lodgings a majority of the time. It is a financial decision more often than not; however, it’s the boutiques that are pulling in the big conventions, performers, and entertainers because they have the space and expectation to do so.”
The aforementioned article points to the rising middle class vacationers and professionals who prefer the occasional boutique experience as one of the reasons big hotel brands are building mass boutique chains. As of 2014, these boutique destinations are still evolving to baffle the everyday commercial hotel layovers who wind up holding up in a luxury establishment for a business trip or while on vacation.
An article on Global Times outlines some of these upcoming trends, saying that boutique hotels are beginning to emphasize local artistic energy and culture, as well as family-centered boutiques to encourage vacationers with large villas and village-style accommodations. Additionally, room service, according to the article, is not always a default for these hotels. Certain brands would rather have guests dine in communal areas.
Among these trends, the most popular has to be the social scene. According to Jay Digiulio, more hotels than ever are emphasizing social media as a way for guests to interact with one another and hotel management.
Popular platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are used for booking rooms, paging the concierge, asking questions, and signing up for spa treatments. Twitter can also be used for reserving dinner tables.
This wave of social information is being draped over the existing boutique trend and is only helping hotels. For one, hotels with active social channels have a much better angle on mass marketing. Digiulio believes a destination’s brand is how others perceive it. If potential visitors check out a boutique hotel on Instagram and see hundreds of guest-taken photos of family fun and excitement, it is a win for the hotel, as well as another way guests can remember and interact with destinations.
The social media craze is opening doors for hotels never before explored by developers. These boutique hotels, however, are not the only ones benefiting from social connections. The everyday commodity hotel with $100 rooms can use the same platforms because they are familiar to guests. Regardless of how hotels use social media, Jay Digiulio is excited to see where it takes luxury real estate in the future.