The term ’boutique hotel’ started to gain popularity in the UK and the USA in the mid-1980s. From the very beginning the term was never exactly defined. Rather it was a matter of style and intention rather than simply ticking the right boxes. Since then the idea of boutique hotels has spread around the world. In 30 years the notion of what makes accommodation ‘boutique’ has become even more diverse.
It is not to do with size. Although many boutique hotels are small there are plenty that are tall, spacious and modern such as Oriental Residence in Bangkok that has 145 rooms.
It is not to do with being a one-off. The Metropolitan in Bangkok is the sister hotel to the famous Metropolitan in London. The Asian version even has its own Met bar with the same entry restrictions as its London counterpart. Because the Bangkok version is not merely copying its famous counterpart but adding style, interpretation and verve into the mix it is a safe bet to view this chain hotel as ‘boutique’.
You get cheap boutique hotels as well as expensive ones. You get boutique hotels with swimming pools, bars, restaurants, shops, spas and other facilities; and you get boutique hotels that offer few facilities but do offer stunning natural surroundings. Ice Hotels in Canada and Northern Europe have few amenities but offer amazing guest experiences.
There are themed boutique hotels and modernist hotels. Some are renovated historical buildings, some are custom made. You find boutique hotels in major cities as well as in remote locations.
A boutique hotel can be as luxurious as a major up-market chain hotel. A boutique hotel room in Bangkok can be cheaper than two dorm beds in Rio de Janeiro. However, the notion ‘backpacker’ is very different to boutique. Boutique hotels offer an experience and very often luxury. Backpacker places offer a cheap bed, a communal atmosphere and free wifi.
The diverse nature of hotels provides one of the most interesting insights into the evolution of ‘boutique’. Despite commercialization the term still has relevance. This is essentially because ‘boutique’ is about quality. According to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quality is something that is never successfully defined but always recognized. And the same is true of boutique hotels – it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why but it is easy to spot a real boutique hotel from a fake one. We at www.bangkokboutiquehotel.info are acutely aware of this distinction.