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The allure of boutique hotels

 | June 24, 2012

They offer intimate settings for corporate events.

FEATURE

BOUTIQUE hotels and group bookings don’t usually go together. But that perception is slowly changing. Planners are seeing a paradigm shift in how meetings, events and conferences are conducted. The landscape has become wide enough to bring together corporate executives wishing for out-of-the-box experiences and boutique properties that are a destination unto themselves.

“Attendees are looking for unique experiences and personalised service,” says Narun Wiwattanakrai of the 35-room Rarinjinda Wellness Spa and Resort in Chiang Mai. “Because of our size, we’re able to provide those who conduct programmes with us a more distinctive service.” And its wellness spa, which is served by an on-site physician, adds to a highly unforgettable stay.

Planners used to be wary of booking a boutique property because they were unsure of its quality and services. But all that has changed, thanks to online reviews like tripadvisor and virtualtourist.

“The hospitality scene has evolved so much, and it is changing in favour of small hotel properties,” says freelance event planner Hana Nguyen.

Planners love it when they read comments such as “special little touches”, “artwork in the lobby” or “a pre-loaded iPod”, Hana adds, “as this shows the property is really aiming to create an experiential stay – an increasing trait that attendees look for in today’s MICE”.

Boutique hotels are winning over MICE clients because they provide unique meeting environments and they are flexible about the services they can offer. That’s to give just two reasons.

At Jia Shanghai, housed in a 1920’s European building in the heart of the city, meetings and events can be had at its chalet-inspired restaurant, the lobby with its artsy take on contemporary Chinese art and design, or even the Penthouse, which comes with its own butler. “Look, when you compare incentive meetings at an airport hotel conference room or something like Jia, you’re always going to remember what transpired in the boutique hotel rather than the other one,” says Helmi Sofyan of Jakarta’s Red Carpet Events. “And in this business, you do want your event to carry forward longer in participants’ minds.”

The possibility to book the entire boutique hotel and still remain within budget also allows the group to take centre stage, creating a sanctuary for attendees and providing them with a whole new level of experience. At New Zealand’s Huka Lodge, where Hana recently brought in an incentive group, attendees had the entire 17 acres of manicured grounds to themselves and could do as they pleased. “Many of them loved the fact that the trip provided them with a retreat. Now I think that’s something worth working for.”


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