Boutique hotels appear well positioned to capitalize not just on renewed interest in small group meetings, but mobile workers’ endless quest for a cool place to work.
Corporate edicts to reduce travel time and increase facetime, and the unending quest for cool local places to work and meet, are renewing interest in boutique hotels among meeting planners and a swelling mobile workforce.
“The boutique hotels can be a compelling option for smaller meetings,” says an anonymous meeting professional quoted in the 2019 edition of the Global Meetings and Events Forecast from American Express. “Their meeting space may be really unique – cozy, with more natural light.”
In Europe, meeting planners report growing interest in holding small meetings in closer, second-tier cities with good air connections so employees can spend more time networking face to face and less time traveling.
In the same report, TopHotelProjects CEO Rolf Schmidt suggests independent operators may have an edge over boutique hotels owned by major hotel brands, since the latter tends to focus more on selling rooms than meeting space. Still, Schmidt said all boutique hotels can do better when it comes to accommodating small meetings.
“I’m convinced that the hotel operators miss opportunities in offering interesting meeting facilities,” Schmidt told American Express. “It is a major issue to find interesting facilities in big cities. You have to look for meeting facilities which are not associated with hotels. Then you’re transferring attendees offsite, working with catering companies, etc. The hospitality industry is missing a lot of business they could win by offering more compelling meeting spaces.”
What’s driving demand for small meeting space?
The factors driving renewed interest in small meeting space include:
A desire to increase face time by reducing travel time. This is causing some organizations to shift from fewer and larger regional events toward more and smaller events.
A desire for more meaningful engagement, including opportunities for more one-on-one networking opportunities.
The growing number of business owners working remotely from home, who need space to host client meetings, conduct job interviews, collaborate with contractors, pitch customers, etc. GCUC, which sells cloud-based networking and other services to coworkers, expects its membership to hit 5 million by 2022, when it forecasts there will be over 30,000 coworking spaces worldwide.
The same preference for unique, authentic and edgy venues that is driving millennials toward boutique hotels for their personal business and leisure travel is spilling over into the meeting market.
As Cvent and American Express point out, small meetings should not be confused with "simple" meetings. They can still have complex requirements, particularly if the client wants to enable remote participation.
“We are talking about the consumerization of technology,” said Linda McNairy, vice president, global operations and shared services for American Express Meetings & Events. “We need to create within a meetings and events environment the same experience that meeting attendees and owners are able to achieve within their personal lives. We need to continue to drive for a more seamless and consumer-type experience for the meeting attendee and owner.”
Besting coffee shops
Boutique hotels appear to be hearing that message loud and clear, according to a recent New York Times article describing how a handful of urban hotels have revamped lounges and lobbies to draw both mobile workers and small groups. The article cited the following examples.
The Revolution Hotel, Boston: This trendy hotel refurbished a lounge with tables and couches to give it more of a coffee shop/library vibe. The coworking space, dubbed “Conspire,” also features a conference room for private meetings. Non-guests can pay $20 a day to access Conspire, which offers free coffee, fruit, and pastries throughout the work day.
The AC Hotel Phoenix Biltmore: This hotel’s indoor/outdoor AC Lounge is located near the lobby, and has couches, a communal table, and electrical outlets accessible from every seat. Like Conspire, it features a bar where workers can switch from work to play after 4 p.m. The space is free for anyone to use, and coffee and biscotti are complimentary. Coworkers are provided access to office equipment like computers, printers, and office supplies while using the space.
The Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel: This hotel, located near bustling Penn Station, has also transformed a small space to accommodate workers. Changes include an open-concept lounge area with folding glass doors that can be used to provide privacy for groups without making the space seem even smaller.
Boutique hotels have also begun listing themselves on Croissant, an app that enables workers to book individual workstations and meeting planners to book space for small group meetings. The app has partnered with over 400,000 space providers worldwide, including dozens of boutique hotels.
While anecdotal, these examples show that boutique hotels remain at the forefront of using design to adapt to evolving styles of travel, play and work. We can’t wait to see where it leads.
Beachwood Custom specializes in sourcing custom furniture and providing other high-quality design solutions for boutique and premier hotels. To learn more about how we can help with your next renovation, get in touch with our team.