Boutique and Lifestyle Leaders Association

June 25, 2019

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Boutique and Lifestyle Leaders Association’s (BLLA) “Stay Boutique Live, The Investment Edition” conference in NYC. Formerly known as the Boutique Hotel Investment Conference, the event brought together leaders and innovators within the boutique community, with an impressive roster of hospitality-specific speakers including Ian Schrager, Founder of The Ian Schrager Company; Jean-Luc Naret, CEO of La Reserve Hotels & Spas; Mark Durliat, Co-Founder and CEO of Grace Bay Resorts; and Nadira Lalji, Founder of Inhabit Hotels. 

The day was filled with carefully curated panels that addressed innovation, cultural growth and experiences that make up boutique brands. Always one to enjoy learning about new trends in the travel and hospitality industry, it was no surprise that my favorite session was one on boutique hotel and concept trends, led by Rosie Toumanian, Trend Analyst at TrendWatching. Two trends that Rosie touched on were “Village Squared” and “The End of Excess,” which I’ll recap for you. 

  • “Village Squared” We’re all familiar with the Glow Face Epidemic, but now even 54% of U.S. teens admit that they spend too much time on their phone. Additionally, nearly 9 out of 10 Americans feel that the country is more divided than at any point in their lifetime, both leading to a growing hunger for healthier communities. That’s where “Village Squared” comes into play, which is the concept of smart brands transforming their spaces in new ways to foster connections and promote social well-being, with the idea that physical spaces can bring people together while digital communities often pull people apart. Here are a couple of examples to support this trend:
    • In January 2019, Life House hotels launched a bespoke social media platform to connect guests in its Miami property before their arrival. After booking a room through the platform, users can choose to be connected with other travelers who will be at the hotel during the same period and also have the option to be matched with a compatible roommate. As more and more people, especially women, are traveling solo, this is a great way to meet new people, make friends, and even have a safety net while traveling.
    • To help travelers achieve a little post-security, Cathay Pacific Airways opened a yoga and meditation space in the Hong Kong International Airport. The 700-square-foot Sanctuary has space to practice yoga, aided by guided videos and sound recordings, as well as either audio meditation, with noise-reducing headphones, or gazing meditation using graphics. 
  • “The End of Excess” Last year, China announced a ban on plastic waste imports. This is big because globally, since 1992, 72% of plastic waste has ended up in China and Hong Kong. The buzzword of the year for 2018 was “single-use” and countries and businesses around the world began banning plastic straws, making anyone who used one to feel a massive amount of straw shame. The “End of Excess” trend comes as a result of consumers demanding that every brand they interact with (hotels included!) rework its model to eliminate excess at every turn. Some examples include:
    • The Akyra TAS Sukhumvit Bangkok opened last year as the first single-use plastic-free hotel in Asia. What exactly is a single-use plastic free hotel? Guests are given stainless steel water bottles, with water dispensers on every floor. Bathroom amenities are provided in locally manufactured pottery containers and biodegradable plastic bags are used in all of the trash bins. The move was part of a wider initiative from the Akyra Hotel Group, which pledged to become plastic free by 2020. This is such an easy one to implement and I hope other hotels follow suit! 
    • In April, the London Marathon gave runners seaweed-based drink capsules instead of water bottles. These Ooho pouches were filled with a sports drink and they can be fully eaten or if you don’t want to eat it, the seaweed casing is biodegradable and can naturally decompose in 4–6 weeks. The marathon reduced its usage of water bottles from 920,000 to 704,000 by giving these away instead. This is very exciting because of the revolutionary change it means for plastic packaging. 
    • In December 2018, mixologist Mark Lloyd opened the Zero Waste Bar at Thailand’s Wonderfruit Festival. The pop-up bar served cocktails made from waste food donated by vendors at the festival, which celebrates sustainability and wellness. Lloyd also hosted masterclasses to teach attendees how to make their own zero waste cocktails. This example shows that there is no excuse for no budget; this was done by just one person.

So, I will leave you with two final thoughts: How can hotels rework their spaces to foster communities and bring people together? And what can you do personally or on a larger level to repurpose something you’re currently throwing away?