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Physical Evidence and Product Innovation Core to Boutique Hotels’ Success
Within the hospitality industry, two opposing trends are taking place. Big brands and franchises are consolidating to extend their reach across the entire spectrum whilst niche players are emerging by offering new twists on existing concept or new concepts. According to the 2006 Trends in the Hotel Industry reported by PKF Consulting, boutique hotels have flourished and today outperformed high end, full service, branded hotels.
Boutique hotels must be innovative in order to carve a space for themselves despite lacking the financial resources and knowledge that chain hotels possess. It is for these reasons that innovation is seen as a critical element in the marketing approaches. Consequently, this paper gains an understanding of the innovative marketing approaches boutique hotels in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong are adopting in perspective of the marketing approaches within the context of the 7P’s of the services marketing mix, namely Product, Place, Price, Promotion, Physical Evidence, Process and People.
Using within-case studies and cross-case studies of the boutique hotels, microscopic analysis of the marketing mix and its innovative effect at a respective boutique hotel was gained, while the cross-case study allowed conclusions to be made with regards to the importance of a particular P element in the marketing approach adopted by the boutique hotels in a broader spectrum.
On studying the marketing approach in terms of the marketing mix, the paper notes that boutique hotels rely mostly on the uniqueness of their designs, building and character carried by the facility to entice customers. For example the Carcosa Seri Negara in Kuala Lumpur was built in 1904 as official residence of the house to the highest representative to Malaya states. The 100 years heritage and grandeur of Carcosa with its chandeliers and columns exemplifies the timeless elegance of historical architecture. The hotel has thirteen elegant Victorian-styled suites, furnished with teak, marble, gold and silk to give it a distinctively luxurious mood while Hotel Maya defines itself as an urban resort designed using bamboo stilts and water features, and rooms with timber flooring. Physical Evidence thus is the utmost important marketing approach utilized by boutique hotel. This is further assisted by the uniqueness of the stay in experience offered through their products.
When studied within-cases, it was noted that boutique hotels offer different and unique products, so much so that their brand would be able to attract guest, for which otherwise they remain simply another hotel in the city. Similarly, Hotel Maya, a boutique in Kuala Lumpur, promises the excitement of staying in the city, and yet, the tranquillity of a resort. Thus the types of product themes offered, ranging from ‘home away from home’ to ‘heritage chic’ and ‘urban resort’ has indeed effective elements of innovation in attracting customers into their hotels, which is not apparent in other high end, full service hotels in the city. New Majestic Hotel in Singapore, with its “heritage chic” concept showcases the imaginative possibilities of combining a mix of vintage and designer furniture which ensures that no two rooms are similar at the New Majestic.
The location or placement of the boutique was not a significant marketing approach as these boutique hotels do not sell based on strategic locations to attract visitors. These hotels are also not geared in using price, promotional activities or processes such as reliance on fast and effective internet bookings that are commonly used by other high end, full service hotels. Looking at the Jia Boutique Hotel in Hong Kong, one would miss the hotel if not for the signage, underlines the fact that location is not the drawing factor for guest. While Carcosa Seri Negara sits on a 70-hectare lake garden and away from the hustle and bustle of the city, it also does not have any promotional activities or seasonal pricing to woo guest.
While all boutique hotels sampled were providing differentiated personalized service such as butler services at each floor at Hotel Maya, none of them demonstrated unique innovative display of people management which could distinguish them from others thus making it an effective marketing approach in their business. One would expect to see professional care from greetings and welcoming, to the front office services and food and beverage outlets.
All these, coupled with the employment of excellent, trained and qualified professionals in the hospitality industry, could see the maximization of the innovative marketing techniques which in return would contribute to greater returns and sustainability of the business by continuing to ensure that boutique hotels remains always unique to eye of the guest.
Author: Harvinder Kaur, Angel Tan, Dicky Fung and Maverick Mak
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