This is a big question. One dictionary definition says
Boutique Hotel – ‘a stylish small hotel, typically one situated in a fashionable urban location.’
I like the fact that Boutique suggests individual, small, often owner-run and does away with the star-rating and big-chain hotel which have more to do with amenities than atmosphere and TVs than taste. I do not require a TV but, especially in Spain, if the floors are tiled (and there isn’t under-floor heating) I do want slippers. I want to see that extra thought and effort in what is provided.
American entrepreneur and hotelier Ian Schrager was, it’s said, the first to use the term Boutique Hotel when he opened the Morgans Hotel in New York in 1984. The media was told ‘Hotels are like department stores. They’re trying to be all things to all people. This is different. It’s like a boutique.’
Another thing about the term that I like is they come in luxury, mid and budget range. I tended to rate a hotel by the number of stars which is so outdated. It doesn’t depend on the front-desk being manned 24/7, I rather like being given my own key, nor whether you can get an outside line or a snack at 1am. It is down to the owner wanting to give their guest the best experience they can and no category or ranking can possibly judge that.
And the breakfast as well as being the most important meal of the day has a huge impact on how the guest is made to feel. My most memorable so far was our own table-laid buffet at the stylish Hotel Viento 10 in Cordoba.
There are of course important parts for example the décor using high-quality and designer furnishings, fresh flowers, amenities like a pillow menu, top-quality bedding, robe and slippers, fab bathrooms and lovely toiletries all contribute to the feeling of being pampered in comfort and luxury. For me, each bedroom or suite should be designed differently too and I love to see them all!
These individually and especially packaged hand-made, local soaps at Hotel La Gastrocasa are a super example of owner thoughtfulness.
As with the Morgans Hotel each establishment is and should be different and it’s those differences that make each experience a Unique Boutique Hotel.