Mr. Tamayo

Group Meetings

Unconventional Event Spaces in Today's Boutique Hotels

The Shift from Traditional to the Unexpected

By Ivan Tamayo, Director of Sales & Marketing, Adelphi Hospitality Group (AHG)

Who doesn't love the neighborhood speakeasy bar pouring prohibition cocktails, or the two-lane bowling alley where world-renowned DJs rule the guest list? We forgot to mention the cozy cabaret-themed screening room that plays the year's top indie films which keep winning every award at 'that' international film festival. And, these special snugs can be found in a boutique hotel near you. Boutiques have gone off-site as well, combining the experiential component into their marketing ventures. Building their brand means sponsoring the pop-up bar at an Art Basel event or an actual pop-up of their hotel itself at the Cannes International Film Festival. Boutique hotels are further enhancing their neighborhoods with their conceptual take-over of annex retail spaces thanks to a deal struck to convert the street level storefront into something more whimsical than whimsical.

The formula is working. It works because in the most genius yet simple of ways it vibes with the agenda of today's consumer. In a nutshell, the formula equates to providing a space that is unique, inspires creativity, and offers all the bells and whistles of a megabrand hotel while maintaining an identity that is, per Small Luxury Hotels of the World's latest savvy slogan, "independently minded." In fact, today's boutiques do it so well, virtually every megabrand has embarked on their own version of an "independent" line of boutique, lifestyle, or personality sub-brands. Each is uniquely inspired, indigenous to their geographic region, and never to be replicated. Each, most importantly, ensures not to carry the megabrand logo or other forms of their parent company's trademark as it benefits from the strong financial backing.

Perhaps one could have predicted this trend in the age of social media where individuality and self-promotion is at its prime, especially when one is on that bucket-listed vacation of a life time. It is the age of selfie-taking in spaces "never before experienced by anyone else," or, almost anyone else. It is also the age of the story, narrative and socially digital, and capturing even a slight glimpse of a novelty is more important than the novelty itself. Alas, it is, admittedly, the leisure traveler of the social media era.

The allure of these properties to the leisure traveler is no cranial buster. But how about their appeal to the group market? Based on all the latest meeting trends, one can argue that the boutique hotel model has paved the way for the direction the entire industry is taking in the development of their venue spaces.

Before revolutionizing how and where companies met, boutique hotels did face their struggles when their arsenal of unique venues were once the unwanted and unexpected. Suggested venues were at times so off-center from the norm they were taboo in the eyes of professional corporate meeting planners who couldn't fathom their group meeting in a bar or purposefully, curated overgrown courtyard. You don't need to look that far back to the days when this was a reality. Rewind 5-10 years and the boutique hotels often found themselves facing a significant handicap: real estate. Due to their size, their main selling point to many, they lacked the expected conventional meeting spaces during a time when featuring natural daylight was one of the most valuable selling points a meeting room could possess. To some meeting planners, it was the only unique feature a meeting space required in order to win over their client's meeting.

They lacked numerous break-outs and the expected pre-function spaces suitable for group registrations and pop-up business centers. No business center at all? Luck favored the prepared traveler in possession of print-ready documents if the front desk offered printing as a service in the first place. The many do's and don'ts instilled by passionate, creative new hoteliers also plagued their business travelers. Denied were the requests for group signage in the lobby, privatizing of certain spaces, 24-hour function space holds, and numerous other requests. It was easy to see how some companies and planners felt their business was unwanted in the first place. If a boutique hotel was indeed securing any bit of group market share, it was clear their sales team or one-man-band was quite the Virtuoso.

Group needs may have seemed impossible to fulfill at times for the growing boutique sector, but for every problem was its solution or agreed compromise. As creative sales managers pushed their operational teams to stretch the limits with each new lead, a series of unconventional approaches resulted in successes. Creativity inspires more creativity. This phrase is fundamental for these hotels with distinct character, and allure. This meant taking a space and incorporating some of those conventional elements and thoughtfully finding alternatives for the unfulfilled list of must-haves. These re-purposed venues became bespoke spaces that could enhance a group's meeting beyond anything they could have imagined. They instilled inspiration and creativity in a space that was truly outside the box from the norm. It allowed attendees to genuinely feel they had escaped the office, and in some way they felt the allowance to leave the politics behind as well.

Selling this value meant selling the notion that a group could achieve results beyond their expectations. It could be achieved at that boutique hotel with those one-of-kind unconventional meeting venues which, indeed, had nothing in common with the spaces of any of the other establishments on the list of considerable options. With the success of these groups, there was no denying the power of the synergy created in these unique spaces which meant growth for these companies.

How did these often smaller, older, and more intimate properties incorporate the demands of larger groups? The answer lies within offering any and all private, semi-private, public spaces throughout the property while balancing the experience for their leisure guests - a task less taxing on a property under 100 rooms where the in-house group is more than likely consuming a significant chunk of its inventory. Anything from a library, to an art gallery was re-imagined and re-engineered to become a flexible space for group events. Turning a weakness into a strength, boutique hotels began thinking outside the box in ways that created success in accommodating groups and events of any scale so long as the hotel's square footage allowed.

As meeting planners included these one-offs in their proposals to companies and executive assistants booked venues ala the underground speakeasy for a Board of Director retreats because the hotels offered a mixology course at the end of each day, history was made. Boutique properties could extend the feeling of intimacy and personality while offering spaces that complimented a simultaneously growing need to be more creative than ever before in the business world. For some meeting planners, lifestyle and unique outweighed their clients' conventional need for five identical breakout spaces. Working lunches in the whimsical garden or off-site picnics went from test trial risks to acceptable and eventually deemed as a necessity for the sake of productivity.

The wrath of social media doesn't discriminate any traveler. Presentation and design elements of public spaces are almost guaranteed to find a place on Instagram, or Pinterest, and Facebook. Well designed and photogenic spaces will leave a lasting impression on those who have stayed at a property, as well as those who may be planning to stay at a given property.

Once a reactive attempt to mend their flaws for not providing conventionality in their spaces, has actually turned into their selling points. A visit to any boutique hotels website nowadays showcases a different story than it did 10 years ago. While many were selling to groups in their "Meetings and Events" pages, these days, the sophistication and degree of content, and their SEO and PPC campaigns prove they mean business! Today properties - independent and boutique, the megabrand spin-off, and everything in between - provide not only their leisure guests but their groups as well with an heir of uniqueness and charm in an intimate setting, it simultaneously creates experiences that are bespoke and new.

Perhaps its the contemporary design elements that make your entry level "Broom Closet" accommodation just perfect. For some, an unexpected life changing experience awaits in in the quirky lounge where the coolest of cool mixologist will whip up what he knows will become your libation of choice for the next decade. Regardless of the individual stories created, boutique hotels know that authenticity and being the best in class is the key to their success whether guests are traveling for business or pleasure.

Conceptually inspiring, boutique hotels tell a story with every turned corner into its spaces that have been curated with the intention of maximizing each guests' experience, one discovery at a time. There is more to what defines them than just their size. These hotels make their mark in their ability to uniquely embed culture, design and technology into the guest experience while still successfully providing a level of service that is personal and intimate. The boutique hotel model has emerged as a vital player striking every right chord by insuring today's main expectation is met: the unexpected.

Ivan Tamayo is the Director of Sales & Marketing at the Adelphi Hospitality Group (AHG), located in Saratoga Springs, New York. Mr. Tamayo oversees the Adelphi Hotel and its accompanying restaurant, modern American Steakhouse Salt & Char. Drawing on nearly 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Mr. Tamayo brings a wealth of sales and marketing knowledge to AHG. His hotel career started in Miami, where Mr. Tamayo served as Marketing Coordinator at Trump International Beach Resort. Mr. Tamayo subsequently worked for numerous luxury boutique hotels in Miami including the Mandarin Oriental, The Setai Hotel, Soho Beach House and The Betsy Hotel. Mr. Tamayo can be contacted at 518-766-7100 or ivan.tamayo@adelphi-hospitality.com Please visit http://www.adelphi-hospitality.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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