HMA President Michelle Heuer recently attended the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association’s Stay Boutique Leadership Conference, where she explored the latest trends in boutique hospitality. A  sector characterized by style, innovation and dynamism, boutique is rapidly redefining the industry.

The opportunity to connect, share and learn from each other opens a window of possibilities for creative thinking, Michelle says. Building a strong referral network and forming strategic partnerships will help us all better serve the boutique hotel community.

But what is boutique, anyway?

The term “boutique” has proven difficult to define. Much of the conference focused on developing a working definition of its increasingly popular role in hospitality and finding ways to translate that definition into operational success. Hoteliers, management companies and other boutique operators weighed in on the best strategies for developing a thriving boutique hotel.

Key takeaways from the conference

Success is in the storytelling

Developing a distinct presence in boutique hospitality is crucial to standing out among corporate giants. Approach this opportunity from all angles by incorporating tailored data collection and data analysis, technology, company-wide training and storytelling into your boutique identity. Everything from your hotel’s interior design to your staff’s insider information about your destination contributes to a unique, curated experience guests will remember.

Build a communication strategy

Defining what “boutique” means to your hotel is only the first step. Customize an effective communication strategy to connect your hotel to its ideal guests. Analyze your data to ensure your outreach efforts are engaging the right audience. Write succinct headlines and copy to go with engaging images. And always keep your story central to everything you do.

Develop collaborative partnerships

Refine your storytelling efforts and communication strategy by collaborating with industry partners. Savvy boutique hoteliers create partnerships that complement their strengths, working closely with interior designers, culinary experts, technology companies and data/design agencies like HMA. Partnerships improve your hotel’s bottom line and lighten the load on your team, giving them more room to showcase their own ideas for enhancing the guest experience.

Meaningful storytelling begins with a data-driven foundation, Michelle says. Boutique hotels that collect and interpret data, then put it to use in creating unique communications, are better able to tell their hotel’s singular story.

After all, as emphasized at the Stay Boutique Leadership Conference, hospitality is no longer just about function and status. It’s about the heart and soul of your hotel.

And that is boutique.