YES, BOUTIQUES CAN BE PROFITABLE

Turning a boutique hotel's individuality into profitability can be a tough task. By definition, boutiques defy conformity and standardization and lack the inherent marketing muscle and cost savings built into most cookie-cutter chain hotels.

Miami-based Tecton Hospitality thinks it can change that model. The company recently launched Desires, a new division that provides boutique hotel owners with management and marketing systems that create operating efficiencies without disturbing a property's look, service or all-important vibe.

“We provide both style and substance,” says Tecton President Raul Leal of the new service. “We have an operating infrastructure already established that's applicable to boutiques, but we also understand the nuances of what it takes for a boutique property to be successful.”

Tecton cut its boutique teeth on The Water Club, San Juan's hip hotel of the moment which the company guided into profitability. The new Desires division currently operates three properties in South Beach — the 50-room Aqua Hotel, 66-room Wave Hotel and 83-room Circa 39 — and is on the lookout for more.

Desires' range of services encompasses human resources, sales & marketing, financial management and more. The starting point for a successful boutique hotel, says Leal, is the general manager. “The GM must be a relationship person who also understands and is curious about the latest trends in lighting, entertainment and restaurants,” he says.

Marketing, particularly extensive use of Internet channels, is another focus of Desires. A customer relationship management tool, Your Desires, allows the properties to track individual customer preferences. “Gen Xers in particular want a personalized experience,” says Doug Carrillo, Tecton's vice president of sales & marketing, “so with Your Desires we can give them choices: choice of drinks, choice of munchies, choice of CDs or choice of radio stations. The possibilities are limitless.”

Not surprisingly, Leal is bullish on the future of boutiques, even for second- and third-tier markets. New Desires projects include boutique hotels in Atlanta and Cincinnati.

“The business travelers and their buying behaviors have changed,” he says. “As baby boomers retire, they're replaced by Gen Xers and late-stage boomers. These consumers crave newness, tend to be Net shoppers and are very tech-savvy. They want to stay in boutique hotels wherever they travel, not just in New York, San Francisco and South Beach.”

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