The World’s Coolest Boutique Hotel Owners

Forbes finds the 'Cool' with Bisha

The hospitality industry is in the middle of something of a revolution. As chain hotels attempt to emulate the experiential model set in place by independent and boutique hoteliers, those innovators in the boutique industry are evolving their structures to redefine the very meaning of boutique travel as we know it.

An alternative to more corporate structures, boutique hotels have paved a pathway of possibility. Hoteliers consistently challenge the functions of a hotel, resulting in an array of unique, global experiences. As a result, new trends within the hospitality industry often begin in the boutique environment. Here are a few such emerging themes I have noticed, along with examples of trendsetting hoteliers.

Foreign Inspirations And Local Escapism

Historically, boutique hotels have largely taken inspiration from their surrounding locations and culture. However, this understanding is being challenged and revised by hoteliers who instead take inspiration from their own heritage. They implement art, cuisine and traditional customs of their own cultures in hotels located in foreign cities, therefore creating some of the most noteworthy hotels of this period that are appealing to travelers and locals alike.

In 1992, Elisabetta Fabri created Starhotels International within the Michelangelo, bringing what would become the boutique brand’s signature Italian touches to Manhattan. Fabri’s series of international hotels showcase her home country’s culture, art and design, effectively creating small Italian havens throughout the world.

Jayma Cardoso spent most of her youth in Brazil, a history that has manifested itself in the decor, service and general atmosphere of her now iconic Surf Lodge in Montauk. The hotel is recognized for its beachy ambiance and reputation as an “it” destination for travelers and locals alike.

Fostering Local Engagement

As the existence of public spheres rapidly declines, boutique hotels can serve as the few remaining community spaces. This cavity is not lost on the following hoteliers. Hotels that provide public spaces, whether bars, lounges or other gathering spots, are more likely to not only engage with the local public, but to cultivate brand loyalty, subconsciously incentivizing locals to travel within a beloved brand.

Ian Schrager’s PUBLIC Hotel has become known perhaps more for the local creatives and models that frequent its bar and lounge areas than for its hotel services. Schrager’s reimagination of the hotel proves that engaging the community can be significantly profitable.

Sonia Cheng has led the Rosewood Hotel Group to become one of the world’s leading luxury hotel brands. Cheng’s unconventional renovation of the bar at the Rosewood’s London location has proven to be an immense success that the local public has come to treasure.

The Sydell Group has become known for its Freehand locations, at which they provide platforms for local musicians to perform and offer workshops for skills such as calligraphy, thereby fostering an engaged local community.

Stimulating Aesthetic Appeal

Design and aesthetic have been critical elements of the boutique appeal for many years, though the impact has been amplified exponentially as a result of social media and the millennial market. In the past, art and aesthetic held secondary importance to service, but today, boutique hotels that are equally invested in creating a unique atmosphere acquire traffic from a population as interested in their experience as immortalizing it online.

Girish Jhunjhnuwala identifies his independent hotel group Ovolo as a micro hotel chain with a family feel. Each hotel boasts an undeniably memorable, upbeat, bright aesthetic design featuring colorful art, lollipops and candies.

Each of Serge Trigano’s Mama Shelter locations is decorated with bright walls, unique art and a chic, youthful persona. Mama Shelter’s aesthetic appeal and devotion to both affordability and unmatched service has given it the ultimate advantage with the millennial travel market.

April Brown and Sarah Sklash’s June Motel in Prince Edward County reinvents the experience of the motel itself through its uniquely feminine design, which is as photographable as it is enjoyable. The brand’s social media page highlights the very aesthetic that so entices their visitors, to great success.


Multiconcept Brands And Collaboration

[Bisha] combine[s] “cool” hotel experiences with luxury service

Perhaps the most significant and complex trend to note within boutique hospitality is that of brand collaboration, or multiconcept branding. As multiconcept brands (those that extend their brand image and values throughout a multitude of industries) grow in popularity, many artistically inclined brands find hospitality to be a precarious but prosperous field of expansion. Similarly, collaborations allow for unique brand experiences to be assimilated within the hospitality platform without necessarily investing in a full hotel.

Nightclub developer Charles Khabouth saw a market for hotels that combine “cool” hotel experiences with luxury service, a notion that he brought to Bisha, his hotel collaboration with musical icon Lenny Kravitz. The undeniably “cool” location has earned a spot in Conde Nast’s 15 Best Hotels in Toronto, with suites designed by Kravitz.

Israeli-born Liran Wizman is the founder and owner of Europe Hotels Private Collection. His personal creation, Sir Hotels, takes aesthetic inspiration from Wizman’s established menswear line within a former diamond factory, allowing for an immersive experience of the pre-existing brand.

Detroit’s Shinola Hotel, developed by Tom Lewand, Tom Kartsotis and Dan Gilbert, was created to bring the luxury retailer’s aesthetic and experience to Detroit, a city that embodies its values. The design took inspiration from the brand’s storefronts as well as the original hotel building, which has been met with near-universal praise.

As hospitality evolves, boutique hoteliers face the challenge of becoming ever more innovative — a feat each of the aforementioned hospitality moguls not only accomplished, but truly revolutionized. Boutique hotels provide an ever-malleable canvas on which these artists continually create modern masterpieces.


Bisha featured in Forbes by Frances Kiradjian