Picking the Perfect Hotel: Should You Choose a Chain or a Boutique?

Hotel occupancy rates are climbing, albeit at a fairly sluggish pace. While this presents a difficult situation for many of the world’s largest accommodation chains, it’s a golden opportunity for low-cost travellers and bargain seekers. In an effort to increase occupancy and boost financial records, many of the world’s most comfortable hotel chains are offering record low prices.

But does that really make a chain hotel a good deal? The majority of international travellers still opt to stay in a major chain hotel, with industry leader Accor noting that despite financial concern, most travellers are still staying in well-known hotels and ‘big brand’ accommodation. With boutique hotel operators gaining ground in many markets, that dominance may soon disappear.

Boutique hotels are often passed over by international travellers due to their limited online visibility and difficulty in catering to major groups. The vast majority of boutique and independent hotels are limited to low-rank placements on major aggregators and travel booking websites, despite offering service that is on par with – if not above – that provided by major five-star chains.

Where are these hotels found, then? On independent tourism websites and private weblogs. Smaller local hotels are typically marketed through word-of-mouth and unsolicited reviews, with blogs and other ‘unconventional’ holiday information sources acting as unofficial third-party marketers. It’s an idea that’s beginning to gain ground – many referral-fuelled independent hotels and expanding.

So before you book into the Sofitel, Intercontinental, or Ritz-Carlton, consider looking at the value offered in an independent hotel. While most travellers associate independently managed hotels with limited quality and low-cost accommodation, there is an increasingly large market for luxury hotels outside of the traditional big-brand architecture.