Indian boutique hotels explore new markets and destinations for growth

Boutique hotels control about 10 to 12% of the luxury end of the market

Ashish Vohra, Boutique hotels, Chittorgarh, Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Evolve Back Luxury Resorts, Hampi, Justa Hotels and Resorts, KMPG, Luxury, Nathdwara, Rajasthan, Sajjangarh

While every other hotel likes to call itself ‘boutique’, not everyone can lay claim to this very exclusive club.“Big, branded luxury hotel brands face a new challenge from the boutique hotels. Luxury travellers are looking at experientials that go beyond the cookie-cutter ones.”These words by Filip Boyen, CEO of Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) of the World, a leading hospitality brand affiliation company that represents the best boutique hotels in the world, is a telling statement on how far evolved the luxury boutique space is. SLH is looking at tying up with luxury boutique properties in India to explore the market.

According to data from KMPG, India has over 1,500 premium boutique hotels, of which about 100 are absolute luxury. In terms of market share, they control about 10 to 12% of the luxury end of the market. 

As Manu Rishi Guptha, CEO, Niraamaya told Hotelier India in an interview, “Boutique isn’t about just being small and throwing together a few ‘experiences’. It is an attitude to hospitality, which is unhurried and has a human face to it.”

Syed Aliullah, ED to Chairman, Andhra Art and Craft Hotel

Boutique hotels across the world follow a certain theme—it can be art, architecture or design, or a theme referencing the location. “In India, the boutique space has come to be defined by just small hotels without any USP,” says Syed Aliullah, ED to Chairman, Le Sutra Hotels Pvt Ltd, which has just opened the Andhra Art and Craft Hotel near Vizag. However, he sees a huge potential for 40 to 60 room properties that pay well in terms of ADRs.  “But hotels will have to differentiate themselves by creating their own USP: either of design, location or relevance.”

Creating a new market

If Justa Hotels and Resorts chose offbeat destinations such as Nathdwara, Sajjangarh and Chittorgarh, in Rajasthan, where there are not too many major luxury hotel, Niraamaya Retreats chose to go to explore the underrated northeast by taking over a property in Kohima, Nagaland, a destination that is as secluded as stunningly beautiful.

According to Justa’s Founder and CEO, Ashish Vohra, “People travel to destinations such as Nathdwara or Chittorgarh to disengage with modern-world problems and connect with nature.”

At Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi, history, architecture and ecology of the UNESCO World Heritage Site has coalesced to create a unique, wholesome stay experience

Oneof the most successful experiments in boutique luxury is Evolve Back (formerly known as Orange County), which established its first hotel in Coorg years ago. Evolve Back is known to choose off-the-radar destinations such as Kabini and Hampi and created an entirely new market for luxury hotels. Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, now has a Hyatt Place hotel. Inspired by the architectural magnificence and splendour of the erstwhile Vijayanagar Empire, Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi inspires luxury travellers to travel to this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Jose Ramapuram, Director – Marketing, Evolve Back

Jose Ramapuram, Director, Marketing, says “Through Evolve Back Luxury Resorts, we wish to capture people’s new-found interest for untapped destinations and experiential travel. We choose a region where there is a potential for us to grow along with the destination itself.”

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