Sincerely, BLLA

Boutique Hospitality Commentary: Alex Kirkwood

Alex Kirkwood, CEO & Founder of Kirkwood Collection, weighs in on the topic of Keeping Boutique Hotel Properties as Independent Hotels. It’s...

Alex Kirkwood, CEO & Founder of Kirkwood Collection, weighs in on the topic of Keeping Boutique Hotel Properties as Independent Hotels.

It’s an oxymoron that in a world where people crave unique, authentic experiences, so many things, from restaurants to hotels, are cookie-cutter. A traveler could be in New York or Bangkok, and their accommodations could be identical, and they could get the same lunch at their favorite fast-food outlet. While there is security in similarity, there is no soul. 

For travelers who want to truly immerse themselves in the culture of their destination, independent boutique hotels are a must. In recent years, many big box hotel brands have launched their own soft brands intended to replicate the boutique hotel experience. Despite their efforts, the end results are uninspired machinations that fail to truly capture the spirit and essence of a thoughtfully curated, bespoke property. The reason why is simple; at their core, the product remains a corporate brand, beholden to corporate policies and standardizations. While brand cohesiveness is great for marketing, it diminishes the local flair and human touch necessary for a true boutique experience. Being part of a large corporation also means change and innovation move at a snail’s pace, if at all. 

My career began in Marketing for a prominent feature film studio. I view the movie industry and hotel business similarly in that, in both, I want to tell a story and create an experience. At the Kirkwood Collection, which operates seven historic bed-and-breakfast style boutique hotels in California, our family-owned brand is committed to remaining an independent hotel group. This allows for the creative freedom needed for all our hotels to offer a curated, intentional experience that reflects the culture of its surroundings. That is the ethos of a boutique hotel. 

While the guest experience at any of our properties is 100 percent unique and authentic, we have standardized systems behind the scenes that help ensure that our operations are seamless across our brands. This is what gives the Kirkwood Collection its cohesiveness. Our guests know that the customer service and unique touches they find at one of our hotels will be the same at another hotel, while the architecture, interior design, and food offerings will still be true to the destination the property is in. 

I fully believe that independent boutique hotels fill a critical need in the hospitality industry. They speak to the reason why travel is important at all, to experience new cultures, try new things, and make authentic connections that change travelers for the better.

– Alex Kirkwood

Kirkwood Collection is a hotel corporate member of BLLA.

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