Sincerely, BLLA

Meet 2024 Boutique Hotel Investment Conference Facilitator: Ben Rafter

The BLLA Team sat down with Ben Rafter, President & CEO at Springboard Hospitality to chat about the upcoming Boutique Hotel Investment Confer...

The BLLA Team sat down with Ben Rafter, President & CEO at Springboard Hospitality to chat about the upcoming Boutique Hotel Investment Conference taking place on June 5 at Florence Gould Hall in NYC.


BLLA: Your experience in both emerging technologies and boutique hotel management is quite diverse. How do you believe your background in technology has influenced your approach to hospitality, particularly in managing independent properties with Springboard Hospitality?

BR: I did emerging technology startups so I’ve tried to incorporate elements of that culture into hospitality. We have an agile environment and try to move very quickly. We emphasize trying new ideas and collaboration. There are fewer rules and we push people to innovate. We also end up doing betas or analyzing a lot of technologies. There’s a department within Springboard – a relatively small company – dedicated to this. Ironically, I’d say we challenge and reject more technologies than other companies because they don’t provide enough value, whether customer facing or behind the scenes.

BLLA: Placing your personal cell phone number in Aqua’s hotel rooms is a bold and unconventional move. Can you share how this decision impacted guest satisfaction and loyalty, and how it reflects your approach to guest experience and customer service?

BR: People save for months or years to go to some leisure markets like Hawaii. Knowing that people who work at the hotel care enough to put their cell phone in the room was important, as it showed we cared about the experience. It was sort of the ultimate form of customer service. Keep in mind that housekeepers and other team members also go into rooms. I’d like to believe it gave them a sense of pride that the GMs and CEO had enough confidence in the people on the ground to put phone numbers front and center. In a time when everyone is calling themselves boutique I think a lot of it gets back to a higher level of service that’s not possible in a 500 room property. Exposing my cell phone to more than 10,000,000 people is probably a better example of boutique than a new tattoo parlor in the lobby or a custom amount of smoke in the latest cocktail.

BLLA: With Springboard Hospitality specializing in independent properties, how do you differentiate and position these hotels in the market, particularly in iconic locations across thirteen states?

BR: Sense of place and localization. When traveling some people want the comfort of knowing their hotel is going to be the exact same every time. We’re the opposite. We want travelers to know they are in Jackson Hole or Sedona or West Hollywood. We’ll try to write neighborhood guides based on where locals actually go. We’ll hire experienced people to guide guests into unique experiences while also making the hotel the center of the neighborhood. Going back a thousand years, hotels have traditionally been the center of a community and we’re trying to bring this back. Local product launches, local musicians and local artists are all important to us. Everyone is saying they do these things, but I’ve found very few people actually embrace it.

BLLA: Why are you excited to attend the Boutique Hotel Investment Conference?

BR: I’m excited for the same reason everyone at the conference is excited. We’re a small club. There are a lot of conferences but few of them focus on truly independent, unique experiences.


Come see Ben Rafter speak on a panel we call “Scaling Boutique Properties: Growth Strategies That Work” alongside Lily Hu of Crescent Hotels & Resorts and John Schultzel of Olympia Hospitality on June 5 at Florence Gould Hall in NYC!

Register for your tickets today!

THIS ARTICLE WAS ALSO PUBLISHED ON BLLA EVENTS BLOG

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