Lifestyle Boutiques Driving Leisure Hospitality Market

Carlos Rodriguez is CEO of Driftwood Capital, a leading hospitality sponsor with investment, development, lending and management plaforms.

An increasing number of travelers today are as interested in collecting memorable experiences as they are in collecting travel rewards, and this is driving more consumer demand and investor appetite for boutique-style, soft-brand hotels that offer a unique setting for these experiences to unfold.

Consumer interest in soft-brand hotels—hotels backed by major brands like Marriot or Hilton that have a more boutique feel and unique hotel names—has been ticking upward for roughly the past five years, driven in large part by the less brand-conscious millennial traveler. But since the pandemic, there has been an indisputable surge in interest in experiential travel and, as a result, distinctive hotel properties that enhance or enrich consumers’ understanding of a particular place.

In fact, according to a January report by Tripadvisor, travelers indicated that in 2022 the top three most important considerations in their future travel plans were “to get immersive by seeing new places, having new experiences and learning about history and culture.” Similarly, a survey of consumer travel sentiment last April by PwC suggests that in their quest for new experiences, even highest-tier hotel loyalty program members are willing to switch brands in exchange for a new or better experience. It’s no surprise, then, that “independent boutique hotel supply has grown 5% in the past 10 years while soft-brand collection supply has increased 19%,” according to a report by The Highland Group.

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