Canada has seen the rise of boutique hotels in the past two decades. The “boutique” concept has captured the fascination of both travelers and developers, making it more than just a trend, but a seemingly permanent fixture in the hospitality industry.
The First Boutique Hotel in Canada
The boutique movement is believed to have originated in New York City in the 1980s. The Great White North caught on with the opening of Hotel Germain-des-Pres in Quebec City in 1988. 30 years after its birth in the hotel industry, Germain Hotels has established itself as a standard in the country’s burgeoning boutique hotel business. It currently has 19 properties across Canada, with two more slated to open soon.
The Boutique Charm
The boutique category seems hard to pin down, almost appearing to be arbitrary with the lack of a single, exclusive set of standards for classification, but maybe that contributes to the whole boutique charm. There are no hard rules although boutique hotels do share similar characteristics such as size, aesthetic, service, culture, location, and target clientele.
In stark contrast with 5-star chain hotels, boutique hotels are generally small, with as few as ten and not more than a hundred rooms. This size allows for a more intimate hotel experience and a more personal interaction between staff and guests. Design and ambiance are a primary drawing factor—often vibrant, quirky, kitschy… and seemingly random, like if a Pablo Picasso painting and an Andy Warhol artwork had a hotel baby. Some boutique hotels also place a premium on culture and heritage by integrating local and indigenous elements into their aesthetic and services.
The top feature that characterizes a boutique hotel is its personalized service, apparent in the way the staff calls you by your name, or the milk and cookies delivered to your room before you tuck in at night, or the well-crafted itinerary for exploring the locale. The strong appeal to the emotions is one of the biggest reasons that contribute to the unstoppable rise of boutique hotels across Canada, where each trip is like a visit to your favorite aunt in some upscale location—cozy and pampered but with adequate room for privacy