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Boutiques, ski resorts leading niche recovery
August 23 2012

Niche hotels struggled during the downturn, but a rebound shows guests once again are craving that unique travel experience.

  • Boutique hotels are normally independent, have fewer than 200 rooms and charge a high rack rate.
  • There are 744 boutique hotels in the U.S. comprising 89,400 rooms.
  • Among the niche segments, ski resorts have the highest rates, up 5% from this time last year.
By Lauren Faulkner
Business Development Executive, STR

HENDERSONVILLE, Tennessee—With their unique amenities and ability to create memorable guest experiences, niche hotels are playing an increasingly important role in the U.S. hotel industry.

STR, parent company of, recognizes the following niche segments: all-suite, boutique, casino, conference center, convention, destination resorts, extended stay, golf, ski, spa and water parks.

While each niche segment boasts its unique points of differentiation and demand drivers, the category overall took a hit during the latest downturn along with the rest of the hotel industry. However, with the recent rebound, guests seem to be craving that unforgettable travel experience once again.

STR data shows a general uptick in performance across all niche segments, led by occupancy in the boutique segment and rates in the ski resort segment.

Click to enlarge.

Boutique hotels
STR defines a boutique hotel as one that appeals to guests because of its unusual amenity and room configurations. Boutique hotels are normally independent, with fewer than 200 rooms and a high rack rate.

There are three chains whose properties are automatically coded as “boutique”: W Hotels (a Starwood brand), Kimpton Hotels and Joie de Vivre Hotels. According to STR’s June year-to-date data, there are 744 boutique hotels in the U.S. comprising 89,400 rooms.

Click to enlarge.

Boutique demand appears to have fully recovered since the downturn. June year-to-date data showed a 3.7% increase in boutique occupancy to 71.7%, which surpassed the segment’s 2007 peak levels and was highest among all niche segments.

Average daily rates, on the other hand, still have approximately $30 to make up. In 2008, peak rates were $236. As of June 2012, rates were still just shy of $200, with an increase of 4.4%.

The all-suite segment is second behind boutiques in terms of occupancy. According to STR, to be categorized as an all-suites property, all guest rental units must consist of one or more bedrooms and a separate living area. All-suites were selling approximately 70% of their available rooms, up 1.4%, with rates up 5% to more than $100 as of June.

Ski resorts
Among the niche segments, ski resorts had the highest rates (more than $255), up 5% from this time last year. As of June year to date, the ski resorts have not seen any increase in occupancy, so ADR growth is driving gains in revenue per available room. RevPAR for ski resorts was $115.96 based on a 12-month moving average ending in June.

Click to enlarge.

It’s safe to conclude that while each of these segments was hit by the downturn, they are also recovering at a healthy pace.

To further dive into the performance of other unique niche segments, there will be a breakout session titled “Off the Beaten Path: Niche Segments Make an Impact” during the fourth annual Hotel Data Conference on 5-6 September at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.

8/27/2012 4:36:00 AM
I'm surprised there's no mention of diving hotels. Anyone would like to add something in this regard?
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