Planners Talk Boutique Hotels

It’s not the reason she brings a meeting once a year to Kimpton’s FireSky Hotel & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., but Victoria Johnson has to admit, it’s great to find Bosco wagging his tail and greeting guests in the lobby every year when her group returns.

Bosco, an abandoned cocker spaniel, was adopted by the hotel’s general manager, and that’s just one of the unconventional things about FireSky that makes it “like home away from home when we are here,” says Johnson, CMP, CMM, global manager, meeting services and sourcing, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.

She has brought a group of 120 executives to the hotel annually for the last several years. With 14,000 square feet of meeting space, there’s plenty of function space. “We pretty much own the place,” she says. “They let us do whatever we want, like have lunch in the lobby or take over all the nooks and crannies around the fire pit at night for mini-meetings and cocktails.”

That is what planners find most attractive about boutique properties—being the big fish in the pond. Along with the service, of course. “Unlike at the big box hotels, anybody walking by will do whatever you want them to do,” Johnson adds. “At FireSky there’s a lot of staff longevity and we work as a team. They tailor things to what we want and they also suggest ideas.”

Another reason for booking the property every year is because many of the participants come from overseas, says Johnson, and they appreciate the familiarity and low stress of returning to the same hotel.
Saira Banu Kianes, CMP, president Banu Event Solutions & Training (B.E.S.T), regularly uses boutique hotels in the U.S. and abroad for pharmaceutical advisory board meetings (about 42 participants). She likes the white-glove service, and the smaller footprint. Among the boutique properties she has used are the Le Merigot in Santa Monica and the Pulitzer Hotel in Amsterdam.

“Doctors and frequent business travelers like being able to check in and find their rooms without wandering around the hallways. They want to use the health club without waiting in line," she says.

"They like the pampering you get in the best of the boutiques.”

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