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Home Away From Home

July 1, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox Travel Agent


The Von Goethe Suite at 717 Hotel in Amsterdam is a cozy retreat for business travelers

When we interviewed hotelier André Balazs earlier this year, he compared European boutique hotels to boutique stores. “[They are] not trying to be everything for everybody, and do not have a whole bunch of different voices going on at once,” he said. “[They have] a point of view. Of course, a boutique hotel is nothing new, because in Europe, it’s just a hotel.”

Travel Agent took a look at some of the hottest boutique hotels in Europe and found that one would be hard-pressed to call any of these properties “just a hotel.” From converted townhouses to ski lodges to caves (yes, caves!), here is a sampling of some notable boutique properties that can give your clients a taste of home away from home even when they’re a continent away.

In the middle of Amsterdam, Hotel 717 feels like someone’s home—and, in fact, it once was. The eight rooms and suites were created from a 19th century townhouse alongside the city’s canal, which today serves as a discrete retreat ideal for business travelers. The rooms and suites range in size from the 430- square-foot Mahler Room to the 753-square-foot Schubert Suite, and feature such luxe amenities as Bang & Olufsen DVD players. Complimentary breakfasts are served en suite. While 717 does not have its own restaurant or fitness center, it has arrangements with nearby establishments to provide these services, and meals and massages can be arranged en suite. Travel agents can contact General Manager Brita Röhl ([email protected], 011-31-20-427-0717) to personalize service for their VIPs.


A suite in Austria’s Hotel Kristiania, rated Small Luxury Hotel of the Year

At the Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s 15th International Conference earlier this year, the 29-room Hotel Kristiania was named Small Luxury Hotel of the Year. Located in the Austrian hilltop village of Lech, the Hotel Kristiana specializes in skiing and other winter activities. (Dedicated ski valets as well as personal ski instructors and butlers are available.) All rooms offer views of the Alps or of the village. Spa treatments are available en suite by the hour. The hotel’s restaurants offer three distinct dining rooms, and breakfast and dinner are included in the room price (breakfast is available until noon, perfect for late-risers). Dogs are permitted at the hotel for a fee of about $42 per day and $140 cleaning fee per stay. Agents in the U.S. can call the hotel toll-free at 800-525-4800.

On the Greek isle of Santorini, Alexander’s Boutique Hotel of Oia offers sun-seekers their choice of three suites, four villas, five cave houses (told you!) or four apartments. The variety of accommodations allows for a range in prices, making this five-star property available to all kinds of travelers. The cave houses are priced at a little less than $200 per night during the low season (November to March) while the Imperial Suite costs about $1,231 during the high season (June through September). Located next to the Aegean Sea, the hotel’s cliffside terrace offers views of the city or of the ocean. Travel agents should call 011-30-22860-71818.

In less than two years, ParisHotel Keppler has become a popular destination for travelers in search of contemporary convenience and classic style. Designed by Pierre Yves Rochon, the hotel’s 34 rooms and five suites feature custom furniture, carpets and lighting, and overlook the Champs-Élysées and the Eiffel Tower. A steam room, sauna and fitness center can help guests unwind after a day of touring, and the hotel’s glassroofed bar and winter garden provide a soothing atmosphere for conversation. Travel agents can call General Manager Alain Lagarrigue at 011-33-147-20-65-05.

Creating an Identity

Juan Palmada, vice president of boutique chain Epoque Hotels, believes that the boutique trend is “one of the most significant phenomena in the hotel industry since the establishment of franchise hotel chains in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, the concept was to replicate the features of a hotel in various destinations. With boutique hotels, the emphasis is laid on the uniqueness and individuality of the property.”

On the other hand, their very popularity could put boutique hotels at risk as they become more mainstream. Some hoteliers, Palmada says, “believe that by adding a few Philippe Starck chairs here and there, they can pass [themselves off] as a boutique hotel…Our job is to help the independent spirit of boutique hotels, and let it not succumb to standardization. If all look the same in this world, there would not be any fascination left in travel.”


All rooms in Austria’s Hotel Kristiania offer views of the Alps or the quaint village of Lech

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