Earlier this month at the Merchant Taylor’s Hall in London, World Boutique Hotel Awards held it’s seventh annual ceremony to recognize excellence in this growing niche of the hospitality sector.
From a total of 600 nominees within 80 countries, the top award was presented to Akademie Street Boutique Hotel and Guest House in Franschhoek, South Africa. Runners up in other categories included The Serras Hotel in Barcelona, Spain (best ‘city hotel’), Vila Joya in the Algarve of Portugal (best ‘culinary hotel’), Qualia in Whitsundays of Australia (best ‘beach or coastal hotel’), Chester Grosvenor in the U.K, (best ‘classic hotel’) and Ca Maria Adele in Venice, Italy (most ‘inspired design’ hotel).
Attendees were buzzed on the mystery of who would win in different categories at the event, and the owner of Akademie Street—Paul Kinney—admitted being humbled by the recognition of their business, and “inspired to be different and unique” compared to other niche hotels throughout the world.
Keynote speaker Wladimir Klitschko a (world heavyweight champion boxer who now runs a hotel) gave the keynote address where he stressed the value that hoteliers, as part of a ‘family,’ learn from each other. Press in the U.K., including Financial Times, The Telegraph, The Sunday Times and CNN Travel, caught the event on film.
According to the Prestige Property Group in the U.K, a ‘boutique hotel’ refers to a relatively small, intimate hotel that is distinguished from chains by providing ‘ultra-personalized’ service.
What makes these awards unique is that each contender is visited personally by a judge specializing in a specific category, and then ranked according to design, facilities, location, dining and entertainment, staff service and ‘overall emotional impact.’
Edward Gabbai, founder and director of World Boutique Hotel Awards, said the event went smoothly, and recognizes the importance of the Internet in the push for differentiation among hotels. “Many seek hotels that offer integrity, individuality and character to their guests in addition to the standards of luxury they desire.” He also recognizes that choosing award winners can be an exacting process. "There’s no substitute for personally experiencing what a hotel has to offer and meeting the people behind it,” he added.