Is Hotel Brand Consistency a Good Thing?

In the July 23, 2012 edition of The New York Times, I was quoted as saying that “in my opinion, on a business trip you want that predictability”, meaning that you want to know what to expect when you travel on business and do not want anything extra about which to worry — such as will the towels be the right size, will the bed be too soft or too hard, will there be enough toiletries, and how well will the hotel staff attend to your needs.

I stated that independent boutique hotels could work on a business trip if the traveler knows what to expect and if the quality of service, experience, comfort and amenities exceed those of a typical property of a major hotel chain — otherwise, it is anyone’s guess as to what to expect. Unknown variables are usually not welcomed by business travelers on tight schedules where time is money. The fewer problems with which to deal, the smoother the business trip.

It is also rare that you can earn frequent travel loyalty program miles or points at an independent boutique hotel — but then again, earning miles and points does not contribute to the actual experience of staying as a guest in an independent boutique hotel.

However, in my opinion, boutique hotels are best explored on a leisure trip, where one can look for adventure, more personalized service, and something different, among other reasons. I stayed at an incredible boutique hotel in Venice in 2004 as the result of a gathering of FlyerTalk members — and one FlyerTalk member, SanDiego1K — who is currently the Community Director of FlyerTalk — back then could not attend after all and gave her room reservation to me. The boutique hotel property was the Hotel Ai Mori d’Oriente, recommended by FlyerTalk member obscure2k, and it was critical towards the rousing success of that gathering of FlyerTalk members — one of the most memorable ones which I have ever attended.

To be certain, there are properties displaying the brand of a major hotel chain which may not be consistent with standards — and that can throw off a business traveler as well. For example, the kitchen closes earlier than expected, and you arrive at the hotel property famished yet too late to order a decent meal.

There are always exceptions to what I stated above — but am I actually right?

I attempted to search discussions on FlyerTalk where the main topic is hotel consistency, and to my surprise after a quick search, the only pertinent discussion I found was this thread from March of 2004 pertaining to whether or not hotel brand consistency is a good thing — although this discussion is certainly just as relevant today. Interestingly, FlyerTalk member sjunkerg used Hilton Garden Inn to demonstrate a point about great brand consistency — the same brand I mentioned in The New York Times article, as I find that brand to be the most consistent of all hotel brands, in my opinion. However, FlyerTalk member DaDOKin DC makes a good point that consistency does not have to equal uniformity.

I know that at a Hilton Garden Inn property — at which I have stayed since the concept was introduced back in the late 1980s — I know exactly what to expect at each property. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Lancaster — one of four of the original Hilton Garden Inn properties — in Pennsylvania multiple times before the Hilton Garden Inn concept expanded significantly. I remember asking myself when I first stayed at that property, “What in the world is a Garden Inn?” It was weird because this property was unlike any Hilton property — and it was at one time unlike what Hilton Garden Inn properties are like today. I stayed in a room with a vaulted ceiling which was as high as two stories at one point, but the room was rather dingy with tired furnishings. Fortunately, Hilton Garden Inns are now incredibly consistent in terms of quality, comfort and convenience — the true “cookie cutter” chain of hotel properties. It is unlikely that you will have a dingy room with tired furnishings — but then again, consistency can get rather boring.

While it certainly has its place, the Hilton Garden Inn concept would not have worked at the gathering of FlyerTalk members in Venice back in 2004. No way. Consistency amongst properties of a major hotel chain has its place and purpose, and independent boutique hotels have their places and purposes. I usually prefer the property of a major chain when I travel on a business trip, whereas I am usually willing to explore the unpredictability and different experience of an independent boutique hotel property.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you value hotel property consistency, and is it a good thing — or do you prefer staying as a guest in boutique hotel properties? Does it matter whether you are traveling on business or leisure? Please post your comments below.

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