Webster's defines the word boutique as "any small, exclusive business offering customized service", and it perfectly describes a Boutique Hotel. Boutique Hotels (often referred to as "design hotels") are smaller than the large chain hotels (generally less than 150 rooms), offer personalized service by having less guests staying at the hotel, thereby making it easier to get to know their clientele and are usually sleek, chic and/or unique in their style and décor.
This is Agoda's second annual review of Boutique Hotels in the Asia Pacific Region and we loved doing this evaluation. Boutique hotels are interesting works of design art that keep the focus on the client and blend style and functionality into an extremely appealing and intriguing package. This year we included customer review scores as part of the criteria on our list, as well as star rating (only 4 or 5 star hotels were considered) and only hotels with less than 200 rooms were eligible for the review. The list itself includes a few familiar faces from last year's review, a couple new very chic properties from Hong Kong and Singapore, new appearances from hotels in Sydney and Kyoto, a magnificently majestic Malaysian and more.
The increasing popularity of Boutique Hotels should come as no surprise; travelers are expecting more for their money. They expect great service, top facilities, unique/comfortable surroundings and most importantly pure enjoyment. These unique boutiques piqued our interest and are at the top of the list for 2009:
1. Trisara Hotel, Phuket, Thailand
Trisara emphasizes privacy, simplicity, peace, and space. Forty-two villas and suites have been created with a clean, contemporary look with subtle traditional Thai touches where private infinity edged pools meet inspired views of the Andaman Sea. Apart from massages, body treatments and facials, the Trisara Spa specializes in yoga and meditation and offers the Trisara Punti Purification and Revitalisation program in partnership with expert herbalists. Other features at this exclusive resort & spa include complimentary iPods in the library with a wide range of music, customized private dining options, and a private bay surrounded by a coral reef.
2. The Scarlet Hotel, Singapore, Singapore
This award-winning hotel is no stranger to top 10 lists. Each of the rooms has a personality of its own, from the red-toned Passion Suite to the Opulent Suite with its olive walls and gold headboard. The award-winning Desire and the rooftop Breeze restaurants delight palates, and for a 'bar with an attitude', Bold fits the bill. Fitness enthusiasts will adore the recreation facilities that include the aptly named Soda and Flaunt (the Jacuzzi and gym). The classic European exterior belies the bold colors and chic furniture that waits inside. From red exterior shutters and color themed accommodation to brash facilities and distinctive meeting rooms, The Scarlet Hotel is designed to leave an impression.
3. The Luxe Manor, Hong Kong
The second largest hotel on our list, The Luxe Manor is a little like Hong Kong itself; Chinese origins with European flavors and an eclectic mix of the new with the classic. Themed suites like the Safari Suite designed as if from the Serengeti or the abstract Mirage Suite seemingly inspired by Salvador Dali, immediately set the hotel far apart from the ordinary. Deluxe suites are elegantly furnished with modern amenities like LCD TV's and on-demand entertainment. Contemporary artwork lines the walls of the restaurant while the world-renowned chefs create culinary masterpieces. Chocolates personally delivered to each guestroom in the evening make staying at the Luxe seem even more decadent.
4. Dream Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand
The Dream Hotel is the largest hotel on the list due to the creation of its fantastic second wing. The eclectic mix of chic decor, brashness, and top-level service allows the Dream Hotel to move up from last year's list. Plush indigo hallways lead to crisp white rooms with blue highlights, and ultra modern bathrooms. At night, dreamy blue lights emanate from beneath the beds, washing the rooms in a relaxed ethereal glow. Egyptian cotton sheets, feather beds, flat screen TV's and a pre-loaded iPod await after a day of facials at the Avatar Spa or an evening chilling at Bangkok's favorite hot spot, the Flava Lounge.
5. Kirketon, Sydney, Australia
A recent renovation has once again set this intimate 40-room hotel on top of Australia's best boutique list, as it moves away from its previous minimalist design and towards fashionable chic sophistication. A highly personal, elegant hotel, the Kirketon is part of Australia's Eight Hotels group, a specialist in the boutique market. Rich, warm tones welcome guests to plush, private rooms in the heart of Darlinghurst, next to Sydney's restaurant and nightlife district. The Kirketon exudes style, and the hotel prides itself on exquisite service, with a 24-hour concierge service catering to any whim.
6. The Screen Hotel, Kyoto, Japan
The Screen Hotel consists of 13 rooms with 13 different designs and walks the line between traditional Japanese ryokan and a modern minimalist boutique. As one of the first boutique hotels in Kyoto, some rooms at this intimate inn showcase tatami flooring and shoji screens while others flaunt more western designs. Stylish and intimate with a Japanese attention to detail, The Screen is an ideal place to experience a little Japanese history without giving up those western comforts. With flatscreen TV's, Bose Stereos, espresso machines in some suites and western breakfast available, the management of this hotel has gone out of its way to ensure comfort for all nationalities of clientele.
7. The Majestic, Malacca, Malaysia
Lying on the banks of the Malacca River, The Majestic is a regal colonial style boutique in the heart of Malaysia. Winner of the Hospitality Asia Platinum Award for SE Asia's Best Signature Boutique Hotel for 2008-2010 Regional Series, The Majestic Malacca is exactly as its name implies. 54 exquisite rooms display the diverse mix of cultures from Malaysia's past. Pernakan Chinese styles with Dutch, British, and Portuguese influences create a rich and intimate setting. Luxurious rooms with porcelain floors, teak trim, leather furniture, pedestal bathtubs, four post beds, and authentic regional artwork await those lucky enough to reach The Majestic Malacca's magical realm.
8. Jia Shanghai Hotel, Shanghai, China
JIA's second hotel is just as exciting as the first one it opened in Hong Kong and continues along Yenn Wong's original concept for interesting, eclectic, and functional boutique hotels. Fashioned out of a 1920's European Building in the heart of Shanghai, the 55 chic, color-themed, award-winning rooms are bold, hip and designed to delight both the business and leisure traveler. JIA means "home" in Mandarin, and the JIA Shanghai has succeeded in creating a home away from home in this Shanghai boutique...it's just that this home is a far more fascinating destination.
9. The Elysian Boutique Villa Hotel, Bali, Indonesia
This hotel offers up-26 luxury private pool villas in a Balinese paradise and is the only "resort style" boutique on our list. Available for both short and long-term stays, the look of the hotels is considered "modern Asia" with an open design. Trimmed with teakwood and local volcanic stone, each villa features its own walled garden. Unique amenities like Bose sound systems and preloaded iPod Nanos come standard in every villa, along with minibars stocked with champagne and energy drinks help this hotel move away from the pack of typical Balinese hotels. Elysian is another word for paradise and The Elysian Boutique Villa lives up to its name.
10. Amanjaya Pancam Hotel, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Adjacent to Wat Ounalom, the luxurious Amanjaya Pancam is the hotel of choice when in the capital of Cambodia. Constructed from an old riverside building with French accents, the Amanjaya Pancam is located on famous Sisowath Quay, in the center of Phnom Penh. The rooms include king-size beds that are spacious and decorated in rich, Cambodian textures, all of which are equipped with separate bathtubs and partitioned showers. Easy access to Phnom Penh's attractions like the Silver Pagoda and the National Museum helped put this hotel on our list.