Boutique hotels are currently the fastest expanding sector and are considered by many to be ripe for investment.
Against this backdrop, the Aurora Hotel Collection is growing its portfolio of boutique and exclusive use properties. With the recent opening of The Cairn Lodge and Hotel in Scotland, we catch up with Chief Executive Steven McLeod and ask why he’s drawn to the luxury segment.
Note: You can view our photo tour of The Cairn Lodge and Hotel here.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: You are investing heavily in boutique and exclusive use properties … why this sector and why now?
McLeod: I really look beyond the type of property and focus much more on its location, the character of the building and the potential. These are what we are looking for and are fundamental in our plans to build a portfolio of luxury hotels that are individual and bespoke and offer varied products. Our strategy is not to concentrate on one market, but to develop an estate that appeals to different audiences, whether that is weddings, conferences & meetings, leisure or corporate customers.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: What brand values make a great boutique hotel?
McLeod: I don’t distinguish between the different types of hotel and I believe that, to build the Aurora brand and customer loyalty, it’s vitally important that the same values are consistently delivered throughout all the hotels. As a luxury hotel group our values are simple and these are to look after our customers, provide high quality and outstanding service but always at a competitive price.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: How do you promote customer loyalty at Aurora? Is loyalty easier or more difficult for high-end hoteliers?
McLeod: We have recently launched The Vault, which is a loyalty scheme that rewards our customers and offers them benefits across the Collection. However customer loyalty and retention is not just built by offering deals. It’s a competitive market so we have to focus on meeting and exceeding their expectations so that customers know they’ll be looked after whenever they visit an Aurora Hotel and they’ll keep coming back.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: Why have you pursued the “exclusive use” business model at some of your properties?
McLeod: Exclusive use suits some of our properties at the moment, however they all have massive potential and this is the key to the future. There are opportunities to develop the properties, to expand the services we offer and thus attract new audiences, and this is what’s really exciting.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: What are your thoughts on the trend for branded boutique hotels from big name operators? Are they too big for boutique?
McLeod: Nobody is too big. If ‘boutique’ fits their business model, their brand and they can deliver, then why not!
Hotel-industry.co.uk: What is your strategy for moving Aurora forwards?
McLeod: My aim is to continue building the Aurora Hotel Collection as a portfolio of luxury, individual character properties. At the moment, I’m targeting to have about 24 luxury properties and I currently have eight properties in the Aurora stable (if you include Hotel Colessio in Stirling – which will open at the end of this year), but I am still on the acquisition trail. Ultimately I want to create a hotel brand which is recognised, nationally and internationally, as Scotland’s most welcoming, exciting and dynamic luxury hotel and leisure group