When it comes to booking a hotel while traveling, consumers have lots of options. From flagship hotels that can hold over 1,000 people a night to bed-and-breakfast inns that offer a handful of rooms and boutique hotels that personalize your entire stay, the options seem to endless. So, what makes a traditional hotel different than a boutique? Many things, but they boil down to personalization, customization, and experience.

Traditional hotel chains, such as Marriott and Hilton Hotels, are found in numerous cities and towns across America. These brands offer travelers predictability of service, interior design, and amenities no matter the location. Guests know what to expect from the moment they book a room. Because these brands offer hotels nationally, and sometimes internationally, guests can utilize loyalty programs that can lead to free stays, upgrades, and other services.

Boutique hotels are smaller properties with less than 100 rooms and tend to be in unique locations within a city. Travelers have a more intimate and private experience as the goal of boutique hotels is to bring guests the luxuries offered at chain hotels but in a more intimate environment. These properties are often in historical or architecturally distinctive buildings that provide exclusive benefits that take advantage of the surrounding area.  They tend to partner with local communities to entice travelers with authentic and cultural experience in the heart of the city.

Technology has helped boutique hotels create an even more personalized experience for guests. Boutiques can use personalization technology to understand a consumer’s preferences better, provide more amenities than ever and reach foreign travelers. Guests are empowered by technology, and it is vital for boutique hotels to embrace the digital era but still maintain their intimacy and character.

An example of a way boutiques can differentiate themselves from the hospitality giants is found in The Silo Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, named best boutique hotel in 2018 by Jetsetter.  The hotel turned a 1920s era abandoned grain silo, once sub-Saharan Africa’s tallest building, into 28 guest rooms filled with custom furniture, oversized chandeliers and featured artwork. The bottom of the hotel is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Guests can tour the hotel’s private gallery of African contemporary artists or enjoy a drink on the hotel’s rooftop with panoramic views of Cape Town.

The boutique hotel industry may never provide the experience that chain hotels do at a low price. However, in an era where travelers, especially millennials, are looking for experience as much as anything else, these unique destinations may carve more than a niche in the near future.