Letter From the Editor: February 2015
Big brand travel versus the boutique travel business—how do we choose?
I love big travel brands. I have stayed in my fair share of Four Seasons Resorts, flown First Class on big-brand airlines, and eaten at the best dining establishments. How does the boutique business fit in or make itself known in today’s fast-paced, congested, social media-heavy world?
Recently, there have been some interesting movements in the travel industry by the big brands. Did you know Expedia bought stake in Trivago and owns Hotwire and Travelocity? Or that IHG bought Kimpton? And that Marriott acquired Delta Hotels in Canada? Do you know to whom your money is going? This isn’t to say these corporate buyouts are bad, but it leads me to question, where is the separation? How do we know we are getting a good deal when one brand owns or controls so much? Do we care about deals or are we more focused on what our friends on Facebook did or where they stayed?
This is where the boutique travel businesses come into the fold. Travelers like you and me are looking not only for a deal but also for a unique experience that we can share with our friends and family at home across all our social media platforms. Just because these businesses are not affiliated with brand names such as Marriott or American Airlines does not mean good customer service has fallen by the wayside. I’ve had some incredible customer service experiences at privately owned hotels that only have 18 rooms. And I’ve flown on a private charter where the captain is also the flight crew. (I know how that sounded; I’m talking smaller domestic airlines such as AirKenya in Africa, not private jet travel.) You don’t have to book a South African Airways partner to get to your domestic destinations. You might not get a gourmet meal or a hot towel to freshen up with, but you’ll get where you need to go and at a fair price—and maybe you’ll find a new favorite for the next time you visit that destination.
With the help of Google, anyone can search anything. So finding these smaller businesses can be quite easy as long as they have a website and you have little time to spend looking for them. I did a couple of searches for this article and easily found a few airlines I’d try and hotels that looked welcoming.
My point is, don’t be afraid to take a step back from the big brand you’ve grown to love once in a while and take a look around. You never know what hidden gem you might find that you can share with your friends back home.
Mary Anne Been