by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | April 01, 2004

Merriam-Webster’s defines boutique primarily as “a small fashionable shop,” and in a sense, that’s what a boutique hotel is. Only, the goods being sold here are intimate, personal service, distinctive and idiosyncratic decor, and the opportunity for a group to take over the entire property.
Here is a roundup of boutique chains and consortiums with new offerings to tempt planners who are ready to think small.

Associated Luxury Hotels’
Watermark Hotel & Spa, San Antonio

Associated Luxury Hotels
Washington, D.C.
(866) 303-2544 

Founded 18 years ago, Associated Luxury Hotels International is a sales and marketing umbrella organization for a remarkably diversified portfolio of more than 70 upscale properties ranging in size from
six to 4,000 rooms in North America, Bermuda, the Caribbean and Mexico.
    A full-time sales force of 20, dedicated to meetings business, operates out of offices in Atlanta; Boston; New York City; Orlando; Washington, D.C.; and Irvine, Calif. Most ALHI hotels are independently owned, with the significant exception of Loews Hotels, added in 2003. “We see Loews as a unique, emerging brand in the North American meetings market, and a good fit for us,” says David Gabri, ALHI president and CEO.
    Also new in 2003 was the launch of Elite Retreat Buyout, a program that offers planners a full buyout at 15 properties of anywhere from six to 250 rooms.
    “We began seeing more corporations asking to take over our smaller hotels for private strategic meetings,” says Gabri. “By identifying hotels that meet the same criteria, we can better help planners match their meetings to the right venue.”
    Properties in the buyout program include the 99-room Watermark Hotel & Spa in San Antonio and the 48-suite Spa at Doral in Miami, the latter a self-contained resort within the Doral Golf Resort and Spa.
    ALHI’s website includes a list of individual hotels with links to their sites. There also are forms for submitting requests for proposal, plus “Luxury on Sale,” a revolving list of value dates for groups at various properties.
Every year ALHI publishes A Guide to Meetings in North America, a directory of its portfolio. Available at no charge through the group sales toll-free number, the guide features a three-page listing for each property, including hotel facilities, amenities and meeting space.