Ariela and Frances Kiradjian on BLLA’s New Websites and Member Programs

Earlier this week, the Boutique Lifestyle & Leaders Association (BLLA) announced a soft relaunch of two of the association’s websites, as well as new programs for its members. LODGING connected with Frances and Ariela Kiradjian, the mother-daughter duo that helms BLLA, to talk about its new initiatives.

 So what’s going on with BLLA?

Ariela Kiradjian: We first spoke about this back in May, but finally, it’s not just talk! This year we have been supremely focused on the new membership program, and we’re really excited about that because it’s completely different from what we’ve done before. Our main goal is to continue gathering the world’s boutique hotels, and now our expanded community of other types of boutique businesses. We’re in the process of creating a platform on which they’re going to get exclusive content, which will range from Q&As to research reports and white papers. We also have a social network that is still in development.

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The ultimate end goal is a social network for all the awesome boutique hotels and boutique businesses in the world to connect with each other. We feel like that’s really important because that’s what our community has been asking for for 10 years. Also, we want to be able to give them a platform to ask questions. They don’t have a big corporate office like Marriott to help them. If they have a question about finding a revenue management team or whatever that is, they can ask the fellow community and ask like-minded people. We are also planning on launching a slew of new benefits, like an exclusive members-only newsletter, and we will be coming out with members only events at the end of next year.

What have you been focusing on as you launch this social network?

Ariela: It’ll be only for members. It’ll be extremely private. We vet our members. Not anyone or everyone can become a BLLA Stay Boutique member. You can go to register, but we have to approve you. It’s through that if you are an authentic boutique hotel, if you’re an authentic boutique business or boutique contact, you will be involved. Our advisory board will be in charge of creating questions and getting everyone engaged. We expect it’ll take about six months to really ramp up.

We also make sure to take our time. We don’t just look at something and say, “Okay, done.” Every little detail that has gone into launching this new program, it’s been a lot of work and a lot of double checking our work and asking people and getting data. We’ve been doing the background research for this since we started in 2009. We’ve been learning what our community wants and we’re finally giving them that.

When BLLA started, it was focused primarily on the hotel space. Now, it’s incorporating all kinds of boutique businesses. What’s that process like?

Ariela: It’s going amazingly. We invited other types of boutique concepts to join because there was one underlying theme and that theme was that they all shared the same customer. The same person that’s staying in a boutique hotel is the same customer who’s going down the street to the really cool boutique coffee shop. They’re the same customer that’s going out and working out and soul cycle. They all have a shared customer. As such, boutique businesses market and structure themselves in similar ways.

Frances Kiradjian: It’s funny because I was recently watching some of our conference videos, which we’re in the process of making a member-exclusive perk. I watched one from our February conference, where founders of businesses in the boutique space were speaking. One was speaking about data. Data analytics for a craft coffee company or a boutique spa is so similar to data analytics in a boutique hotel. There are so many similarities. It’s not just that they share the customers; there’s all kinds of best practices that they can learn from each other. They can also collaborate to take it to the next level—for example doing a pop up shop or having a spa day. There are so many wonderful things that they can do together.

What else does BLLA have in the pipeline?

Ariela: It’s not going to finished for a few months, but we’re working on something we call the Master List of Boutique Hotels and Boutique Concepts in the World. It’s a huge project and it’s going to take a few years to do all that research. But we’ve already launched the first because it’s really important that the industry knows which hotels are boutique and which hotels are not. We really need to educate the traveler and the industry on what is truly and authentically boutique. Having this master list will be good step in that direction because we have a definitive list. After all, just because you’re a small hotel does not mean that you’re boutique. One of our goals—the most important goal—is to make sure there’s authenticity behind this movement.