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The Art Of a Life Well Lived …

Challenges for boutique properties during the recovery

Willem Niemeijer, CEO of YAANA Ventures and Director in The Orient & Occident Company, shares his insights on the challenges faced by ecolodges and boutique hotels in the fast-paced recovery after years of border closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In this blog, he outlines some of the major obstacles that these properties face, including increased flight tariffs, inflation, changing travel habits, and human resource shortages, and offers potential solutions for overcoming them.

Human Resources

Like in other parts of the travel and hospitality industry, one of the biggest challenges that boutique hotels face in the post-Covid recovery is staffing. With many employees leaving the hospitality industry during the pandemic, finding and retaining skilled workers has become a significant challenge. This shortage of talent can cause operational difficulties for hotels, such as reduced service quality, lower occupancy rates, and longer wait times.

To overcome this challenge, boutique hotels must focus on retaining their existing staff while offering attractive incentives to new hires. Providing a positive work environment, competitive wages, and flexible scheduling can help to attract and retain top talent. Making a training program, or even a hospitality school, a part of your property contributes to more resilience in the future.

Increased Flight Tariffs

Another challenge that boutique hotels face in the post-Covid recovery is the increased cost of travel. As flight tariffs rise, travelers may be deterred from booking trips, which could lead to reduced occupancy rates. Moreover, boutique hotels may find it challenging to offer competitive rates compared to larger hotel chains that can leverage their economies of scale.

To overcome this challenge, boutique hotels must focus on providing unique and personalized experiences that larger hotel chains cannot offer. For example, boutique hotels can highlight local attractions, offer exclusive access to cultural events, and provide guests with personalized recommendations for activities and create unique dining options on their property.

On the positive side (for the hospitality industry at least), a Bain & Company study found that high tariffs notwithstanding, air travel is seen to recover fully by 2024 and will continue to grow in the remainder of this decade, irrespective of the mitigation of CO2 costs.


Inflation is another challenge that small hotel properties face in the post-Covid recovery. Rising inflation can lead to increased operational costs, such as higher utility bills, food costs, and labor expenses. Moreover, with many travelers looking for cost-effective options, boutique hotels may find it challenging to maintain their pricing competitiveness.

To overcome this challenge, small luxury hotels must focus on maximizing their operational efficiency by adopting technology solutions that automate repetitive tasks, reducing waste, and optimizing their supply chain management. This can help to reduce operational costs while maintaining service quality and competitiveness.

Changing Travel Habits

Finally, the changing travel habits of post-Covid travelers present a significant challenge for independent hotels and ecolodges. As travelers become more health-conscious, they may prefer hotels that offer contactless services, enhanced cleaning protocols, and social distancing measures. Moreover, the pandemic has changed the way people work and travel, with many opting for longer stays in remote locations.

To overcome this challenge, boutique hotels must adapt to changing travel habits by implementing technology solutions that allow for contactless check-in, mobile ordering, and in-room entertainment options. Moreover, offering extended stay packages and promoting remote work options can help to attract longer-term guests.

The demand for longer stays in more remote areas is a great investment opportunity, in particular in Southeast Asia, where only a few hubs have been developed for tourism, while vast swaths of land with great potential are up for great sustainable development by forward-thinking investors.

In conclusion, boutique hotels face several challenges in the post-Covid recovery. However, by focusing on their unique value proposition, providing personalized experiences, maximizing operational efficiency, and adapting to changing travel habits, they can overcome these challenges and thrive in the new normal. The Orient & Occident Company is eminently equipped to support owners and management teams with these matters. 

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