Boutique Hotels and the New "Edamame Economy"

Posted by Drake, January 16, 2014
Drake Hotel Nuit Blanche

We're two for two with quoting the New York Times this week, and this time, there are two operative words we want to point out: "edamame economy."

In sum, that's the editorial view of veteran Times columnist David Brooks, specifically when it comes to the recent—as in the last thirty years— evolution of the hospitality scene. There's a new, emerging status quo, he suggests, and it's shifted away from the familiar, embracing the engaging, the challenging, the inspiring, and the unique.

So, knowing our own unique interests, you can imagine our ears perking up as if we'd just heard a dog whistle.

"Consumers now use hotels differently," Brooks writes. "They bring their laptops down to the lobby rather than working in their rooms. Fewer people bother to unpack their bags. Therefore, room desks and closets are less important, but having a happening lobby scene is more important."

While not altogether gone, the days of the Hilton, the Sheraton and the Howard Johnson are increasingly numbered, he argues, with travellers and scenesters choosing experience over expedience. Rather than being an extension of the mundane, another hurdle between airports, boutique hotels are becoming something of a destination themselves—especially for a certain set of consumers.

"Boutiques cater to the sort of affluent consumer who is produced by the information economy," he continues. "This is a consumer who is prouder of his cultural discernment than his corporate success."

They're people who want to surround themselves with a vibrant, rich way of experiencing their destination, not to simply shelter themselves at the end of a flight. This shift in the consumer market, favouring the idea of a cultural, creative and social nexus over the filing-cabinet of traditional jet-setting hotels, is what Brooks wryly describes as "the shift from the lima bean economy to the edamame economy."

Simple, it might be said, is out. Substance is in.

Posted in: Hotel + Travel

Tags: boutique hotels  David Brooks  Drake Hotel  New York Times