While the vast majority of CEOs, when away on business, still stay in big hotel chains such as Sheraton and Intercontinental, there's a growing body of executive types who would rather not sleep under a roof with 500 other guests, or breakfast in a dining room half the size of Belgium.
Over the past five years, the smaller boutique brands are finding more and more pinstripe suits on their doorstep, attracted to the personalised experience and quirky design elements.
"We've seen a lot of CEOs stay with us since we opened in December 2015," says Daniel Muhor, general manager, Primus Hotel, Sydney. "Recently we had Liu Shaoyong, the chairman of China Eastern Airline as a guest. He usually stays in one of the bigger brands when he comes to Sydney."
The boutique experience
Although with 172 rooms, Primus is at the upper size of what can be considered a boutique hotel, it's tiny compared to the majors, such as the whopping 707 roomed Towers of Chevron Renaissance in Surfers Paradise.
More importantly, the Primus does still provide that quintessential 'boutique experience' when it comes to décor, and service.
"The regulars who stay with us, say they walk through the door and everyone knows their name," says Muhor. "In any hotel with more than 200 rooms it's almost impossible to provide that level of individual service. Millennials these days care more about the overall hotel experience, and less about the loyalty programs pushed by the factory-style hotels."
Hotels with character
Since opening in 2012, QT Sydney has attracted more than its fair share of executives during the midweek period. "QT brand attracts a wide array of corporates particularly from the creative and media industries," says QT's PR director Stephen Howard. "Most see it as a more eclectic alternative to traditional hotel offerings."
One of QT Sydney's regulars is Adam Ferrier, global chief strategy officer for advertising agency, Cummins & Partners.
"I have stayed in corporate hotels in the past and it just feels a little depressing," he says. "You find yourself sitting alone in a soulless room having an existential crisis like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation."
"I always enjoy QT Sydney because it has a bit of spirit, and a sense of fun. Also, it attracts like-minded people."
A more personal touch
Craig Adamson, is director of The Leading Hotels of the World, a collection of almost 400 luxury independent hotels across the planet. He says there is definitely a burgeoning group of executives who are looking for a more unique experience when travelling for business. "Many of our properties have been run by families for generations, and have become part of the fabric of the city" says Anderson. "But often it simply comes down to privacy; the ability to have a quiet gin and tonic at the bar alone, without having to sit around with colleagues, as you would in a larger establishment."
And it's not just boutique hotels that are attracting the business crowd. Private homes and apartments are also becoming popular, especially with well-heeled C-suite executives. "To be accommodated in a luxury home, or penthouse close to your conference or meeting is a great option," says Terry Kaljo CEO Contemporary Hotels & Luxe Houses. "The extra space offers the freedom to entertain and host VIP clients, making the experience more memorable."
It's not hard to see the appeal. The Contemporary Hotels bespoke concierge service often arrange for in-house celebrity chefs with wait staff, or even private jet arrivals and yachts.
The boutique hotels wooing CEOs
1. Primus Hotel, Sydney
With 172 rooms, Sydney's newest 5-star hotel may be stretching the definition of boutique a tad, but it definitely feels like one when it comes to personal service and glam design. Occupying the old 1939 headquarters of the Sydney Water Board building and lovingly restored by Woods Bagot, the Primus is all about old-school style, from the magnificent terrazzo lobby to the uber-sexy rooftop pool and bar.
2. Ovolo, Woolloomooloo
The former W and Blue has been rebranded and given a cheerful makeover. The result is a hotel that's proving extremely popular with business executives. The appeal is obvious: The Ovolo is close enough to the city to be able to walk to that all important meeting, yet far enough away to feel like a break. The charming Edwardian finger wharf on which the Ovolo is located is home to several SMH-hatted restaurants, as well as Russell Crowe…but don't let that put you off.
3. QT, Sydney
Opened in 2012 and setting the benchmark for all largish, 5-star Sydney boutiques to follow. QT is located within two listed structures - the Gowings building and the State Theatre, both completed in 1929. Design is hard to pigeonhole, although 'eclectic theatrical vintage' might just cover it. Rooms feature frighteningly comfortable gel mattresses, and big city views. It may be a family friendly abode on weekends, but during the week you'll be lost in an eclectic mix of navy suited captains of industry and creative leaders.
4. Langham, Sydney
It might hail from a large hotel group, but at just 98 rooms (including one of the nation's most luxurious suites – the 122 square metre Observatory) Sydney's Langham ticks all the right boutique boxes for business. Following a $30 million revamp, the hotel exudes understated elegance. If you want to really impress a colleague, invite them to a Wedgewood afternoon tea in the swanky Palm Court. And if you're an executive who has just spent a hard day at the office, take a dip in the 20-metre indoor pool with star-dabbled ceiling. Truly cosmic.
5. East Hotel, Canberra
Executives who have to lobby politicians in the nation's capital, often opt to bed down at the very funky East Hotel. There are 140 serviced apartments (studios and two-bedders) making it the perfect abode for long-term stays. Many business folk turn up simply for the free jars of lollies in the lobby. Others appreciate the spacious rooms, super-comfortable king-beds, and popular watering hole – Joe's Bar.
6. Hotel Hotel, Canberra
The hotel that dragged Canberra kicking and screaming into the world of 21st century of design, is one of the most ground-breaking boutique developments in Australia for the past decade. Hotel Hotel is located on the first three levels of an architectural oddity (the Nishi Building) that locals have already dubbed 'The Pineapple' due to its segmented, off-kilter façade. There are 68 rooms in total (plus the hotel manages 28 of the residential apartments above). They are generously sized, and appointed with retro-fabulous furniture.
7. QT, Melbourne
One of Melbourne's newest boutique hotels is already getting plenty of praise for its funky industrial décor (that wallpaper!) and comfortable rooms. More than 3 years in the making, QT's fashionable CBD location is already attracting plenty of suits from Monday to Friday. No doubt many have heard about the top notch in-house dining at Pascale Bar and Grill.
8. Ovolo Laneways, Melbourne
This 43-room hotel in Little Bourke Street ticks all the right boxes for those business travellers wanting a personalised experience, while staying in the heart of the city, close to cafes, restaurants and Fitzroy Gardens. Ovolo has collaborated with local designers and artists to create generously proportioned suites with oodles of character. This is a boutique hotel in every sense of the word. Little wonder it pitches itself to young executives doing business in the Victorian capital.
9. La Corniche by Luxe Houses, Sydney
For the visiting CEO who needs to play host, La Corniche ticks all boxes. This prestigious waterfront penthouse invites guests in via a grand inlaid, gold and marble foyer through to almost touchable views of the Opera House, Bridge and Luna Park. CEO's are often international, so the X-factor of practically owning the harbour while visiting Sydney is irresistible. When done enjoying the views from land, call concierge to arrange one of the Luxe Houses's super yachts such as Murcielago, a 100ft Sunseeker.
Check out the gallery above to see eight of the best boutique hotels to stay on business trips.