In the hotel business, boutique seems to define what’s hip. Perhaps one of the best examples of this phenomena can be seen in Las Vegas where older hotels are being repurposed and transformed into hip, chic and expensive places for the cool folks to stay while they enjoy the area.
But the trend is not limited to the US. We’re starting to see destinations across Mexico getting on board and diving into this rapidly growing trend. On a recent trip to Oaxaca, I decided to take the leap and see what all the fuss is about with these hotels.
Oaxaca, long a prime European tourist destination is one of those locations where, at least in theory, boutique hotels should thrive. With its colonial architecture, tourist friendly streets and a very cosmopolitan feel, this might be the perfect type of city for this trend to catch on in Mexico.
I booked a two night stay at Hotel Parador de Alcalá, located in the heart of the famous city center. I chose this location for two reasons. First, it’s location is excellent, right on Calle Macedonia Alcalá, where every night thousands of locals and visitors descend for an evening of revelry, dining and relaxing. I wanted to know if the noise of the street would reach my room.
Second, the place, in a restored 18th Century building is beautiful. From the striking yellow exterior walls, to the perfectly appointed interior courtyard, the place was beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to see and experience this place. It screamed boutique.
The moment I arrived, I was impressed. As soon as I got close to the hotel with my bags, I was greeted by smiling faces. Checking in, I was not only treated professionally, but graced with a friendliness and smile that, sadly, is frequently missing from many Mexican establishments. I’ve stayed in hotels across Mexico… this was by far one of the best front desk experiences I can remember.
After getting my room card, the hotel staff carried my bags up the stairs to my room. Sorry folks, there are no elevators here, so you either have to carry your own luggage up the steps, or hope the staff can help you. There are a few rooms on the ground level if you are unable to climb the stairs, or prefer to be closer to the action.
As we entered the room, my room card was inserted into a sort of master command slot, and the room came alive. Instantly the lights and air conditioning sprung to life revealing a small, but perfectly appointed room.
Equipped with a full size bed, small desk, two end tables, flat screen television, easy chair and a closet, the room had everything needed for a wonderful stay. It also had something missing from many hotels in Mexico. Plenty of electrical outlets. With cell phones, IPads, laptops, razors and whatever else needing charging, this was a welcome site. The shower, another frequent under performer in Mexico was spectacular. A massive rainwater shower head provided a wonderful bathing experience, complete with plenty of hot water. I might return for the shower alone!
But this hotel had much more to offer than just a great room. How about a small exercise room? Check. A business center where you can access the internet and your email? Check. Free WiFi? Check. Roof top swimming pool? Check! Yes, right in the center of downtown Oaxaca is a place with a roof top swimming pool. And believe me, on a hot March day, a cool dip is incredibly refreshing.
The room was comfortable and more importantly, quiet at night, although I must confess, my room was not on the street. Breakfast, which was included was wonderful. Not much better than a full plate of fruit to start the day.
As part of my time, I asked for a few minutes to talk with David Pozo, General Manager of the hotel and see some of the other rooms. David was very gracious as he showed me around and explained his, and the owners vision for this central city gem.
They hope to become a destination wedding hotel. Weddings, and even quinceañeras for that matter, are big business in Oaxaca and David shared that he hopes to fill a majority of weeks with people celebrating nuptials in this wonderful city. “Imagine” he said, “a wedding party taking all 22 rooms, dinner in the court yard and a cocktail reception on the roof.”
If you have the lana, as we say in Mexico, and were predisposed to spend it on your daughters wedding, this place would be fantastic.
But I still have a big question. Can Oaxaca support this level of hotel? While not at the price of the Camino Real, places like Parador de Alcalá and Casa Azul, both emblematic of the growing boutique trend in Oaxaca can be very spendy, sometimes costing upwards of $200.00 a night?
David explained that since this is a family owned business, with little or no debt, they can move slowly in picking up loyal customers. He also shared that their hope is a customer base weighted solidly towards the upscale Mexican tourist.
Would I return and perhaps more importantly, recommend this hotel to my friends? Without a doubt. In fact, I already suggested the place to a very close friend in Oaxaca who frequently has visitors in town.
Oaxaca needs places like this. Upscale, but not outrageously priced. Stunning yet accessible. While I am still not convinced that the domestic tourist market in Mexico will support these new boutique hotels, and their higher prices, I certainly hope David is right.
Because Hotel Parador de Alcalá is a winner.