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We have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Frances Kiradjian, a true pioneer in the boutique hotel industry. Honored three times as one of the Top 100 People in Global Hospitality by the International Hospitality Institute, Frances is a visionary whose influence has reshaped the landscape of boutique hotels globally.

In 2009, Frances founded the Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA), the only official organization dedicated to promoting the growth and success of boutique lifestyle hotels. As a trendsetter, Frances has keen insights into the evolving boutique movement, welcoming a diverse network of entrepreneurs, businesses, and purveyors who enhance the boutique lifestyle. Her ability to forecast trends and connect with the biggest names in hospitality has solidified her reputation as a master networker.

Join us as we delve into the remarkable journey of Frances Kiradjian, exploring her unparalleled contributions to the boutique hotel world, and her vision about wellness and travel when it comes to boutique hotels worldwide

POH – Frank

Could you share your insights on the evolution of wellness tourism over the past few years and how it intersects with the broader travel and hospitality industry? What trends have you observed, and what do you think is driving these changes?


I think wellness is top of mind. But I also think that people who are traveling choose it. It depends on the destination they’re going to, the purpose, and who’s going with them. Is it with family? Are they traveling alone? So I think there’s a real purpose behind thinking about what wellness travel means to you.

Like, what are you trying to improve in your own life? Is it a diagnosis you have? Do you just want to feel better? Have you suddenly become aware that you’re not feeling well, or you’re aging, or whatever it is that’s bothering you? You want to do better and not just do the same old thing. You want to combine your travel with some kind of wellness experience, whether it be educational or transformational for you, depending on where you’re going and what the program is that you’re attending.

And also, what are your expectations regarding cost? There are great wellness programs out there, but they can be very expensive. It’s kind of up and down the scale. There are so many different things you can do from a travel perspective.

POH – Frank

You are the expert in the boutique hotel world. What do you see as the impact when boutique hotels offer wellness programming compared to already established retreat centers that specialize in wellness programs all the time? Specifically, what are boutique hotels doing to attract wellness travelers?


Well, I’m seeing a lot in the developing phase. New boutique hotel properties being developed definitely take that into consideration because it’s easier when you’re building a property from the ground up. If you’re already an established property, it’s not that hard to bring in experiences that can be wellness-labeled.

Wellness is no longer just a spa. A spa is a very small part of your wellness journey. So it could be planning, like we speak at our conferences, about regenerative food, regenerative farming, and who you are using to secure your food and beverage. What are you serving your customers?

As they get more educated, you need to be able to serve them what they want. If they’re looking at your menu and asking, “What oils are you using?” or “What are the ingredients in these products?” customers are getting more and more educated in that field. When they’re thinking of wellness, it could be as simple as, “What are you going to serve me while I’m at your hotel property?”

If your property doesn’t have a big spa with opportunities for a retreat, you can go locally and partner with various establishments to bring wellness programming to your hotel property. Programming is a big thing for boutique hotels. It’s much easier for them to have relationships with local establishments and create something very special. They can also bring in special programming to the hotel, like a special chef or speaker. Even small hotels can host a speaker in a lobby and make it a really cool event, where they talk about how to take care of yourself today and what you should be thinking about beyond just what you’re seeing on TV or Instagram.

POH – Frank

Boutique hotels are always the forerunners with trends and customized experiences—what a big hotel chain may not be able to do. Do you think they will also be the forerunners in promoting holistic wellness modalities?


So they have been the forerunners anyway, and it’s easier for them because they can make changes overnight if they want to. It’s completely up to them what they do. There are so many unique, beautiful, and amazing retreats and boutique properties with 50 or 60 rooms. For example, let’s take Amangiri in Utah, a beautiful, incredible property.

These properties don’t have to have hundreds of rooms. They are really focused on the experience and health journeys, with wellness being a big part of it. So, yeah, I think they are the forerunners because they’re able to adapt quickly, and people follow them.

POH – Frank

So you mentioned that wellness goes way beyond just a spa or a yoga class. Do you think people are also becoming open to incorporating plant medicine and psychedelics into their wellness journeys?


Yes. And you’re going to find out more from Ariela (Frances’s daughter) on this topic. She started a group called The Conscious Souls of Hospitality, and they had their first retreat in Ibiza a couple of months ago. Yes, these are definitely things they talk about. People are more open to it now, depending on where it’s legal. Of course, psychedelics are not legal everywhere.

But yes, if you watch these documentaries, and we’ve been watching quite a few of them, they’re talking about a whole generation, especially today, that is more open to it and how it’s come along, who the forerunners of that movement are, and why it works. Especially if you’re going through an illness journey, there are so many things you can do today to relieve your symptoms or turn the page on your health journey.

People expect some form of health journey in these retreats, whether it’s going back to your tribal roots or something else.

POH – Frank I definitely have to talk to her. The Conscious Souls of Hospitality in Ibiza. Can you tell me a little bit about what happened there? What did you do? Who came together there?

Frances It just so happened that we were sitting at our Women in Travel and Hospitality conference, and one of the owners Ariela is working with on a new development project in the Southern California desert mentioned that she was selling her place in Ibiza. So, they created this retreat, and only six weeks later, it was very transformative in many ways because it was a little different. They had all the traditional wellness activities like somatic yoga flows and tea ceremonies, but they also went behind the scenes at some pretty incredible hotel properties like The Standard, B&B, and Six Senses. They got to see from behind the scenes how these hotel properties create these amazing retreats.

POH – Frank There’s so much stuff you offer for boutique hotels with your association. Do you think you will also branch out and help boutique hotels with consulting on incorporating wellness and sustainability? Is this something you want to offer them as consulting and help them with?

Frances Normally, on something like that, we bring in consultants to help, but we’re always involved. For example, we have our boutique hotel owners conference in September, and the wellness journey is definitely part of the discussion over the two days. We’ll bring in experts to discuss how to make your property wellness-focused, what elements to consider, and what the costs could be, etc.

So, from A to Z, how do you do that, and why should you do that? Sustainability is important, of course. But I don’t think sustainability is yet top of mind for consumers. I don’t think they go searching specifically for sustainable hotels. There are very few who do, maybe in the corporate world a little bit. But I think it also has to resonate with them. It has to be part of their own journey. Being sustainable, I think, is a conscious choice.

POH – Frank

I was just invited to an amazing boutique hotel in Mexico, La Joya Sayulita. They focus more on offering group sales, specializing in bringing in groups for retreats instead of just single bookings for wellness seekers. What do you think is the deciding factor for a boutique hotel to choose between group bookings and individual bookings?


Yes, because if you make your hotel just for group bookings, it’s going to be difficult to keep up with your capital expectations. In fact, I’m working with a new property right now that is having that difficulty because they’re 100% focused on booking out the whole hotel. This makes it difficult for hotel investors because they need to see that return on investment.

So you might combine group bookings with travelers who are just looking for a two- or three-night stay. I think you have to be open to being flexible and not just making it a buyout-only option, as that could be difficult.

POH – Frank

Now, I have to ask something personal. How is your own personal wellness? What do you do to maintain it? You live in this really hectic, crazy world of constantly putting conferences together and traveling. What is your lifestyle recipe for finding inner balance? And my second question is because I heard about this project you’re working on, I’m curious about the spirituality aspect in your life. What do you do to stay grounded and balanced?


I try to balance work with my personal project, “” which is the legacy of my family that I’m working on diligently. My daughter is really good at making sure I don’t travel like I used to; she’s doing most of the traveling these days.

But if I were to go somewhere, she would ensure I’m going to a place that has some kind of program. I’d love to go to Chip Conley’s place eventually, but right now, it’s too hot for me in both locations. I try to do daily things like meditation. I went to the gym this morning and did breathing exercises. My husband and I have studied food for the last seven years, so we rarely go out to eat because we just can’t find things that are cooked properly.

Of course, there are some really good restaurants that follow healthy preparation practices, but we love studying it. Every week we’re watching some kind of program, whether it be on mushrooms, trees, or what have you. A lot of it is instigated by Ariela.

She is such an inspiration in studying all these things. She’s getting her degree in herbology in a week or two. She went to Costa Rica a month ago. She’s going somewhere every month. She was invited on this amazing journey with her herbology class.

Sometimes you have to look past your generation and really get some reflection. I think I was also inspirational in getting her to look outside the box, particularly in the hospitality industry, because I’m a trailblazer there.

I want to do other things because I think that’s where the world is going. Just one quick story. In 2018, we started bringing people other than hotels and investors to our conference in New York. We had some incredible retail, Ariana Huffington, and amazing people in food and beverage too.

And some people said, “Why do you have them on your stage? We don’t care about them.” I said, “You do care about them because otherwise, you’ll have tunnel vision.” Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to a conference in LA, and someone said, “Why didn’t you bring back all those fabulous people you had? They inspire hospitality.”

You need to look beyond your tabletop. You need to stretch your imagination and hear the stories of these incredible people. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck forever. That was music to my ears. It’s the same with hotels and their programming, especially in the health and wellness field.

POH – Frank

Frances, thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure talking to you. And I am looking forward to featuring more boutique hotels on