Boutique Hotel. Only the words get the imagination going. Just before I dog eared the pages of Herbert Ypma’s first Hip Hotels book I was captivated by the industry of boutique hotel properties. “How cool will it be to be the general manager of the cool boutique hotel?” I often found asking myself as I flipped through the pages of his magnificent photos. Working hard to make a career out of the hotel industry, I was convinced that I just had to be associated with a boutique hotel someday.
That someday came true, if in 2004 I had been invited to be the typical manager of what was but still is just one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to be a part of this amazing world. The art, the design and style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. A year later and i also knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business usually do not…what it is really like to be the gm of any hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for anyone and amazing for most.
You will find a mini storm brewing within the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most associated with this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are made. The correct General Mangers are working in the wrong hotels. Just like a square peg and a round hole, some things accomplish not work. Who may be to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first inform you that I have got a narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I believe the term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is often misapplied. A prnewswire.com will not be defined by just a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel must be an independent operation. Your accommodation must not be element of a collection which is a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into possessing a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in managing a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels as an example. In my opinion these are generally not boutique hotels. They look such as a boutique hotel, even think that one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great as being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by way of a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes not many decisions as to what services are offered and how the home is run. A boutique hotel should be operated as near to the actual physical operation as you can. W’s and the like are fantastic, but in my opinion don’t fit the concept of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never become bored and appear to keep at the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers decided to stay in a boutique hotel due to the story, or even the experience. The knowledge is essential and must be unique and somewhat innovative. The overall demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher amount of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market in what many consider to get the first boutique hotel, this demographic discovered that they might use their travel budget get them a room in a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative home design and perhaps an urban location. The market is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You could adequately look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying at a boutique hotel. It is hard to overlook the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling in order to avoid losing market share towards the boutique world. Some hotels are actually utilizing the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations so that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away to make sure they could operate and compete inside the new marketplace more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and they are working hard to be authentically local and independent of a major brand identification. I do believe others will follow.
In the interest of this publication, I will utilize the luxury hotel as the comparison to the boutique since most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about being a general manager with a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it really be that different? The basics are the same. The general manager is mainly responsible for the complete daily operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key both for varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest in a top end luxury hotel expects so that you can interact with your accommodation general manager, as carry out the guests in a boutique property. It really is all high touch.
The real difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears only a few more hats compared to the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager may be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am as well as at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from round the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the final time you saw the typical manager of the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm packed with towels? Don’t get me wrong, I know that this general manager from the Peninsula would do this in a second, when they had to. The overall manager of a boutique hotel HAS to, since there is nobody. The main one server working the restaurant is also probably accountable for taking care of the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and on and on…. The general manager of any boutique hotel may also be also the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. When the gm is within California then your gm may find themselves breaking just about every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of any hot boutique property inside the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the the summer time is suprisingly low, you encourage lots of your team to adopt their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who goes up on this can be your chief engineer, one of two engineers to your entire five acre property. He goes the place to find the motherland, Germany for any week. Now simply because it’s hot does not necessarily mean which you don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the heat, and so it was using this steamy day in August. Since the sun actually starts to set, your guests make their way from the pool for their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone turns on their aged air conditioning units full blast to allow them to cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home during the day. It is actually at about this time that the calls start arriving. The ac units are freezing up. The old units freeze up while they are turned on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you might be, within your office doing the forecast for your weekly corporate status report call once the front desk calls you in a panic, “the guests are flipping out” cries your brand new front desk agent. You look into the calls and discover you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cell phone (you cant afford to cover a cellular phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So what do you do? You go to the rooms to see if you can fix them. Room by room you tackle the challenge of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and this it will take at least 2 hours for the ice developed around the coils to melt. Then you certainly begin looking for your circuit breakers, that are scattered throughout the 60 year-old property. Once you get to the last room the guest who answers the door almost screams on the sight in the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box having a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who had been pouring us Mimosas on the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. When the craziness is over you have a contact your mobile phone. Yes, it is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The very next day, during your conference call you tune in to a speech regarding how general managers have to hang out with their guests rather than inside their offices. Duh, you think as you try to scrub the grit out of beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The look of three to five star service with a two star funds are the norm, and also the gm’s get caught in the middle. The boutique hotel just does not have the budget to staff just like a true luxury property and everybody must pull their weight. The gm that does not will not be there long and hate every second with their lives.
Together with the additional sweat and frustration for being a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the best individual, they will discover that the entrepreneurial management style required of them is extremely empowering. The gm can make a lot of decisions by themselves, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The truth that some towels need to be picked up and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is really fun for them. The rewards of always being in front of your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, however, many are not really ready because of it while they are tasked to make that happen every day.