Boutique Hotel. Just the words get the imagination going. Even 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 would it be to be the general manager of a cool boutique hotel?” I often found asking myself as I flipped through the pages of his spectacular photos. Making an effort to make a career from the hotel industry, I was convinced that I just had to be associated with a boutique hotel someday.
That someday came true, when in 2004 I used to be invited to be the general manager of what was yet still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity simply to be a part of this excellent world. The art, the design, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. Annually later and that i knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business tend not to…what it is really like to be the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for anyone and amazing for a lot of.
You will find a mini storm brewing inside the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved in this industry understand. With a lot more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are now being made. The best General Mangers work on the wrong hotels. Like a square peg and a round hole, some things simply do not work. That is to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first let you know that I have got a narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I believe that the term “Boutique” when utilized to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A PR Newswire is not defined by merely a hot design, as many would argue.
A boutique hotel must be a completely independent operation. Your accommodation should not be part of a collection that is certainly a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you obtain 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 view these are generally not boutique hotels. They search like a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great as a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by a rzaufu corporation. The home level management makes very few decisions in regards to what services are available and just how the property is run. A boutique hotel has to be operated as close to the actual physical operation as you can. W’s and so forth are amazing, but for me don’t fit the meaning of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, ensuring that their fickle guest never get bored and appear to remain at the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers chose to stay in a boutique hotel due to the story, or perhaps the experience. The knowledge is essential and should be unique and somewhat cutting edge. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, work in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate an increased amount of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market in what many consider to become the first boutique hotel, this demographic discovered that they might use their travel budget buy them a room with a cool, hip hotel as opposed to a generic mid-level branded property. As well as the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, leading edge interior decorating and in many cases an urban location. The marketplace is expanding as well as the demographic model explained earlier is beginning to bleed into others. You might perfectly locate a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It is tough to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to avoid losing market share for the boutique world. Some hotels are in reality taking the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations so that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so that they could operate and compete in the new marketplace more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and are working hard to be authentically local and independent of a major brand identification. I think others follows.
In the interests of this publication, I am going to make use of the luxury hotel since the comparison towards the boutique since most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about becoming a general manager in a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it be that different? The basic principles are identical. The general manager is mainly responsible for the whole everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The key both for kinds of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest at a top quality luxury hotel expects in order to connect with the hotel general manager, as carry out the guests at 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 luxury general manager. A boutique general manager could be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and also at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from across the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the last time you saw the overall manager in the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm packed with towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand that this general manager from the Peninsula would accomplish this in a second, when they had to. The general manager of the boutique hotel Must, as there is nobody. Usually the one server working the restaurant is also probably accountable for caring for the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The overall manager of the boutique hotel may also be even the HR director and breaks the front desk agents. In the event the gm is within California then this gm may find themselves breaking almost every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you are the GM of any hot boutique property in the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the summer is very low, you encourage plenty of your team to adopt their vacations to get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who takes you up on this can be your chief engineer, certainly one of two engineers to your entire five acre property. He goes the place to find the motherland, Germany to get a week. Now simply because it’s hot does not necessarily mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists manage to love the warmth, so it was using this steamy day in August. As the sun starts to set, your guests make their way through the pool with their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioners full blast to allow them to cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home during the day. It is at concerning this time the calls start to arrive. The ac units are freezing up. The old units freeze up if they are excited full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you are, in your office doing the forecast for the weekly corporate status report call when the front desk calls you in a panic, “the guests are flipping out” cries your brand-new front desk agent. You check out the calls and discover that you require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cell phone (you cant afford to fund a mobile phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So what do you do? You visit the rooms to try to fix them. Room by room you tackle the task of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and this it will take a minimum of 2 hours for the ice built up around the coils to melt. Then you begin looking for your circuit breakers, which can be scattered all around the 60 years old property. When you make it to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams at the sight of the sweaty, dirty general manager holding an instrument box having a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who was pouring us Mimosas in the pool today honey?” asks the guest when you begin your repairs. Once the craziness is finished you receive a call on your cell phone. Yes, it is your engineer returning your call. “You seeking to reach me boss?”. The very next day, throughout your conference phone you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers have to hang out with their guests instead of in their offices. Duh, you believe as you try to scrub the grit out from below your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of three to five star service having a two star funds are the standard, and also the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just does not have the cost to staff such as a true luxury property and everyone needs to pull how much they weigh. The gm who does not will never 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 right individual, they are going to realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is very empowering. The gm can easily make a lot of decisions independently, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The reality that some towels need to be found and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is actually fun in their mind. The rewards of always being before your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, but some are not really ready for this when they are tasked to make that happen every day.