Boutique Hotel. Only 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 world of boutique hotel properties. “How cool will 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 out of 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 get the overall manager of the things was but still is just one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity simply to take part in this unique world. The art, the style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere using a “vibe”. Annually later and that i knew, I knew what many in the hotel business do not…what it is really want to be the gm of any hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everyone and amazing for a lot of.
You will find a mini storm brewing inside the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most associated with this industry understand. With more and more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, increasingly more bad hiring decisions are being made. The best General Mangers are working in the wrong hotels. Like a square peg and a round hole, a few things accomplish not work. Who may be to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First let me first tell you that I have got a narrow take a look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe that this term “Boutique” when utilized to describe a hotel is frequently misapplied. A Alexander Mirza is not based on simply a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel should be a completely independent operation. Your accommodation must not be part of a collection that is greater than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into using a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in managing a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my view these are not boutique hotels. They appear just like 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 a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes not many decisions about what services are given and how the property is run. A boutique hotel has to be operated as near the actual physical operation as is possible. W’s and so forth are amazing, but in my view don’t fit the definition of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels will also be constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never become bored and search to stay at the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers made a decision to stay at a boutique hotel because of the story, or perhaps the experience. The experience is essential and must be unique and somewhat cutting edge. The overall demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher degree of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market as to what many consider to get the first boutique hotel, this demographic found that they might use their travel budget have them a room with a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. As well as the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative interior design and in some cases an urban location. The market is expanding as well as the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You might perfectly look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying at a boutique hotel. It is tough to overlook the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share to the boutique world. Some hotels are actually using the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations to ensure that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete in the new marketplace more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and they are working hard to get authentically local and independent of a major brand identification. I think others will follow.
In the interest of this publication, I am going to make use of the luxury hotel since the comparison to the boutique since most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what is so different about being a general manager in a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it be that different? The basic principles are similar. The overall manager is responsible for the whole everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key for both types of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest with a top quality luxury hotel expects in order to communicate with the hotel general manager, as do the guests with a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a couple more hats compared to luxury general manager. A boutique general manager could be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from round the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the last time you saw the general manager in the Peninsula Beverly Hills having an arm packed with towels? Don’t get me wrong, I know that this general manager of the Peninsula would do that in a second, should they needed to. The overall manager of the boutique hotel Must, since there is nobody else. The main one server working the restaurant is also probably in charge of caring for the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and on and on…. The overall manager of a boutique hotel is oftentimes even the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. If the gm is within California then your gm may find themselves breaking almost every position in order to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of the hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the summer season is very low, you encourage a lot of your team to consider their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who goes high on this can be your chief engineer, among two engineers for your entire five acre property. He goes home to the motherland, Germany for any week. Now because it’s hot does not mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the heat, and so it was with this particular steamy day in August. Because the sun starts to set, your friends and family make their way from the pool for their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged ac units full blast so they can cool down. Your only other engineer has gone home for the entire day. It is actually at concerning this time that this calls start coming in. The ac units are freezing up. The existing units freeze up if they are excited full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you might be, within your office doing the forecast for the 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 check out the calls and find out that you require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cellular phone (you cant afford to pay for a cellular phone for him) is out of time -you cant reach him! So what do you do? You head to the rooms to try to fix them. Room by room you tackle the process of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and that it will require at least two hours for your ice developed across the coils to melt. Then you definitely start to look for your circuit breakers, that are scattered all around the 60 year old property. When you make it to the last room the guest who answers the doorway almost screams on the sight from the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the same guy who has been pouring us Mimosas on the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest while you begin your repairs. After the craziness is over you have a ask your cell phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The very next day, during your conference phone you listen to a speech regarding how general managers have to hang out with their guests as opposed to inside their offices. Duh, you think while you try to scrub the grit from beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of any boutique hotel are unique. The look of 3 to 5 star service using a two star funds are the standard, and also the gm’s get caught in the middle. The boutique hotel just lacks your budget to staff like a true luxury property and everyone has to pull how much they weigh. The gm who does not will never be there long and hate every second with their lives.
Combined with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the right individual, they will find that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is very empowering. The gm can make a large amount of decisions by themselves, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The fact that some towels have to be found and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is actually fun in their mind. The rewards of always being facing your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, however, many usually are not really ready because of it if they are tasked to help make that happen every single day.