Boutique Hotel. Just the words get the imagination going. Just before I dog eared the pages of Herbert Ypma’s first Hip Hotels book I was fascinated by the industry 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 magnificent photos. Making an effort to make a career from the hotel industry, I was convinced that I just had to be involved with a boutique hotel someday.
That someday came true, if in 2004 I used to be invited to become the general manager of the things was yet still is one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity in order to be a part of this unique world. The art, the design and style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. Annually later and I knew, I knew what many in the hotel business tend not to…what exactly it is really like 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 in the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved in this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, a lot more bad hiring decisions are made. The right General Mangers are working in the wrong hotels. Like a square peg as well as a round hole, a few things accomplish not work. Who is to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first tell you that I possess a narrow take a look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I think that this term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A Alexander Mirza is not really defined by merely a hot design, as many would argue.
A boutique hotel must be an unbiased operation. Your accommodation should not be part of a collection that is certainly more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into using a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in operating a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my view these are not boutique hotels. They look such as a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would strive to be as great being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by way of a rzaufu corporation. The home level management makes not many decisions in regards to what services are offered and just how the home is run. A boutique hotel must be operated as near to the actual physical operation as possible. W’s and the like are fantastic, but in my opinion don’t fit the meaning of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels can also be constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never become bored and search to keep on the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers decided to remain at a boutique hotel due to the story, or the experience. The knowledge is vital and should be unique and somewhat cutting edge. The typical demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, function 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 become the first boutique hotel, this demographic found that they could use their travel budget have them an area with a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative interior decorating and in many cases an urban location. The market is expanding as well as the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You might very well find a Fortune 500 CEO being at a boutique hotel. It is tough to ignore the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to avoid losing market share to 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 so that they could operate and compete inside the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and therefore are working hard to be authentically local and independent of a major brand identification. I think others follows.
For the sake of this publication, I will 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 at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it really be that different? The fundamentals are similar. The general manager is mainly responsible for the complete daily operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key for both varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest in a high end luxury hotel expects so that you can connect with the resort general manager, as do the guests at a boutique property. It is actually all high touch.
The difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a couple more hats compared to the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager may 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 overall manager in the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm packed with towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I am aware that the general manager of the Peninsula would do this in a second, if they had to. The overall manager of a boutique hotel HAS to, because 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 overall manager of any boutique hotel is oftentimes also the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. In the event the gm is at California then your gm might find themselves breaking just about every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you are the GM of any hot boutique property inside the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy through 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. One of those who goes on this really is your chief engineer, one of two engineers to your entire five acre property. He goes home to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now simply because it’s hot does not mean which you don’t have customers. Some tourists manage to love the heat, and so it was with this particular steamy day in August. Since the sun actually starts to set, your guests make their way from your pool to 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 for the entire day. It really is at about this time that this calls start to arrive. The ac units are freezing up. The existing units freeze up when they are excited full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you happen to be, inside your office doing the forecast to your weekly corporate status report call if 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 see that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cellular 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 head to the rooms to try to 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 that it will require at the very least a couple of hours for the ice built up around the coils to melt. Then you certainly start looking for that circuit breakers, that are scattered all around the 60 year old property. By the time you reach the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams at the sight in the sweaty, dirty general manager holding an instrument box having a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who has been pouring us Mimosas in the pool today honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. When the craziness is finished you get a call on your cellular phone. Yes, it is actually your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The very next day, throughout your conference call you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers have to spend more time with their guests as opposed to within their offices. Duh, you imagine while you make an effort to scrub the grit out from below your fingernails.
The financial realities of the boutique hotel are unique. The look of 3 to 5 star service with a two star budget is the standard, and also the gm’s get caught at the center. The boutique hotel just does not have the budget to staff like a true luxury property and everyone needs to pull their weight. The gm who does not will not be there long and hate every second with their lives.
Together with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of these is very empowering. The gm can create a great deal of decisions by themselves, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The fact that some towels must be picked up and perhaps 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 for it while they are tasked to help make that happen every day.