Boutique Hotel. Only the words get the imagination going. Before I dog eared the pages of Herbert Ypma’s first Hip Hotels book I was fascinated with the world 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 out of 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 had been invited to be the general manager of the things was yet still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity in order to be part of this unique world. The art, the design and style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. Annually later and I knew, I knew what many in the hotel business usually do not…what exactly it is really enjoy being the gm of a hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for anyone and amazing for many.
You will find a mini storm brewing within the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with this industry know about. With a lot more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are being made. The correct General Mangers work on the wrong hotels. Just like a square peg as well as a round hole, a few things just do not work. Who is to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first inform you that I have a very narrow take a look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe the term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is frequently misapplied. A Alex Mirza is not really based on just a hot design, as many would argue.
A boutique hotel must be a completely independent operation. The hotel must not be part of a collection which is greater than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you obtain into possessing a corporate hierarchical management style that is needed in managing a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my opinion they are not boutique hotels. They look like a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would strive to be as great as a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed with a rzaufu corporation. The property level management makes only a few decisions about what services are given and how the property is run. A boutique hotel should be operated as close to the actual physical operation as is possible. W’s and so on are amazing, but in my opinion don’t fit the concept of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels will also be constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never become bored and appear to stay in the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers made a decision to stay at a boutique hotel as a result of story, or perhaps the experience. The event is very important and should be unique and somewhat leading edge. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher amount of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market with what many consider to be the initial boutique hotel, this demographic found that they might use their travel budget have them a room with a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, leading edge interior decorating and perhaps an urban location. The market is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting out bleed into others. You may adequately locate a Fortune 500 CEO staying at a boutique hotel. It really is difficult to ignore the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share towards the boutique world. Some hotels are actually using the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations in order that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for instance. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete within the new marketplace more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and are working hard to be authentically local and independent of the major brand identification. I think others follows.
In the interest of this publication, I am going to utilize the luxury hotel as the comparison to the boutique as most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about becoming a general manager with a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it be that different? The fundamentals are the same. The overall manager is mainly responsible for the whole everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The true secret for kinds of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest at a high end luxury hotel expects so that you can connect with your accommodation general manager, as do the guests at a boutique property. It really is all high touch.
The main difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a few more hats than the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager might be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from around the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the last time you saw the typical manager of the Peninsula Beverly Hills having an arm filled with towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I know that this general manager of the Peninsula would do that in a second, should they were required to. The overall manager of a boutique hotel HAS to, as there is nobody else. The main one server working the restaurant is additionally probably responsible for caring for the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and on and on…. The general manager of the boutique hotel may also be even the HR director and breaks the top desk agents. In the event the gm is at California then this gm might find themselves breaking almost every position in order to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you are the GM of the hot boutique property in the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the the summer time is very low, you encourage a lot of your team to consider their vacations to get that vacation accrual off your books. One of those who takes you up on this really is your chief engineer, certainly one of two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes house to the motherland, Germany to get a week. Now because it’s hot does not necessarily mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists manage to love the heat, so it was using this steamy day in August. Since the sun starts to set, your guests make their way through the pool for their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone turns on their aged air conditioning units full blast to enable them to cool off. Your only other engineer went home during the day. It is at concerning this time that the 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, within your office doing the forecast to your 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 browse the calls and discover that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to fund a cell phone for him) is out of time -you cant reach him! So what should you do? You head to the rooms to try to fix them. Room by room you tackle the task of explaining in your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full which it will require at least two hours for the ice developed around the coils to melt. Then you definitely start looking for the circuit breakers, which 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 an instrument box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this exactly the same guy who had been pouring us Mimosas on the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest when you begin your repairs. After the craziness is finished you have a contact your mobile phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You trying to reach me boss?”. The next day, during your conference phone you listen to a speech about how general managers have to hang out with their guests instead of within their offices. Duh, you think as you try to scrub the grit out from below your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The look of three to five star service having a two star finances are the norm, and the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just lacks the cost to staff just like a true luxury property and everyone needs to pull their weight. The gm that does not is definitely not there long and hate every second of the lives.
Combined with the additional sweat and frustration for being a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely discover that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is highly 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 need to be acquired and perhaps a drink or two be mixed and served is really fun in their mind. The rewards of always being facing your friends and family are what most gm’s want anyway, but some are not really ready for this if they are tasked to help make which happen every single day.