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 fascinated 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 magnificent photos. Spending so much time 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 be the typical manager of the things was but still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity in order to be a part of this excellent world. The art, the design and style, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere using a “vibe”. A year later and I knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business do not…what it is really want to be the gm of a hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everyone and amazing for most.
You will find a mini storm brewing in the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with this industry are aware of. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, a lot more bad hiring decisions are being made. The correct General Mangers work in the wrong hotels. Just like a square peg and a round hole, some things simply do not work. Who may be to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First let me first tell you that I have a very narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I believe that the term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A PR Newswire is not really defined by just a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel must be an unbiased operation. The resort should not be element of a collection that is more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into having a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in running a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. For me these are generally not boutique hotels. They search like a boutique hotel, even think that one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great as a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by way of a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes very few decisions about what services are given and how the house is run. A boutique hotel has to be operated as near to the actual physical operation as is possible. W’s and so forth 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 lose interest and appear to remain on the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers decided to remain at a boutique hotel because of the story, or the experience. The event is vital and must be unique and somewhat cutting edge. The typical demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, function in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate an increased degree of service. When Ian Schrager entered the market as to what many consider to become the initial boutique hotel, this demographic found that they could use their travel budget have them a room in a cool, hip hotel as opposed to a generic mid-level branded property. And also the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, cutting edge home design and in many cases an urban location. The marketplace is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You may perfectly find a Fortune 500 CEO being at a boutique hotel. It is actually tough to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to avoid losing market share for the boutique world. Some hotels are in fact using the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations in order that their properties are authentically boutique. Take 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 making an effort to become 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 for the boutique because most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what is so different about being a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it actually be that different? The basic principles are similar. The general manager is responsible for the entire everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The true secret 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 hotel general manager, as perform the guests in a boutique property. It really is all high touch.
The main difference is the fact 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 as well as 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 having an arm filled with towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I know the general manager in the Peninsula would do this in a second, when they had to. The typical manager of any 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 overall manager of the boutique hotel may also be also the HR director and breaks the top desk agents. When the gm is within California then this gm might find themselves breaking almost every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of a hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy throughout the summer is suprisingly 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 can be your chief engineer, among two engineers to your entire five acre property. He goes home to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now because it’s hot does not mean which you don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the temperature, and so it was using this steamy day in August. As the sun begins to set, your guests make their way through the pool to their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioners full blast to enable them to cool off. Your only other engineer went home for the day. It is at concerning this time the calls start to arrive. The ac units are freezing up. The old units freeze up when they are turned on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you might be, inside 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 new front desk agent. You look into the calls and see that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cell phone (you cant afford to cover 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 challenge of explaining in your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and this it should take at the very least a couple of hours for that ice developed around the coils to melt. Then you start looking for that circuit breakers, which can be scattered all over the 60 years old property. By the time you make it to the last room the guest who answers the doorway almost screams in 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 on the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. When the craziness has ended you get a call on your cellular phone. Yes, it is actually your engineer returning your call. “You trying to reach me boss?”. The following day, throughout your conference contact you pay attention to a speech about how general managers need to hang out with their guests instead of inside their offices. Duh, you believe when you attempt to scrub the grit from beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of three to five star service using a two star finances are the norm, as well as the gm’s get caught at the center. The boutique hotel just lacks the cost to staff such as a true luxury property and everyone has to pull their weight. The gm that does not is definitely not there long and hate every second of their lives.
Together with the additional sweat and frustration to be a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely find that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is extremely empowering. The gm can make a great deal of decisions on their own, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The reality that some towels need to be acquired and maybe a drink or two be mixed and served is in fact fun in their mind. The rewards of always being facing your guests are what most gm’s want anyway, but some usually are not really ready for this if they are tasked to create that happen every single day.