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 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 magnificent photos. Working hard 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, while in 2004 I had been invited to become the overall manager of the things was and still is one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to take part in this excellent world. The art, the design, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere using a “vibe”. Annually later and that i knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business usually do not…what it is really want to be the gm of a hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for anyone and amazing for a lot of.
There exists a mini storm brewing inside the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with this industry are aware of. With more and more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, a lot more bad hiring decisions are being made. The best General Mangers are working on the wrong hotels. Like a square peg along with a round hole, some things accomplish not work. Who may be to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First let me first let you know that I have a very narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I think that the term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is frequently misapplied. A Savant Hotel is not based on simply a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be an unbiased operation. The hotel must not be element of a collection that is certainly a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into possessing a corporate hierarchical management style that is needed in operating a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels as an example. In my view these are generally not boutique hotels. They look such as a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would make an effort to be as great as 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 just how the house 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 fantastic, but in my view don’t fit the concept of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never become bored and search to keep in the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers decided to remain at a boutique hotel due to the story, or even the experience. The experience is essential and must be unique and somewhat leading edge. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, function in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market as to what many consider to get the initial boutique hotel, this demographic learned that they can use their travel budget buy them an area 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, cutting edge home design and in some cases an urban location. The market is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You could adequately locate a Fortune 500 CEO being at a boutique hotel. It really is tough to ignore the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling in order to avoid losing market share towards 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. Take the Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an 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 simply “The Kahala” and are making an effort to become authentically local and independent of any major brand identification. I think others will follow.
For the sake of this publication, I will make use of the luxury hotel because the comparison to the boutique as most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about being a general manager with a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it be that different? The basics are similar. The overall manager is mainly responsible for the entire everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The true secret for types of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest at a top quality luxury hotel expects in order to connect with the resort general manager, as perform the guests at 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 and at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from around the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the very last time you saw the general manager in the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm packed with towels? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this general manager of the Peninsula would do that in a second, should they needed to. The typical manager of a boutique hotel Must, as there is nobody. Usually the one server working the restaurant is also probably responsible for looking after the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The overall manager of any boutique hotel is sometimes even the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. In the event the gm is within California then this gm may find themselves breaking just about every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of any hot boutique property inside the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the summer season is suprisingly low, you encourage a lot of your team to take their vacations to get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who takes you high on this really is your chief engineer, certainly one of two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes home to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now because it’s hot does not always mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists seem to love the warmth, so it was with this particular steamy day in August. Because the sun starts to set, your friends and relatives make their way from your pool for their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioning units full blast to enable them to cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home during the day. It is at about this time that the calls start arriving. The ac units are freezing up. The existing units freeze up while they are switched on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you might be, in your office doing the forecast for 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 find out you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cell phone (you cant afford to fund a cell phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So what do you do? You visit the rooms to see if you can fix them. Room by room you tackle the task of explaining to your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and this it will take a minimum of a couple of hours for the ice established across the coils to melt. Then you start to look for that circuit breakers, that are scattered all around the 60 year-old property. Once you make it to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams at the sight in the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box having a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this exactly the same guy who has been pouring us Mimosas in the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest when you begin your repairs. Once the craziness has ended you receive a contact your cell phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The very next day, while on your conference call you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers must hang out with their guests instead of inside their offices. Duh, you imagine as you try to scrub the grit out of under your fingernails.
The financial realities of any boutique hotel are unique. The look of 3 to 5 star service with a two star budget is the norm, and also 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 needs to pull their weight. The gm who does not will not be there long and hate every second with their lives.
Combined with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the right individual, they will find that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is very empowering. The gm can easily make a large amount of decisions independently, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The reality that some towels have to be found and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is in fact fun in their mind. The rewards of always being in front of your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, but many are not really ready for it while they are tasked to make which happen every day.