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 captivated by the realm of boutique hotel properties. “How cool will it be to be the general manager of the 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 from the hotel industry, I was convinced that I just had to be associated with a boutique hotel someday.
That someday came true, if in 2004 I was invited to become the typical manager of the items was yet still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity in order to be a part of this unique world. The art, the style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. Annually later and i also knew, I knew what many within the hotel business usually do not…what it is really enjoy being the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everyone and amazing for a lot of.
There exists a mini storm brewing in the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most associated with this industry are aware of. With a lot more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, increasingly more bad hiring decisions are now being made. The correct General Mangers will work in the wrong hotels. Such as a square peg as well as a round hole, some things just do not work. Who is to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First let me first tell you that I have a very narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe the term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A PR Newswire is not really based on just a hot design, as much would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be an unbiased operation. The resort must not be element of a collection that is certainly a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into using a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in running a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my opinion these are generally not boutique hotels. They appear just like a boutique hotel, even think that one. Many boutique hotels would make an effort to be as great being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes only a few decisions about what services are offered and how the house is run. A boutique hotel must be operated as near the actual physical operation as is possible. W’s and so on are fantastic, but in my opinion don’t fit the meaning of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never get bored and appear to remain on the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers made a decision to remain at a boutique hotel as a result of story, or perhaps the experience. The experience is essential and must be unique and somewhat cutting edge. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate an increased degree of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market as to what many consider to become the initial boutique hotel, this demographic learned that they could use their travel budget get them an area with a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. And also the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, leading edge interior design and in some cases an urban location. The marketplace is expanding and also the demographic model explained earlier is starting out bleed into others. You could perfectly look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It is tough to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share to the boutique world. Some hotels are in fact utilizing the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations in order that their properties are authentically boutique. Take the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for instance. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete in 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 will utilize the luxury hotel since the comparison towards the boutique as most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about being a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it really be that different? The fundamentals are identical. The overall manager is mainly responsible for the entire everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key both for varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest at a top end luxury hotel expects to be able to interact with your accommodation general manager, as do the guests at a boutique property. It is actually all high touch.
The real difference is the fact that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a couple more hats than the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager may be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and also at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from across the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the very last time you saw the general manager from the Peninsula Beverly Hills with an arm filled with towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I know that this general manager in the Peninsula would accomplish this in a second, should they were required to. The general manager of the boutique hotel Must, because there is nobody. The 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 general manager of any boutique hotel may also be even the HR director and breaks the front desk agents. If the gm is at 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 any hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the the summer time is really low, you encourage a lot of your team to take their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who takes you high on this really is your chief engineer, among two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes house to the motherland, Germany to get a week. Now just because it’s hot does not necessarily mean that you don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the heat, so it was using this type of steamy day in August. Because the sun begins to set, your friends and family make their way from 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 really is at about this time that the calls start to arrive. The ac units are freezing up. The existing units freeze up when they are turned on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you are, within 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 new front desk agent. You browse the calls and see that you require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to cover a cellular phone for him) has run 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 for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and this it will take at the very least a couple of hours for that ice developed across the coils to melt. Then you start to look for the circuit breakers, which are scattered all around the 60 year old property. By the time you get to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams at the sight of the sweaty, dirty general manager holding something box using a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the same guy who has been pouring us Mimosas in the pool today honey?” asks the guest while you begin your repairs. Once the craziness is over you have a contact your mobile phone. Yes, it is your engineer returning your call. “You seeking to reach me boss?”. The following day, while on your conference phone you pay attention to a speech about how exactly general managers need to hang out with their guests instead of in their offices. Duh, you imagine when you attempt to scrub the grit out from beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The appearance 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 budget to staff just like a true luxury property and everyone has to pull their weight. The gm that does not will not be there long and hate every second of their lives.
Together with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is extremely 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 truth that some towels need to be found and perhaps a drink or two be mixed and served is in fact fun in their mind. The rewards of always being before your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, but some are not really ready for it while they are tasked to create which happen every single day.