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 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. Spending so much time 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, when in 2004 I used to be 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 just to be part of this excellent world. The art, the design, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. Per year later and i also knew, I knew what many in the hotel business do not…what it is really like to be the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for anyone and amazing for most.
There exists a mini storm brewing within the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most associated with this industry are aware of. With more and more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are being made. The right General Mangers work in the wrong hotels. Like a square peg as well as a round hole, several things accomplish not work. That is to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first let you know that I possess a narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe that this term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A Alex Mirza is not really defined by merely a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be an unbiased operation. The resort must not be a part of a collection which is a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into possessing a corporate hierarchical management style that is needed in operating a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for example. In my view they are not boutique hotels. They appear such as a boutique hotel, even think that one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great as being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed with a rzaufu corporation. The home level management makes only a few decisions as to what services are offered and exactly 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 meaning of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels will also be constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never lose interest and appear to keep on the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers made a decision to stay at a boutique hotel because of the story, or perhaps the experience. The knowledge is vital and should be unique and somewhat leading edge. The typical demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, work in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the marketplace with what many consider to get the very first boutique hotel, this demographic discovered that they can use their travel budget have them an area in a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative home design and in some cases an urban location. The market is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting out bleed into others. You might very well find a Fortune 500 CEO being at a boutique hotel. It is actually hard to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to avoid losing market share for 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 of more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and they are making an effort to become authentically local and independent of the major brand identification. I think others follows.
In the interest of this publication, I am going to use the luxury hotel since the comparison for the boutique since most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about as being a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it be that different? The basics are the same. The typical manager is responsible for the complete day to day operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key for kinds of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest at a high end luxury hotel expects to be able to communicate with the hotel general manager, as carry out the guests at a boutique property. It really is all high touch.
The difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a few more hats compared to luxury general manager. A boutique general manager could be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from across the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the final time you saw the overall manager from the Peninsula Beverly Hills having an arm filled with towels? Don’t get me wrong, I am aware the general manager from the Peninsula would do that in a second, should they had to. The typical manager of the boutique hotel Must, since there is nobody. Usually the one server working the restaurant can also be probably accountable 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 even the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. When the gm is in California then this gm might find themselves breaking pretty much 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 the summer time is very low, you encourage plenty of your team to consider their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who takes you high on this can be your chief engineer, certainly one of two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes house to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now just because it’s hot does not always mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the heat, and so it was with this particular steamy day in August. Since the sun begins 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 so they can cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home for the entire day. It is actually at concerning this time that the calls start coming in. The ac units are freezing up. The previous units freeze up when they are switched on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you might be, inside your office doing the forecast for 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 see you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cell phone (you cant afford to fund a mobile phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So where do you turn? 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 and that it will require at least two hours for the ice developed across the coils to melt. Then you 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 from the sweaty, dirty general manager holding something box having a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who was pouring us Mimosas in the pool today honey?” asks the guest when you begin your repairs. Once the craziness is finished you get a contact your cell phone. Yes, it is actually your engineer returning your call. “You seeking to reach me boss?”. The very next day, throughout your conference call you tune in to a speech about how exactly general managers must hang out with their guests instead of inside their offices. Duh, you imagine while you try to scrub the grit out of below your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The look of three to five star service with a two star budget is the norm, as well as the gm’s get caught at the center. The boutique hotel just does not have the budget to staff just like a true luxury property and everybody has to pull their weight. The gm that does not is definitely not there long and hate every second of their lives.
Along with the additional sweat and frustration to be a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the ideal individual, they are going to realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is highly 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 reality that some towels have to be acquired and maybe a drink or two be mixed and served is actually fun in their mind. The rewards of always being in front of your guests are what most gm’s want anyway, but many are certainly not really ready for this when they are tasked to help make that happen every single day.