Boutique Hotel. Just the words get the imagination going. Before I dog eared the pages of Herbert Ypma’s first Hip Hotels book I was captivated by the industry 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 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 had been invited to become the typical manager of the things was but still is just one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity in order to take part in this amazing world. The art, the design, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. A year later and I knew, I knew what many within the hotel business usually do not…what exactly it is really want to be the gm of the 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 associated with this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, a lot more bad hiring decisions are made. The right General Mangers will work on the wrong hotels. Such as a square peg and a round hole, several things accomplish not work. Who may be to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First allow me to first let you know that I possess a narrow take a look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe that this term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is often misapplied. A Savant Hotel will not be defined by simply a hot design, as many would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be an independent operation. The hotel should not be a part of a collection that is certainly more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you obtain into using a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in running a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels as an example. In my opinion they are 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 being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by way of a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes very few decisions in regards to what services are given and how the house is run. A boutique hotel must be operated as close to the actual physical operation as you can. W’s and the like are amazing, but in my opinion don’t fit the definition of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels will also be constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never get bored and search to keep on the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers made a decision to stay in a boutique hotel as a result of story, or the experience. The event is very important and should be unique and somewhat leading edge. The overall demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, function in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a greater degree of service. When Ian Schrager entered the marketplace with what many consider to become the very first boutique hotel, this demographic discovered that they can use their travel budget have them an area with a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. And also the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative home design and in many cases an urban location. The marketplace is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting out bleed into others. You may adequately look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying at a boutique hotel. It is hard to ignore the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling in order to avoid losing market share for the boutique world. Some hotels are in reality using the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations to ensure that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so that they could operate and compete within the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and they 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 use the luxury hotel because the comparison to the boutique since most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what is so different about becoming a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Will it actually be that different? The basics are identical. The general manager is responsible for the whole day to day operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The true secret for both kinds of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest in a top end luxury hotel expects to be able to connect with the hotel general manager, as carry out 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 compared to luxury general manager. A boutique general manager could be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and also 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 full of towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand the general manager in the Peninsula would accomplish this in a second, should they had to. The typical manager of the boutique hotel Needs to, because there is nobody. Usually 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 the boutique hotel is oftentimes also the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. If the gm is in California then the gm might find themselves breaking just about every position in order to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of any hot boutique property in the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy throughout the summer season is really low, you encourage a lot of your team to adopt their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who goes 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 to get a week. Now simply 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 using this type of steamy day in August. Since the sun actually starts to set, your friends and family make their way through the pool to their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone turns on their aged ac units full blast to enable them to cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home for the entire day. It is at concerning this time that this calls start coming in. The ac units are freezing up. The previous units freeze up when they are excited full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you might be, in 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 require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to cover a cellular phone for him) is 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 will take a minimum of a couple of hours for the ice developed around the coils to melt. Then you definitely start looking for that circuit breakers, which can be scattered throughout the 60 year old property. Once you get 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 with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this exactly the same guy who was pouring us Mimosas on the pool today honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. After the craziness is over you have a ask your cell phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The next day, while on your conference phone you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers must hang out with their guests as opposed to inside their offices. Duh, you imagine when you make an effort to scrub the grit from beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The look of three to five star service having a two star budget is the standard, and also the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just lacks the cost to staff such as a true luxury property and everybody must pull their weight. The gm that does not will never be there long and hate every second with their lives.
Along with the additional sweat and frustration for being a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the best individual, they will find that the entrepreneurial management style required of these is highly empowering. The gm can easily make a lot of decisions on their own, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The truth that some towels must be acquired and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is really fun in their mind. The rewards of always being before your friends and family are what most gm’s want anyway, however, many are not really ready because of it when they are tasked to help make that happen every single day.