Boutique Hotel. Just 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 world 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. Working hard to make a career from 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 typical manager of the items was yet still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to take part in this unique world. The art, the style, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. Annually later and i also knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business do not…what exactly it is really like to be the gm of any hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everyone and amazing for a lot of.
You will find a mini storm brewing in the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are now being made. The right General Mangers will work at the wrong hotels. Just like a square peg as well as a round hole, a few things accomplish not work. Who is to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first inform you that I have a very narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I think that this term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A Alex Mirza will not be defined by simply a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel should be an independent operation. The hotel must not be a part of a collection that is certainly greater than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you obtain into possessing a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in operating a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels for example. In my opinion these are not boutique hotels. They look like a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great as a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed with a rzaufu corporation. The property level management makes only a few decisions as to what services are given and exactly how the house is run. A boutique hotel should be operated as near to the actual physical operation as possible. W’s and so on are fantastic, but in my opinion don’t fit the concept of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels can also be constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never lose interest and look to remain on the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers decided to stay at a boutique hotel due to the story, or perhaps 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, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate an increased level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market as to what many consider to get the initial boutique hotel, this demographic found that they might use their travel budget buy them a room in a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. And also the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, leading edge interior decorating and in many cases an urban location. The current market is expanding as well as the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You might adequately look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It is actually hard to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to avoid losing market share to the boutique world. Some hotels are in fact taking the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations to ensure that their properties are authentically boutique. Take the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete in the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and therefore are spending so much time to get authentically local and independent of any major brand identification. I think others follows.
In the interest of this publication, I am going to make use of the luxury hotel as the comparison for the boutique as most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about as being a general manager with a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it actually be that different? The basic principles are the same. The overall manager is mainly responsible for the whole everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The key both for types of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest in a high end luxury hotel expects in order to communicate with the hotel general manager, as do the guests at a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The real difference is the fact that a boutique hotel general manager wears only a few more hats than the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager might be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and also at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from round the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the very last time you saw the general manager of the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm full of towels? Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that this general manager in the Peninsula would do this in a second, when they had to. The general manager of any boutique hotel Must, because there is nobody else. The one server working the restaurant is additionally probably in charge of looking after the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The general manager of the boutique hotel is oftentimes also the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. In the event the gm is within California then this gm might find themselves breaking pretty much every position in order to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of a hot boutique property in the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the the summer time is suprisingly low, you encourage plenty of your team to take their vacations to get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who takes you up on this can be your chief engineer, among two engineers for your entire five acre property. He goes house to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now just because it’s hot does not mean that you don’t have customers. Some tourists seem to love the warmth, so it was using this steamy day in August. As the sun starts to set, your guests make their way from the pool with their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone turns on their aged air conditioners full blast to allow them to cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home for the entire day. It really is at about this time the calls start to arrive. The ac units are freezing up. The existing units freeze up when they are excited full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you happen to 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 brand new front desk agent. You look into the calls and see that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cellular phone (you cant afford to pay for a cellular phone for him) is 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 process of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and this it will take a minimum of 2 hours for that ice developed around the coils to melt. Then you definitely begin looking for your circuit breakers, that are scattered all over the 60 year-old property. When you reach the last room the guest who answers the doorway almost screams on the sight of the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box having a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the same guy who was pouring us Mimosas at the pool today honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. After the craziness is over you receive a ask your cellular phone. Yes, it is actually your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The next day, while on your conference contact you listen to a speech regarding how general managers need to hang out with their guests instead of within their offices. Duh, you think while you try to scrub the grit from beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of the boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of 3 to 5 star service using a two star finances are the norm, and also the gm’s get caught in the middle. The boutique hotel just lacks the budget to staff such as a true luxury property and everybody needs to pull their weight. The gm that does not will never be there long and hate every second with their lives.
Combined with the additional sweat and frustration for being a boutique hotel gm are definitely the rewards. For the right individual, they are going to realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is very 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 have to be found and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is really fun for them. The rewards of always being before your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, however, many usually are not really ready for this when they are tasked to help make that happen every single day.