Boutique Hotel. Just the words get the imagination going. Even 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 involved with a boutique hotel someday.
That someday came true, if in 2004 I was invited to become the typical manager of the things 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 design and style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. A year later and i also knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business usually do not…what exactly it is really like to be the gm of a hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for anyone and amazing for many.
There exists a mini storm brewing within the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with this industry are aware of. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are made. The right General Mangers will work in the wrong hotels. Just like a square peg and a round hole, some things just do not work. Who may be to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first tell you that I possess a narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe that this term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A PR Newswire will not be defined by simply a hot design, as much would argue.
A boutique hotel should be an unbiased operation. The resort must not be a part of a collection which is more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into possessing a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in running a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. For me they are not boutique hotels. They search such as a boutique hotel, even feel like one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by a rzaufu corporation. The home level management makes very few decisions about what services are offered and exactly how the home is run. A boutique hotel has to be operated as close to the actual physical operation as you can. W’s and so on are fantastic, but in my view don’t fit the meaning of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels can also be constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never lose interest and search to remain in the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers decided to stay in a boutique hotel due to the story, or the experience. The event is very important and should be unique and somewhat innovative. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, function in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate an increased level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market with what many consider to be the first boutique hotel, this demographic learned that they could use their travel budget buy them a room with a cool, hip hotel as opposed to a generic mid-level branded property. And also the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, cutting edge interior decorating and in many cases an urban location. The market is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You could adequately look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying at a boutique hotel. It is actually tough to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share towards the boutique world. Some hotels are in reality utilizing the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations so that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for 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 now simply “The Kahala” and are making an effort to become authentically local and independent of any major brand identification. I think others will follow.
In the interests of this publication, I will use the luxury hotel because the comparison towards the boutique since 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? Could it be that different? The basic principles are the same. The general manager accounts for the whole everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The true secret both for types of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest in a high end luxury hotel expects in order to connect with your accommodation general manager, as carry out 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 few more hats compared to the 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 last time you saw the overall manager in the Peninsula Beverly Hills having an arm filled with towels? Don’t get me wrong, I know the general manager from the Peninsula would do this in a second, should they had to. The general manager of a boutique hotel HAS to, since there is nobody. The one server working the restaurant is additionally probably accountable for caring for the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The typical manager of the boutique hotel is oftentimes also the HR director and breaks the top desk agents. In the event the gm is at 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 the hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the the summer time is suprisingly low, you encourage lots 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 to your entire five acre property. He goes house to the motherland, Germany for any week. Now simply because it’s hot does not necessarily mean which you don’t have customers. Some tourists seem to love the heat, so it was with this particular steamy day in August. Since the sun actually starts to set, your guests make their way through the pool with their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone turns on their aged ac units full blast to allow them to cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home for the entire day. It is actually at about this time that this calls start to arrive. The ac units are freezing up. The old units freeze up if they are turned on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you are, within 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 new front desk agent. You check out the calls and find out that you require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to cover a cell phone for him) is out of time -you cant reach him! So where do you turn? You visit the rooms to see if you can fix them. Room by room you tackle the challenge of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and this it will require a minimum of 2 hours for the ice established across the coils to melt. Then you start looking for that circuit breakers, which can be scattered all over the 60 year-old property. Once you get to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams in the sight from the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box having a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who has been pouring us Mimosas on the pool today honey?” asks the guest when you begin your repairs. Once the craziness has ended you have a call on your mobile phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You trying to reach me boss?”. The following day, throughout your conference phone you listen to a speech regarding how general managers have to spend more time with their guests as opposed to in their offices. Duh, you think as you make an effort to scrub the grit out of beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of the boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of 3 to 5 star service having a two star finances are the standard, and the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just does not have the budget to staff such as a true luxury property and everybody must pull their weight. The gm who does not will never be there long and hate every second of the lives.
Along with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm are definitely the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely find that the entrepreneurial management style required of these is very empowering. The gm can create a great deal of decisions independently, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The fact that some towels have to be picked up and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is really fun to them. The rewards of always being in front of your friends and family are what most gm’s want anyway, but many usually are not really ready because of it if they are tasked to create which happen each day.