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 with the industry of boutique hotel properties. “How cool would 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 magnificent photos. Working hard 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, when in 2004 I was invited to be the overall manager of what was but still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to take part in this excellent world. The art, the design and style, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere using a “vibe”. Annually later and i also knew, I knew what many in the hotel business tend not to…what exactly it is really like to be the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everyone and amazing for a lot of.
There is a mini storm brewing inside the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved in this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, increasingly more bad hiring decisions are made. The right General Mangers are working on the wrong hotels. Like a square peg and a round hole, several things simply do 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 have a very narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe that this term “Boutique” when utilized to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A Alexander Mirza is not really defined by simply a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be a completely independent operation. Your accommodation should not be part of a collection that is certainly a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you obtain into using 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 they are not boutique hotels. They appear just 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 by way of a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes not many decisions in regards to what services are given and exactly how the home is run. A boutique hotel has to be operated as close to the actual physical operation as is possible. W’s and so forth are amazing, but in my view don’t fit the definition of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels will also be constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never get bored and appear to keep in the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers made a decision to stay in a boutique hotel as a result of story, or perhaps the experience. The experience is very important and should be unique and somewhat innovative. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the marketplace as to what many consider to be the initial boutique hotel, this demographic found that they could use their travel budget get them a room at a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. As well as the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, cutting edge interior design and perhaps an urban location. The marketplace is expanding and also the demographic model explained earlier is starting out bleed into others. You might perfectly look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It really is tough to ignore the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to avoid losing market share towards the boutique world. Some hotels are actually utilizing the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations so that their properties are authentically boutique. Take the Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete inside the new marketplace more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and therefore are working hard to become authentically local and independent of any major brand identification. I think others follows.
For the sake of this publication, I am going to make use of the luxury hotel since the comparison to the boutique because most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about becoming a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it really be that different? The fundamentals are the same. The general manager accounts for the whole daily operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The key for kinds of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest with a high end luxury hotel expects in order to connect with your accommodation general manager, as do the guests with a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The real difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears only a few more hats than the 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 very last time you saw the typical manager from the Peninsula Beverly Hills with an arm full of towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand the general manager in the Peninsula would do that in a second, should they needed to. The general manager of a boutique hotel HAS to, as there is nobody else. The one server working the restaurant can also be probably in charge of caring for the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The typical manager of a boutique hotel is oftentimes even the HR director and breaks the front desk agents. In the event the gm is at California then your gm may find themselves breaking pretty much every position simply to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you are the GM of any hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy during the summer season is very low, you encourage a lot of your team to consider their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who goes up on this can be your chief engineer, among two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes home to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now simply because it’s hot does not always mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists seem to love the heat, and so it was with this particular steamy day in August. As the sun begins to set, your friends and family make their way from your pool with their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioners full blast to allow them to cool down. Your only other engineer went home during the day. It is at relating to this time that the calls start arriving. The ac units are freezing up. The previous units freeze up if they are turned on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you happen to be, within 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 look into the calls and find out that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to fund a cell phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So where do you turn? You go to the rooms to see if you can fix them. Room by room you tackle the process of explaining in your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and that it will take at least 2 hours for that ice established round the coils to melt. Then you certainly begin looking for your circuit breakers, which are scattered all over the 60 year old property. By the time you reach the last room the guest who answers the doorway almost screams at the sight from the sweaty, dirty general manager holding something box using a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the same guy who was pouring us Mimosas in the pool today honey?” asks the guest while you begin your repairs. When the craziness is finished you have a ask your mobile phone. Yes, it is actually your engineer returning your call. “You seeking to reach me boss?”. The following day, throughout your conference call you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers must spend more time with their guests rather than in their offices. Duh, you believe while you try to scrub the grit out of beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of the boutique hotel are unique. The look of 3 to 5 star service having a two star finances are the standard, as well as the gm’s get caught in the middle. The boutique hotel just lacks the cost to staff such as a true luxury property and everyone needs to pull their weight. The gm that does not will not be there long and hate every second of their lives.
Combined with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely find that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is highly empowering. The gm can make a great deal 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 maybe a drink or two be mixed and served is actually fun in their mind. The rewards of always being before your friends and family are what most gm’s want anyway, but some are certainly not really ready for it if they are tasked to create which happen every single day.