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 industry 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 out of 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 used to be invited to be the typical manager of what was but still is just one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to take part in this unique world. The art, the design and style, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. Per year later and that i knew, I knew what many within the hotel business usually do not…what it is really enjoy being the gm of a hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everybody and amazing for a lot of.
You will find a mini storm brewing within the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with this industry understand. With a lot more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, a lot more bad hiring decisions are being made. The correct General Mangers will work on the wrong hotels. Just like a square peg as well as a round hole, a few things accomplish not work. That is to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first tell you that I have a very narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I think that the term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is often misapplied. A Alexander Mirza will not be based on simply a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be an unbiased operation. Your accommodation should not be 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 needed in operating a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels as an example. In my opinion these are not boutique hotels. They search such as a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would strive to be as great as being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed with a rzaufu corporation. The property level management makes not many decisions in regards to what services are offered and just 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 amazing, but in my view don’t fit the definition of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never get bored and search to stay on the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers made a decision to stay at a boutique hotel due to the 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, work in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market with what many consider to get the initial boutique hotel, this demographic learned that they could use their travel budget get them an area in a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. And also the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative interior design and in many cases an urban location. The marketplace is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is starting to bleed into others. You might very well locate a Fortune 500 CEO being at a boutique hotel. It is tough to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling in order to avoid losing market share towards 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. Go ahead and take Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an 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 simply “The Kahala” and are making an effort 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 use the luxury hotel as the comparison to 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 basics are similar. The general manager is responsible for the complete everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key for varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest in a high end luxury hotel expects to be able to connect with your accommodation general manager, as do the guests in a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The 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 might 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 with an arm filled with towels? Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that this general manager in the Peninsula would do that in a second, if they needed to. The typical manager of a boutique hotel Must, since there is nobody. The one server working the restaurant can also be probably in charge of looking after the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The general manager of any boutique hotel may also be even the HR director and breaks the top desk agents. When the gm is at California then this gm might find themselves breaking just about every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you are the GM of the hot boutique property inside the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy throughout the summer is suprisingly low, you encourage lots of your team to adopt their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who goes up on this can be your chief engineer, one of 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 manage to love the heat, and so it was using this steamy day in August. As the sun actually starts to set, your friends and relatives make their way through the pool to their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioners full blast so they can cool down. Your only other engineer went home during the day. It is at relating to this time that the 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 happen to be, in your office doing the forecast to your weekly corporate status report call if the front desk calls you in a panic, “the guests are flipping out” cries your new front desk agent. You browse the calls and find out 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 what should you do? You visit the rooms to try to 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 should take at the very least two hours for that ice developed around the coils to melt. Then you certainly start looking for your circuit breakers, which are scattered all over the 60 year-old property. Once you make it to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams in the sight in the sweaty, dirty general manager holding something box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the same guy who had been pouring us Mimosas on the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. Once the craziness is finished you have a contact your cell phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You seeking to reach me boss?”. The following day, while on your conference contact you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers need to hang out with their guests rather than within their offices. Duh, you believe as you make an effort to scrub the grit from under your fingernails.
The financial realities of any boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of 3 to 5 star service having a two star budget is the norm, and also the gm’s get caught in the middle. The boutique hotel just does not have the budget to staff like a true luxury property and everyone must pull how much they weigh. The gm who does not will never be there long and hate every second with their lives.
Along with the additional sweat and frustration to be a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the ideal individual, they will likely discover that the entrepreneurial management style required of these is very empowering. The gm can make a lot of decisions on their own, 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 in fact fun to them. The rewards of always being in front of your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, however, many are not really ready for this while they are tasked to make which happen every single day.