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 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 magnificent photos. Spending so much time to make a career out of 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 used to be invited to be the overall manager of what was yet still is one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity in order to be part of this unique world. The art, the style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. Annually later and that i knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business do not…what exactly it is really enjoy being the gm of any hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everyone and amazing for a lot of.
There exists a mini storm brewing inside the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved in this industry know about. With a lot more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, increasingly more bad hiring decisions are now being made. The correct General Mangers work at the wrong hotels. Such as a square peg and a round hole, a few things accomplish not work. Who may be to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First allow me to first let you know that I possess a narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I believe the term “Boutique” when utilized to describe a hotel is often misapplied. A prnewswire.com is not based on merely a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel should be an unbiased operation. The hotel must not be element of a collection which is a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into possessing a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in managing a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for example. In my opinion these are generally not boutique hotels. They look like a boutique hotel, even think that one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed with a rzaufu corporation. The property level management makes only a few decisions in regards to what services are given and just how the property 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 concept of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels will also be constantly re-inventing themselves, ensuring that their fickle guest never get bored and appear to keep at the latest new, hip and funky property.
Travelers chose to stay in a boutique hotel as a result of story, or even the experience. The knowledge is vital and must be unique and somewhat innovative. The typical demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, function 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 become the very first boutique hotel, this demographic learned that they can use their travel budget have them an area with 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, leading edge interior decorating and in many cases an urban location. The marketplace is expanding as well as the demographic model explained earlier is beginning to bleed into others. You might adequately find a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It is tough to overlook the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling in order to avoid 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. Take the Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away to make sure they could operate and compete in the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and are making an effort to be authentically local and independent of the major brand identification. I think others will follow.
For the sake of this publication, I am going to use the luxury hotel as the comparison to the boutique because most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what is so different about being a general manager in a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it really be that different? The fundamentals are the same. The general manager is responsible for the whole day to day 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 with a top quality luxury hotel expects to be able to communicate with the hotel general manager, as do the guests with a boutique property. It really is all high touch.
The real difference is the fact 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 as well as 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 overall manager of the Peninsula Beverly Hills with an arm packed with towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand that the general manager from the Peninsula would accomplish this in a second, when they had to. The overall manager of the boutique hotel Must, as there is nobody. The main 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 overall manager of the boutique hotel is sometimes also the HR director and breaks the front desk agents. If the gm is in California then this gm might find themselves breaking just about every position just 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 summer season is very low, you encourage plenty of your team to take their vacations to get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who goes on this can be your chief engineer, certainly one of two engineers to your entire five acre property. He goes the place to find the motherland, Germany to get a week. Now because it’s hot does not mean that you don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the warmth, and so it was with this particular steamy day in August. Since the sun 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 went home during the day. It is at about this time the calls start arriving. 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 might be, in your office doing the forecast to your weekly corporate status report call once 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 require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cellular phone (you cant afford to fund a mobile 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 challenge of explaining to your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and that it will take at least a couple of hours for that ice built up round the coils to melt. Then you certainly begin looking for the circuit breakers, that are scattered all around the 60 year-old property. When you make it to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams in the sight from the sweaty, dirty general manager holding an instrument box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who was pouring us Mimosas on the pool today honey?” asks the guest when you begin your repairs. After the craziness has ended you receive a call on your mobile phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The following day, throughout your conference call you pay attention to a speech regarding how general managers must hang out with their guests rather than inside their offices. Duh, you imagine when you attempt to scrub the grit from below 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 middle. The boutique hotel just lacks the cost to staff such as a true luxury property and everybody has to pull their weight. The gm who does not is definitely not 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 ideal individual, they are going to realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of them is extremely 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 fact that some towels have to be found and perhaps a drink or two be mixed and served is in fact fun to them. The rewards of always being facing your friends and family are what most gm’s want anyway, but many are certainly not really ready because of it if they are tasked to create which happen each day.