Boutique Hotel. Only 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 spectacular photos. Making an effort 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, while in 2004 I had been 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 simply to be a part of this amazing world. The art, the design, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. Annually later and i also knew, I knew what many in the hotel business tend not to…what exactly it is really enjoy being the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everybody and amazing for a lot of.
There is a mini storm brewing within 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, a lot more bad hiring decisions are made. The right General Mangers will work in the wrong hotels. Just like a square peg as well as a round hole, some things accomplish not work. Who may be to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First let me first inform you that I have got a narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I believe the term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is frequently misapplied. A PR Newswire will not be based on merely a hot design, as many would argue.
A boutique hotel has to be an independent operation. Your accommodation must not be element of a collection which is a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into using a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in managing a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my view they are not boutique hotels. They search just like a boutique hotel, even feel like one. Many boutique hotels would make an effort to be as great as being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by a rzaufu corporation. The property level management makes not many decisions as to what services are available and how the home is run. A boutique hotel must be operated as near the actual physical operation as possible. W’s and the like are fantastic, but for me don’t fit the meaning of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels will also be constantly re-inventing themselves, making sure that their fickle guest never get bored and look to remain in the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers made a decision to remain at a boutique hotel because of the story, or perhaps the experience. The experience is vital and must be unique and somewhat innovative. The overall demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a greater amount of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market with what many consider to get the first boutique hotel, this demographic found that they can use their travel budget have them an area at a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, cutting edge interior design and perhaps an urban location. The market is expanding and also the demographic model explained earlier is beginning to bleed into others. You may perfectly look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It really is tough to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling in order to avoid losing market share to the boutique world. Some hotels are in reality using the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations in order that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete inside the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and are spending so much time to become authentically local and independent of any major brand identification. I think others will follow.
In the interests of this publication, I will make use of 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 with a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it actually be that different? The fundamentals are identical. The general manager accounts for the entire day to day operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key both for varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest with a top end luxury hotel expects in order to interact with your accommodation general manager, as perform the guests at a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a couple more hats than the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager may be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and 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 overall manager of the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm full of towels? Don’t get me wrong, I understand that this general manager of the Peninsula would do that in a second, if they had to. The general manager of any boutique hotel HAS to, as there is nobody. Usually the one server working the restaurant is also probably responsible for looking after the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The general manager of the boutique hotel is sometimes also the HR director and breaks the top desk agents. If the gm is at California then this gm may find themselves breaking almost every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of any hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy through the summer season is really low, you encourage a lot of your team to take their vacations to get that vacation accrual off your books. One of those who takes you on this really is your chief engineer, one of two engineers for your entire five acre property. He goes the place to find the motherland, Germany for any week. Now simply because it’s hot does not always mean that you don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the heat, and so it was using this type of steamy day in August. As the sun starts to set, your friends and family make their way through the pool to their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioners full blast to enable them to cool down. Your only other engineer went home during the day. It is actually at about this time that the calls start coming in. The ac units are freezing up. The previous units freeze up if they are switched on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you are, 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 check out the calls and see that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to cover a mobile phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So what should you do? You go to the rooms to see if you can fix them. Room by room you tackle the task of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full which it will take at the very least 2 hours for your ice established around the coils to melt. Then you definitely start looking for the circuit breakers, which can be scattered throughout the 60 year-old property. By the time you reach the last room the guest who answers the doorway almost screams at the sight in the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who had been pouring us Mimosas in the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest when you begin your repairs. Once the craziness is finished you receive a ask your cell phone. Yes, it is actually your engineer returning your call. “You seeking to reach me boss?”. The next day, throughout your conference call you tune in to a speech about how exactly general managers have to spend more time with their guests instead of within their offices. Duh, you imagine while you try to scrub the grit out from below your fingernails.
The financial realities of any boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of three to five star service with a two star funds are the norm, as well as the gm’s get caught in the middle. The boutique hotel just lacks your budget to staff just like a true luxury property and everyone must pull how much they weigh. The gm that does not is definitely not there long and hate every second of the lives.
Combined with the additional sweat and frustration for being a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the best individual, they will realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is extremely empowering. The gm can create a great deal of decisions on their own, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The reality that some towels must be found and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is actually fun for them. The rewards of always being facing your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, but some are not really ready because of it when they are tasked to create that happen every single day.