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 world 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. Working hard 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, when in 2004 I was invited to get the overall manager of the items was but still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity in order to take part in this excellent world. The art, the design, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. Per year later and 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 many.
There exists a mini storm brewing in the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with 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 on the wrong hotels. Such as a square peg as well as a round hole, some things simply do not work. That is to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First let me first tell you that I have got a narrow look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I believe that the term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A Alexander Mirza is not really defined by simply a hot design, as much would argue.
A boutique hotel must be an independent operation. Your accommodation should not be a part of a collection that is certainly more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into using a corporate hierarchical management style that is needed in operating a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my view these are not boutique hotels. They search just like a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by way of a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes very few decisions about what services are offered and how the house is run. A boutique hotel has to be operated as near to the actual physical operation as you can. W’s and so on are amazing, but in my opinion don’t fit the definition of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never get bored and appear to keep on the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers made a decision to stay at a boutique hotel as a result of story, or perhaps the experience. The experience is vital and must be unique and somewhat leading edge. The typical demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a greater level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market in what many consider to be the very first boutique hotel, this demographic found that they can use their travel budget have them a room 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 home design and in some cases an urban location. The marketplace is expanding as well as the demographic model explained earlier is starting out bleed into others. You could very well find a Fortune 500 CEO being at a boutique hotel. It is hard to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share for the boutique world. Some hotels are actually using the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations to ensure that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so that they could operate and compete in the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and therefore are spending so much time to be authentically local and independent of the major brand identification. I do believe others follows.
In the interests of this publication, I will use the luxury hotel since the comparison for the boutique as 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? Will it really be that different? The basics are the same. The overall manager is mainly responsible for the complete daily operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The true secret for both types of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest at a high end luxury hotel expects to be able to interact with the hotel general manager, as perform the guests at a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The difference is the fact a boutique hotel general manager wears just a few more hats compared to luxury general manager. A boutique general manager might be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and also at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from across the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the very last time you saw the general manager in the Peninsula Beverly Hills having an arm full of towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand the general manager in the Peninsula would do this in a second, when they needed to. The typical manager of any boutique hotel Must, as there is nobody else. The one server working the restaurant is additionally probably accountable for taking care of the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The overall manager of the boutique hotel may also be even the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. When the gm is at California then the gm might find themselves breaking pretty much every position simply to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of a hot boutique property inside the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy throughout the summer season is very low, you encourage lots of your team to adopt their vacations to get that vacation accrual off your books. Someone who takes you on this really is your chief engineer, one of two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes the place to find the motherland, Germany for a week. Now just because it’s hot does not always mean that you simply don’t have customers. Some tourists manage to love the heat, and so it was with this particular steamy day in August. Since the sun actually 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 conditioning units full blast so they can cool off. Your only other engineer has gone home during the day. It is at about this time that the calls start to arrive. The ac units are freezing up. The previous units freeze up while they are switched 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 if the front desk calls you in a panic, “the guests are flipping out” cries your new front desk agent. You look into the calls and discover that you require your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to cover a cellular 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 process of explaining in your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full and that it will require at least 2 hours for the ice built up around the coils to melt. Then you definitely begin looking for the circuit breakers, which are scattered all over the 60 year old property. When you get to the last room the guest who answers the doorway almost screams at the sight from the sweaty, dirty general manager holding an instrument box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this exactly the same guy who had been pouring us Mimosas on the pool this morning honey?” asks the guest while you begin your repairs. After the craziness is finished you get a contact your cellular phone. Yes, it is actually your engineer returning your call. “You trying to reach me boss?”. The very next day, throughout your conference phone you pay attention to a speech about how general managers have to hang out with their guests instead of inside their offices. Duh, you think when you make an effort to scrub the grit out of beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The look of 3 to 5 star service using a two star budget is the norm, as well as the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just does not have the cost to staff just like a true luxury property and everyone must pull how much they weigh. The gm who does not is definitely not there long and hate every second with their lives.
Together with the additional sweat and frustration for being a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely find that the entrepreneurial management style required of them is highly 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 truth that some towels need to be acquired and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is actually fun to them. The rewards of always being facing your guests are what most gm’s want anyway, but many are not really ready because of it if they are tasked to make that happen every single day.