Boutique Hotel. Just the words get the imagination going. 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 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, when in 2004 I used to be invited to get the typical manager of what was but still is among Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity simply to be part of this excellent world. The art, the style, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. Per year later and I knew, I knew what many within the hotel business tend not to…what it is really want to be the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everybody and amazing for most.
There is a mini storm brewing inside the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most associated with this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are being made. The correct General Mangers are working at the wrong hotels. Such as a square peg as well as a round hole, some things just do not work. Who may be to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first let you know that I have got a narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I think that the term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is often misapplied. A Alexander Mirza will not be based on just a hot design, as many would argue.
A boutique hotel must be an independent operation. The hotel must not be element of a collection that is certainly greater than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into having a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in running a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels for instance. In my opinion these are generally not boutique hotels. They appear like a boutique hotel, even think that one. Many boutique hotels would strive 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 very few decisions as to what services are offered and exactly how the home is run. A boutique hotel has to be operated as near the actual physical operation as possible. W’s and the like are fantastic, but in my opinion don’t fit the definition of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels can also be constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never get bored and look to stay at the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers chose to remain at a boutique hotel as a result of story, or the experience. The experience is very important and must be unique and somewhat cutting edge. The overall demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, work in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate an increased degree of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market as to what many consider to become the first boutique hotel, this demographic found that they could use their travel budget have them an area at a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. And also the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative home design and in some 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 locate a Fortune 500 CEO staying in a boutique hotel. It is hard to ignore the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share to the boutique world. Some hotels are in reality utilizing the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations to ensure that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for instance. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so that they could operate and compete within the new marketplace more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and they are spending so much time to get authentically local and independent of the major brand identification. I do believe others follows.
In the interest of this publication, I will use the luxury hotel because the comparison for the boutique as most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about as being a general manager in a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Could it actually be that different? The basic principles are similar. The typical manager accounts for the whole everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The true secret both for kinds of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest with a top quality luxury hotel expects so that you can communicate with the hotel general manager, as carry out the guests at a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The difference is the fact a boutique hotel general manager wears only a few more hats compared to luxury general manager. A boutique general manager might 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 the arm full of towels? Don’t misunderstand me, I understand that this general manager of the Peninsula would accomplish this in a second, if they were required to. The general manager of the boutique hotel Must, since there is nobody else. Usually the one server working the restaurant can also be probably accountable for taking care of the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and on and on…. The typical manager of a boutique hotel is oftentimes even the HR director and breaks the top desk agents. If the gm is within California then your gm might find themselves breaking pretty much 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 the summer time is suprisingly low, you encourage lots of your team to take their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. One of those who takes you high on this is 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 always mean which you don’t have customers. Some tourists seem to love the warmth, and so it was using this type of steamy day in August. Since the sun begins to set, your friends and relatives make their way from your pool with their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged air conditioning units full blast to allow them to cool down. Your only other engineer went home for the entire day. It is actually at concerning this time that the calls start to arrive. 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 might be, within your office doing the forecast for the weekly corporate status report call when 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 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 visit the rooms to try to 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 which it should take a minimum of a couple of hours for the ice built up round the coils to melt. Then you certainly start to look for that circuit breakers, which can be scattered all around the 60 year old property. By the time you make it to the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams on the sight of the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool 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 as you begin your repairs. After the craziness has ended you have a contact your cellular phone. Yes, it is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The very next day, throughout your conference phone you tune in to a speech regarding how general managers need to hang out with their guests as opposed to inside their offices. Duh, you believe as you try to scrub the grit out of under your fingernails.
The financial realities of any boutique hotel are unique. The look of three to five star service with a two star funds are the norm, and the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just does not have your budget to staff such as a true luxury property and everybody needs to pull how much they weigh. The gm that does not will never be there long and hate every second of their lives.
Along with the additional sweat and frustration for being a boutique hotel gm would be the rewards. For the right individual, they will realize that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is highly empowering. The gm can create a lot 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 acquired and possibly a drink or two be mixed and served is in fact fun in their mind. The rewards of always being facing your friends and family are what most gm’s want anyway, however, many are not really ready for this while they are tasked to create that happen every single day.