The Expanded Role of the General Manager in the Era of Ownership
By Olivier Bottois Managing Director & COO, The Whiteface Lodge Resort & Spa | October 28, 2008
With the advent of mixed-use hotel projects - hotel condos, private residence clubs, fractional ownership models - the role of the general manager is evolving. Today, a license in real estate can be every bit as useful as one in hospitality. Yet most of us have been learning by doing.
In the luxury segment, in particular, the level of hotel amenities and service are of utmost importance in the decision to purchase five-star full or fractional ownership property. The hotel product and service are critical to the success of the private residence club. As a result, contemporary general managers play an integral part in both the hotel and real estate, and, in order to prosper in this new era, they must adopt a new skill set.
The five-star hotel general manager once was an innkeeper, greeting and entertaining guests, socializing at various events, and generally providing public relations for the property. Over the past two decades, a significant shift occurred internationally. The role became more focused on business. While serving the guest was still important, it became the general manager's responsibility to ensure that the finest service was delivered profitably. The general manager had to become more involved in marketing and finance, among other areas of the operation.
Today, a growing number of hoteliers are finding that the position has further evolved with the introduction of private residence clubs. At the high end of the fractional ownership market, private residence clubs offer partial or full ownership in a five-star level resort with larger size residences than most fractional properties and the 24-hour services that are unique to luxury hotels and resorts. In this model, the general manager continues to market the hotel but also has real estate as a shared goal. With hotel owners focused on the "big picture" of a quicker return on investment with real estate and lenders monitoring performance closely, a general manager's decisions regarding management and marketing of the overall product are much different than before. This is especially so for independent properties.
The general manager of an independent hotel with an ownership component has three primary roles: (1) innkeeper, (2) sales and marketer, and (3) owner-guest liaison.
Owning a Lifestyle