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A Hotel General Manager's Day

© Courtesy InterContinental Hotel Boston
ET shadows a hotel general manager for the inside scoop on this demanding job.

Sleep Quality Matters

Regardless of how good a hotel’s service is, the primary factor in whether someone enjoys her hotel experience is the quality of her sleep and the cleanliness of her room. Every scrap of information on this factor is studied closely by hotel staff. Frequently, a GM will walk through a few rooms each day to ensure that staff are getting the details right in the 30 to 45 minutes it typically takes to clean a standard hotel suite. “Housekeeping is such a complex operation, and it’s like the housekeeper is coming into your home,” says the Ritz-Carlton’s Cashion.

3:00 p.m.

Management gathers at 3 p.m. today to review monthly guest survey scores. In InterContinental Boston’s case, the results come from randomly emailed frequent guests. Remarkably, those surveyed have found enough time to answer an exhaustingly long questionnaire ranking some 90 aspects of their experience at the hotel on a scale of 1 to 5. The current month’s scores are presented alongside a running 12-month score, as well as the average month and 12-month scores of the other InterContinental properties. Kirwan’s hotel scores well, moving it into the top six InterContinentals for the year—all the more impressive given the bad scores this property received after the parking-garage fire. For each area in which this InterContinental falls short, ideas are solicited: “I drove by the Mandarin the other day, and their valets were all standing in a line at the curb. It was very impressive,“ offers one staffer. Someone mentions that another hotel briefs housekeepers on big local events going on that day as another way to inform guests of local options. “So the housekeeper might say, ‘Are you going to so-and-so’s concert tonight?’,” the staffer explains.

Walking the Precinct

6:00 p.m.

This InterContinental feels like a town in miniature. Despite all the meetings he attends, Kirwan spends the bulk of his day like an old-style Boston pol, making sure to greet all of his constituency. “GMs are either front-of-the-house or back-of-the-house, in their offices all day. I’m a front-of-the-house guy. I’m the mayor of Fort Point,” he says with a chuckle. Through the kitchens, offices and storage spaces comprising an area as large as the public space of the hotel, he offers words of encouragement to staffers, handing out scratch lottery tickets to one or two whom he spies doing a good job. Kirwan walks to the meeting space and checks in with planners to verify that everything is to their liking. He draws out a visitor’s opinion on whether an oxygen bar would be a good idea. Slipping through a service hallway, he notices a trash bin too close to a door and pushes it back. Later on, he glides over to the front desk, adjusting the lobby lighting. Boston is a compact town, so Kirwan often runs into city executives shopping or dining—that’s another relationship for him to cultivate. Like most high- rises built in the past 15 years, this property is partially designated for public space, so even when the hotel wants to use its outdoor land for events, a city permit needs to materialize.

At the afternoon shift change, Kirwan walks the lobby and grabs a word with employees, checking to see that important information is conveyed. In the evening, he greets movie-industry executives at a complimentary event designed to keep the hotel topmost in mind for stays during film shoots, a booming local business. The event closed SushiTeq, which will hurt revenue totals at tomorrow’s morning meeting. “But by the time other hotels have heard about film shoots being scheduled, I’ll have already booked the productions,” Kirwan explains. Repeating a line that encourages InterContinental Boston staff in posters hung up behind the scenes, he notes that “the goal is to keep this a great hotel guests love,” just before his cell phone chirps again.

BRENDAN COFFEY is a contributing editor of Executive Travel.

How to be a VIP

Want to be a VIP—or at least get treated like one? First off, stop booking through discount websites. “Going through a third-party site isn’t the best thing to do, because the relationship you build with the managers is important,” explains David Lopez, general manager of the Court and the Tuscany, former W properties taken over in mid-2010 by London-based St. Giles. “Whether it’s upgrades, complimentary breakfast or tickets to events because you are staying with us again, you are always going to get a better deal if you just create a relationship with the hotel.” Still can’t resist the online price? Call the hotel directly and ask the staff to meet it, Lopez suggests.

Repeat stays are the key to being a VIP everywhere. Even if you frequent Holiday Inns, earn enough Priority Club Rewards points and you’ll get kicked up to the first of its five VIP levels at an InterContinental (the same company owns both chains).

Hoteliers from various brands we spoke with all admit that what, exactly, VIPs receive changes all the time. Certainly, it means that the GM or assistant has walked through your room before check-in, and that a manager will greet you on arrival, guarantee that your preferences are met and, when space permits, bestow a room upgrade. Those who’ve earned VIP cred because of their popularity, political status or immense wealth can call hotel security a few minutes away from their arrival to ensure that they are whisked through the service entrance and to their rooms without the risk of meeting another guest.

What about the highest level of VIP, those who get the Presidential Suite, chilled Veuve Clicquot in the room and access to private lounges? That perk is frequently negotiated on the sales side. At the InterContinental Boston, for instance, film-shoot customers often draw up agreements ensuring top-level VIP status for one or two movie stars as part of booking a significant block of rooms.

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