The problem with general managers in hotels

Investing in hotel real estate requires a lot of funds. We are talking about tens or hundreds of millions of Dollars or Euros.

You obviously need to ensure a proper return on investment is generated with such a strategic investment. Moreover hotels are a multi-million dollar operation.

In any other industry we would be looking for a well experienced CEO to manage such a company.

But who would you trust to manage your hotel investment?

The GM problem

Surprisingly, we see many hotels being managed by former food and beverage or front desk managers with little experience in finance or business strategy.

The hospitality industry is known for its policy of promoting from within. But putting an inexperienced or not sufficiently skilled manager in charge of a hotel operation, without the proper support team, means hoteliers are taking a risk with the results of your investment.

The typical career path of a general manager starts in operations, and he/she works him/herself up to the top over a span of ten to 20 years. The prospect of growth opportunities are good from the perspective that it keeps staff eager to stay within the industry.

Unfortunately, however, although most skills are acquired on the job over time, but there is a lack of both in-company and external training. Career path development, except from in the large chains, is mostly unheard of in the international hotel industry.

As a result, we have continually identified the weaknesses of hotel sales managers, many of them missing the skills required for revenue managers.

The general manager in a hotel is a key position that should be scrutinised, including what knowledge, competences and experience should the boss of a hotel’s individual managers possess?

Of course, any hotel manager should have solid skills in leadership and motivational skills, as well as hospitality experience. But it should not end there. The role of the general manager goes much further.

In terms of strategy, the typical general manager in a hotel, often insists on having the final say and frequently overrules the advice of the executive management team, based on intuition or gut feeling. Disappointingly, I often hear a GM reverse such decisions, based on his/her years of experience.

Core skills/general skills

We see this also with hotel website design, search engine optimization and social media marketing.

Too many GMs tend to have an opinion on all matters and feel a need to influence all decisions made by their team. They feel with the amount of years they have on under their belt in the industry, they are knowledgeable on all areas.

Instead a GM should acknowledge in which fields they have no experience – for example, the technical aspect of internet marketing – and surround themselves by experts in such field.

The title says it all: “general” manager – it is, let’s face it, a generalist position. We can hardly expect them to know it all.

One thing investors should always be wary of is a GM that tells you they know it all. For example, a GM who tells you they know what a hotel website should look like, and can get a cheap deal to create one, is a potential liability to the eventual ROI.

Instead, look for someone who has good experience with an internet agency resulting in 40% to 50% direct sales.

Same goes for overall strategy. To outperform the market and uncover hidden revenue potential of your hotel asset, look for a GM who has worked with the best revenue, marketing and sales managers and is convincing you to invest in this particular area.

Please don’t go for the one who tells you he can get it done with a junior team managed by him/her. A GM has many areas to overlook, and needs to be able to rely on his executive team to manage the different department.

Instead ask them to show their market benchmark results. Did they outperform the competition in MPI, ARI and RGI (learn more about hotel KPI)?

Have them show proof of their previous performance. Numbers matter. Don’t fall for the beautiful stories hoteliers are none very well to use. It is in their nature to make people feel at ease. Look beyond this and obtain facts.

Wider vision

Last but not least, a GM needs to have good financial business insight. An MBA for the hotel industry would not be out of order.

It is very common in other industries for executives to enroll in a post-MBA program after a few years of work experience to broaden and deepen their knowledge and skills in terms of business administration and economic insight. This is something we think we really should start seeing more of in the hotel industry.

Providing hotel asset management services and revenue management consulting for a wide range of hotels in Europe, USA and Asia, we feel there is a pressing need for more structural career path development for GMs in the hotel industry.

A hotel is a multi-million Dollar or Euro business which requires a CEO-type leader to generate a healthy ROI. We hope our industry will develop into a more professional one in the next few years when it comes to strategic management.

Don’t let the strategy be run just a hospitality professional! It takes more than pleasing guests to make money in hotel, so get a real business manager on board…

NB: More hotel management tips from Xotels.

NB2: Hotel manager image via Shutterstock.

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Patrick Landman

About the Writer :: Patrick Landman

Patrick Landman is a contributor to tnooz and founder and CEO of Xotels. This hotel management group assists independent hotels with revenue management, online marketing and internet distribution strategies.

They offer outsourcing services, coaching, consulting and training. In his blog, Patrick challenges hoteliers to think out of the box and not to accept the established order.

Through a passionate drive for growth and improvement he brings creative tips, ideas and best practices to the table that can help hotels drive up their bottom line.

In previous roles he has helped to develop businesses like RateTiger and into industry leaders. 



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  1. P. Jason King

    The main problem we see with most Hotel GM’s is they rely too much on their Department Head Managers to do what they were hired to do. In other words having a meeting once a month with all department heads is NG, you need weekly meetings and need to physically walk into each department and see what they are doing. The departments included are Maintenance (a good maintenance department is always working at fixing or maintaining components in and about the property); Marketing (should constantly be working on new promotions and networks to enhance the branding); Sales (who are they actually calling on, too many sales departments do not concentrate on MICE, they love the luncheons and conferences, but we see too many sitting around and BS’ing instead of presenting the properties Benefits & Features; the list goes on and on, every department must be weekly addresses, some need more than that for example Housekeeping (usually the worst continuity in the house), most Executive Housekeepers these days never did housekeeping, they need reality checks… Once the GM takes charge he/she will see major changes for the better.

  2. Melissa

    You can always try being a pizza delivery boy that gets promoted from reservations supervisor to revenue manager in 6 months, and be skipped over the position because the boss at the time the pizza delivery boy was hired didn’t like you. Yep, playing favorites is extremely common in the hotel industry, and seems to be the general reason most managers get their jobs.

  3. Mark

    MBA? Why not a PHd? Wow, what a silly article. GM’s are there to guide the direction of the property, they are there to ensure standards are met and exceeded. The management company is there to drive revenue, advertise and take the lead when it comes to financial strategy.

    A typical GM, as you describe, is hired BECAUSE of their knowledge not because of an MBA. When faced with an oversold Hotel on a busy check-in day the GM will jump in with their team and LEAD them. I am pretty sure that the guest who booked a non smoking room and is faced with having to stay in a smoking room due to circumstances out of the control of the Hotel does not care that you have an MBA!

    I have met and hired many General Managers who did not have a degree at all, just decades of knowledge and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done. The owner should hold the management company responsible for ROI, they pay thousands of dollars a month on management fees and should hold the companys’ feet to the fire.

    Just an opinion~MBA?! Wow

    • Patrick Landman

      Patrick - Xotels

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your feedback. The challenge we are facing though is that not many GMs have the right knowledge or background.

      As you put it, he needs to be all-round, and we are finding the skills to be too much one-sided. One cannot run a business on guest service only. Finance & strategy are important component of the mix, which cannot be left behind.

      Many independent hotels, but also chain properties are lacking results and profit due to this issue.

      Therefore we encourage more professional education for people to acquire more knowledge outside the on job training.

      GMs influence many decisions in hotels, including when it comes to revenue management. For that this person needs to have the required skills.

    • Josef

      Dear Mark,

      From your hostile response I am guessing you do not have an MBA yourself. Before you criticize professional qualifications you should try to know the value of said criticized skill for yourself by acquiring it.

    • Ben

      Being a Hotel General Manager with an MBA I can assure you that the way I see the business and my overall perfromace is way better than before I learnt topics such as price elasticity of demand, financial modelling, monte carlo simulations, risk management, the core of organisational behaviour, project management! To be honest is clear to me that a GM for you is just a supervisor of a corporation, sadly a lot of people think like this hence the hospitality industry is one of the least innovatives.

      • Patrick Landman

        Patrick Landman

        Hi Ben,

        Thanks for your feedback. Actually, a GM of a hotel should be much more than ‘just’ a supervisor. He/she should be a qualified CEO, as a hotel is quite an big business to run. Indeed we think it will be good for a GM to get an MBA to really add to their business skills and knowledge. Great to hear this has given you valuable insight.



  4. Lisa

    GM’s offer so much to the Staff, Community and obviously Ownership – Marketing and Financials, especially the original “generation” of promoted Management staff! Alot of issues arise from the lack of actuality from the Owners.

    Some decent information in the article and definitely agreed that lack of updated information/training from an accredited institution Nationwide is so overdue! Taking the youngest, talented individuals and then “burning them out” is not the answer yet the commomplace in the industry.

  5. HMG

    Interesting article with many helpful points. While promotions from the inside can work if candidates take it upon themselves to get educated about the new positions they assume, it is true that gratuitous promotions will never help a hotel or any business. With so many responsibilities, a GM’s main focus should be on surrounding themselves with experts who make the hotel management experience all that it can be.

  6. Jason King

    The problem as I see it from the Recruitment window is smaller properties are unaware of Compensation for GM’s, they almost never off Maintenance – the funny thing is most do not even know the word refers to the GM living on location for free as part of his/her compensation package. With even mid size properties they don’t realize their investment is in Rooms and their turnover, F&B, and more… The big chains have it all except many top GM’s are tired of their Rules Y Regs and now are opting to choose smaller properties to work at. Hotel Schools like Cornell, Michighan, and Niagara University are preparing our future managers but we need more education and need to creat a Counsel that meet on a regular basis to discuss how to change the Hotel Industry for the better. In closing to those thousands of people who think the Hospitality Industry is serviced by Hospital Workers, we need to change our choice of verbiage to perhaps Lodging, then perhasp outsiders will understand 🙂


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