In search of hotel excellence: Boston Harbor Hotel

In 1987, the Boston Harbor Hotel opened its doors. Inauspicious at the time, its Rowes Warf location was an odd one for a luxury hotel, given Interstate 93’s elevated presence directly across from the main doors. Nevertheless, a Preferred Hotels & Resorts member from its humble beginnings, the property stuck to its commitment to quality and forged a solid following amongst business travelers wanting a room within walking distance of the financial district.

Those who know Boston understand what the founders of the Boston Harbor knew too well: The highway was inevitably going to be placed underground. Not immediately, of course, and in fact the construction took close to 20 years to complete. But it eventually was finished, and in its place came a series of calm, urban parks. The result: This hotel looks out onto a park and Boston’s downtown on one side with harbor views on the opposite. The stunning property now looks like it was positioned perfectly in its surroundings.

I met with Stephen Johnston, who recently took the helm as managing director and general manager of the property having spent many years with The Doyle Collection in Ireland before moving to the United States with Pyramid Hotel Group, the property’s management company. Walking through the hotel’s halls with Stephen — albeit a mere six weeks after his appointment — was an amazing lesson in human dynamics. It was clear that he was as familiar with everyone on staff as someone who had been in his position for years.

As part of my tour, I couldn’t help but notice page-sized frames located in elevator lobbies and other public areas. Each frame featured a photo of a staff member celebrating their 25-plus years with the property. Looking more closely, it was not just a photo, but some biographical information so readers could learn a little bit more about them — not just an “employee of the month” spotlight. There were some two dozen employees honored this way, with plenty more who have already graced the walls or some to come. The entire group is venerated in a hardcover book, now in its second edition with this year’s crop of veterans, which, apart from staff recognition, provides an understated sales tool. Many of these unsung heroes are not line staff. They toil in engineering, the laundry, housekeeping, stores, banquet services and reservations. Their work and knowledge form the backbone of the hotel’s service excellence.

Mr. Johnston personalized a copy for me. In doing so, he told me of the property-wide celebrations that accompany the book’s release each year and the impact recognition has on those who have made the Boston Harbor Hotel their life’s work. I was impressed.

In looking at your own operations, consider how you can embrace your longstanding employees, leveraging this loyalty to enhance service excellence. The magic is not just in recognizing these individuals, but setting the standards that ensure quality delivery from all.