The changing role of the hotel GM

Leading a top luxury hotel has always been a rigorous job. Luxury GMs are dialed in 24/7 and deal with all the internal pressures of operating a complex business and the external pressures that come with being in the media spotlight.

Especially in major markets such as New York City, there is a heightened level of complexity that comes with a luxury GM’s job. In addition to ensuring top-notch customer service, they have to strategically beat out their competition via smart sales and marketing tactics to draw high-profile guests and win the bidding war to play host to marquee events — not to mention dealing with union, contractor and governmental issues. No wonder the median annual cash compensation for a luxury New York City GM is US$335,000.   

For properties such as my alma mater, Waldorf=Astoria, there will always be a need for a GM to be both a business driver and hotel ambassador. But what about the other end of the hotel spectrum? Technology is quickly becoming the sales engine for driving customers to mid-market and budget hotels. In fact, some pundits have predicted on-site management will continue to be de-emphasized. Take the Comfort Xpress Hotel in Oslo, Norway. It allows guests to check in online, manage room preferences and upon arrival get their keycard via a kiosk, much like checking in at the airport. Guests can essentially come and go with no human contact. 

So the question becomes, will a hotel GM need to be omnipresent, and how will the GM’s role change as technology and social mores evolve? I suspect major shifts will not take place in the high-touch world of luxury hotels, but watch out below. The role of GM in the other segments will be unrecognizable compared to today. I predict GMs will become roaming troubleshooters who will deal with technology, OTAs, physical plant and complaint issues. So when an irate customer asks for the manager, you can have them download a GM app on their mobile device and speak to someone on the other side of the planet.