5 Small Hotel Management Tips that Improve Operations

Published on:
March 1, 2024
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Running a small hotel can be a challenging task, but it doesn't have to be. In this post, we'll share five small hotel management tips that can help you improve your hotel's operations and provide a better experience for your guests.

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Small Hotel Management Tips that Drive Bookings

Running a small or independent hotel can present unique challenges. Larger hotel managers may have the benefit of directing a full staff of housekeepers, technicians, and front desk workers.

But many independent hotel managers have to take on the duties of those roles themselves—or delegate to a much smaller team and fill gaps where necessary. 

It can almost be more overwhelming for some small hotel managers than it is for a big brand name hotel chain, because so much of the responsibility falls on your shoulders.

We’ve got a few small hotel management tips to help you better understand how to manage a small hotel based on your own circumstances and offerings. Beyond these tips, be sure to visit our Ultimate Hotel Operations Guide for a more in depth look at how hoteliers are improving their properties.

Small Boutique Hotel Room

In this post, we’ll discuss the challenges independent hotels currently face, 5 tips for small hotel management, and the important role hotel management software can play in simplifying operations at your independent property.

Plus we’ll provide a free checklist template to get you started with some standard small hotel management practices

What is a small hotel?

A small hotel, boutique hotel, or independent hotel is a hotel that is independently owned. It’s not typically operated or managed by a property management group, umbrella company, or hotel group. Small hotels are usually family owned or have singular or partner-based ownership, but the circle of ownership is small. These hotels don’t license out or franchise. 

How does a small hotel differ from a chain hotel?

In essence, much fewer people are involved with the ownership and operation of small hotels than their larger-scale counterparts.

There are advantages and disadvantages in running each type of hotel, but one of the key differences is likely in staffing.

Typically a chain hotel or large hotel brand will employ whole teams of housekeepers, maintenance techs or engineers, and front desk workers to staff their properties and keep things running smoothly. 

Independent hotels, however, usually run on a minimal staff of necessary employees while the manager plays a big role in filling any gaps in the workflow. For example, an independent hotel may have a couple of housekeepers and a maintenance technician on call while the manager works the front desk and stays hands-on at the property. 

Small Boutique hotels compared to Chain hotels

Depending on how busy the property is and how many rooms there are, small hotel teams may employ more housekeepers or an on-property technician to support growing needs.

It depends on individual property needs and guest demands.

But generally these hotels have fewer rooms than a large chain brand and are going to have a few trusted people to handle the workload rather than entire departments. 

Hotel chains and small properties also differ in their customer experience.

This is where independent properties tend to come out ahead as far as guest satisfaction is concerned. Because small properties aren’t expected to follow corporate regulations around brand standards, their focus can be on what guests want.

Independent properties have the freedom to really listen to guests and rapidly make changes to meet guest standards and expectations, while larger hotel groups typically have to wade through some amount of bureaucracy to be approved for changes or special requests. 

Small Hotel Front Desk Service Standards
Great Big Story via Giphy

Another difference you’ll likely observe between chain hotels and independent properties is in the price of rooms.

Believe it or not, guests can typically get a better deal staying with a small or independent hotel than they can with a chain. Trilyo notes that in 2017 the average daily rate to stay with a luxury chain was $375 compared to $219 to stay with an independent property, and in 2018, the average daily rate for chains was $465 compared to $308 at a small property.

Challenges facing Small hotels in 2022

There are lots of challenges small hotels face in today’s hospitality industry landscape. A post-COVID world in which many people were secluded or isolated for safety has increased the desire for travel and exploration.

Meanwhile the impending concerns of another economic recession has many people worrying over the longevity of this travel boom, and rising inflation makes pricing and remaining competitive in the industry increasingly difficult. 

Small Hotel Challenges
Portoroz & Piran via Giphy

Plus with the ongoing rise of short-term rental solutions like Airbnb and Vrbo, independent properties have even more competition to consider. But there are things you can do as a small hotel manager to help combat these challenges and stay on track for success. 

5 Small hotel management tips for Successful Properties

Tip #1: Understand your Competition

Small Boutique Hotel Competition Guide

The first tip in running a successful independent hotel is to make sure you understand your competition. Take a look at the local brand name properties and short-term rental options. It’s important to explore your competition and understand what they’re offering so you can tailor your guest experience to compete with local guest expectations. This includes checking out nearby Airbnb offers and Vrbo listings—it’s all part of your competition! 

Tip #2: Clarify your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

Boutique Hotel Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Brad Pitt Oscars via Giphy

Ensuring that you’ve identified and marketed your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition, is critical in attracting guests and staying competitive in this evolving travel market. Does your independent hotel offer specialized amenities? Do you have unique sights or attractions on or near your property? Identify what makes your hotel stand out and clarify why it’s valuable for your guests and unique within the industry. 

Tip #3: Market the ideal Experience, not the Room 

Small Hotel Experience Offering
Summer Swimming via Giphy

When it comes to boutique or independent hotels, what guests tend to value most is experience over a novel place to stay. The experience of a small hotel is different from that of a chain property—that’s why guests seek out these alternative options. So take a look at the experience you have to offer your guests and market that experience as the draw for them rather than simply the property or the room. 

Tip #4: Digitize Operations Management

Small Hotel Operations Management Software

Consider utilizing a digital operations solution to simplify property management. Tools like Xenia allow you to track and manage daily hotel operations and more via a digital system that’s accessible from you and your team’s individual mobile devices. So no matter where you are at your property you’re able to have full visibility into tasks, employee communications, and more. 

Tip #5: Always be learning (80/20 rule)

Small Hotel Resource Management

Finally, our biggest tip is to prioritize continuous learning. The 80/20 rule is a principle that states that 80% of outcomes are a result of 20% of causes—essentially, what you put in is what you’ll get out, so prioritizing the most time toward things that will help you achieve intended outcomes is what’s really important. Making learning and development a high priority will help you continue to grow and scale with your property, the industry, and changing times. 

Importance of small hotel management software

As we mentioned above, a hotel management software can be really helpful in simplifying processes at your hotel and streamlining tasks. You may think that because your operation is small you don’t need something as advanced as digital hospitality software, but digital tools are quickly becoming more than advancement—they’re becoming a necessity. 

Small Hotel Maintenance Software

Hotel management software allows you to move away from paperwork and manual task tracking so your team can stay on the same page without sorting through dozens of pages. It also allows you to automate tasks so that everything doesn’t require additional steps or workarounds for your team to complete and track work. You’ll easily be able to see what needs to be done, what’s in the works, and what’s already been completed so you always have an understanding of what’s happening at your property. 

And to top it all off, a good digital hotel management solution will include analytics that allow you to aggregate data and get a broader picture of maintenance, cleanings, and productivity so you can make improvements and further optimize task management over time. Solutions like Xenia allow you to do all this and more with a customizable, user-friendly hospitality management solution built for every hotel, big or small. 

Free Downloadable Checklists

We’ve included some checklist templates below for housekeeping, maintenance, and front desk to get you started managing tasks at your independent property. Just click the link below for the template or templates you’d like to download! 

To learn more about what Xenia can do for your property, check out our website and schedule a free demo any time. We’d love to help you manage your small hotel operations seamlessly. 

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