Sincerely, BLLA

BLLA’s Owners Conference as a gathering place for boutique hotels

The entire Geronimo team reunited at the recent owners conference held in Los Angeles in late October 2022 Pictured above are: Christopher Wolfgram...

The entire Geronimo team reunited at the recent owners conference held in Los Angeles in late October 2022

Pictured above are: Christopher Wolfgramm, Amy Isbell Williams, Frances Kiradjian (from BLLA), Chris Cline (top row). Anthony Richardson, Erin McDonald, Josh Rodgers, Darla Thomas (bottom row).

This October, Geronimo Hospitality Group traveled to sunny California to attend the Boutique Hotel Owners Conference hosted by BLLA at the Westlake Village Inn in the Los Angeles area.

Hear from Erin McDonald, Vice President of Lodging at Geronimo, as she discusses her team’s experience at the two-day event! The team consisted of GMs for all of their hotel properties.

Bottleworks Hotel – Indianapolis, IN

BLLA: How did your team enjoy the conference, and were there any “aha moments” or takeaways from their experience? 

EM: The Geronimo lodging team thoroughly enjoyed our conference experience! For the majority, it was their first BLLA conference, so we were able to go into it with open minds and fresh perspectives. We virtually met the following week after settling back into our respective homes around the country to chat about what resonated most with us from the conference. There was consensus amongst the team that the following were most meaningful to them:

  • The ‘Dare to think differently’ theme created by BLLA. (This compliments a part of Geronimo’s manifesto: “The Status Quo Sucks”)
  • Don’t be pleasantly unhelpful.
  • Focus on creating value vs. cutting costs.
  • Be intentional about your personal energy.
  • Leverage F&B partnerships in our lobbies.
  • Be a heart-centered leader.

A couple of general managers also made note that the panels that discussed trends in the industry were interesting. The variety of locations and the types of boutique hotels further allowed for great perspectives across the board.

We demand a competitive spirit, but it is sometimes difficult not to feel like we are small fish in a big pond. Our overall experience was reassuring in the sense that we do make an impression in our markets, and it makes us proud of how far we have come and where we are going.

Ironworks Hotel Indy – Indianapolis, IN

BLLA: Can you explain why you decided to bring the whole team to the conference?  

EM: When researching conferences being hosted in 2022, BLLA became a front-runner as none of the lodging GMs, with the exception of myself, had attended a BLLA conference previously. Personally, it had been a handful of years since attending my last Owner’s Conference, and it was a memorable experience for me, so it was important to be able to provide my team with the same opportunity. In addition, we have experienced some change of the guard at our properties over the last couple of years, where it was essential for us to be surrounded by like-minded industry peers as well as incorporate some much-needed team bonding time. The cherry on top was taking the train from Malibu to Santa Barbara, where the entire team was able to visit our newest addition to the Geronimo hotel collection, Hotel Santa Barbara. (Stay tuned for exciting things to come at HSB!)

Geronimo team enjoying some team bonding time in sunny California!

BLLA: Do you believe it is really a great team-building exercise since the conference is geared toward education in the boutique space?

EM: 100%! It was invaluable to attend this conference as an entire team. The breakout sessions were impactful and allowed us to divide and conquer to soak in as much as possible throughout the two days. We rendezvoused during breaks to share our takeaways, where then our conversations naturally carried on into dinner as the inspirational and creative juices were flowing!

BLLA: What did you think of the speakers and session topics, and would you have any ideas for the next event?

EM: The speaker and session mix was thoughtful and provided attendees the opportunity to listen and learn from highly experienced boutique hospitality professionals. The facilitation was quite interactive, which we appreciated, and allowed for anyone’s voice to be heard. We understand that this is an “Owner’s Conference”, so it was natural for the facilitator group to be comprised mostly of owners and executive management members. However, it might be a  great dynamic to involve operational management team members on the panels to provide that boots-on-the-ground, first-hand perspective of how they are pushing the boundaries of boutique hospitality on the property level to create impressionable guest and employee experiences.

  • A special shout-out to facilitators Rob Blood and Sims Foster. You made an impression on our team! 
  • We would have also loved to see more sessions focused on what trends are being seen, data about how guests are booking boutique hotels, and best practices.

Delafield Hotel – Delafield, WI

BLLA: Since you are a mix of great boutique hotels and great restaurants, what can BLLA do to help you and the team along the way?

EM: Continue to be a valuable resource for all things boutique! As Geronimo continues to grow and expand our footprint, we appreciate ideas on how to stay competitive in an ever-evolving industry.

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