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Who's in Charge Now? The Decision Autonomy of Hotel General Managers


Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

Published online on


The general manager (GM) is the key position in a hotel, but the changing structure of the industry has altered the scope of the GM’s decision-making autonomy. In many hotels, the GM is an employee of a hotel operating firm and is effectively an agent of the operator or owner (and sometimes both parties). These principals have authority over several aspects of hotel operation, although the GM also has responsibility. A study of the GM’s role and authority in 115 upscale European hotels finds a mixed picture in decision autonomy, depending on the individual’s experience and education, as well as whether the hotel is independent or chain managed. Overall, independent GMs have greater autonomy in their properties than chain GMs, and highly experienced managers are often given greater autonomy by independent owners, while operating companies give greater autonomy to GMs who offer a combination of education and experience. With regard to individual functional areas, chain GMs have relatively greater authority in human resources, marketing, and strategy but limited autonomy in finance and operations.