Crisis or no crisis, you can still dream on and set up your own business. Hard times should not impede you from setting up your own venture. The true blue entrepreneur can spot opportunities in times of economic difficulties. At the height of People Power, the Philippine economy was on a tailspin. Yet, Henry Sy, owner of the chain of SM malls went on to construct his first mall at North Edsa in Q.C. The rest they say is history, Sy was the early bird in the mall concept- contributing to a change in Filipino lifestyle and of course, making Sy the richest man in the Philippines. Dreams are free and the budding entrepreneur can start his or her business on a dream. That dream usually brings forth the fire and drive in you to fulfill it. This week I discuss businesses that have potential in Mountain Province and we start off with a boutique hotel concept. So what exactly is a boutique hotel? The boutique hotel borders on a luxury hotel but the service is more personalized aside from it being a small operation. The Entrepreneur magazine December 2007 issue has an article on “Boutique Bed and Breakfast” hotel. This business consists of a 7 room hotel with a highly personalized service. This concept is ideal in Mountain Province as it does not entail a huge investment. So, if you want to set up a boutique hotel, then here are some things to consider. Make sure that you have well trained staff, sensitive to the needs of your guests. The boutique hotel’s target market belongs to the upper middle class group, travelling executives, middle to upper level managers, businessmen and those who can afford to shell out P2,000 and up for an overnight stay. The overnight accommodation price is much higher than your ordinary hotel but mid priced versus that of a 5 star hotel. So where does the difference lie? First is the attention to detail and personalized service to guests. Boutique Bread and Breakfast located in Tagaytay City provides guests with their own pillows, a personal choice of soaps and scents. While we now have hotels in Bontoc with cable TV, the Tagaytay Botique hotel room is equipped with LCD TV, DVD players with a selection of DVD movies and other amenities. In this hotel, guests can request for extra ordinary services, even luxury hotels do not provide such as a sprinkling of rose petals on a guests bed, arrangement for dinner by candle light, a birthday cake and other pampering by the hotel’s staff. If I may add, here’s what I would want in a hotel. For one, Cable TV, second, Internet connection, reading lights by your bedside, study table, bedroom sleepers (new), clean sheets, bath tub and most of all, staff who go the extra mile to attend to your needs such as remembering to wake you up as per your request. Safety measures such as emergency lights, emergency exit and fire evacuation measures. In addition, you can be more creative by incorporating other services that your guests would appreciate. For one, have a ready contact for a guide- to do a quick tour around town if the guest is staying for just a day. Sufficient information brochures can be provided on the guest rooms so the guest can well choose his or her itinerary. Organically grown herbs and vegetables can also be an added experience for your guest/s. They pick their own vegetable mixes and let them do the cooking or have a knowledgeable chef cook or prepare the meal right in front of their tables. A fire place can also create an ambiance. Put your fire place to good use by incorporating heating pipes that could reach the rooms to provide heating during the cold months. A solar water heater that costs about 35,000.00 can be installed on your roofs to provide hot water. Solar power can translate to huge savings on your electric bills. If you have a stream nearby, ask assistance from DOST if a micro hydro is feasible. Micro hydro systems can provide for the hotel’s lighting needs and green conscious guests will appreciate your efforts on saving the environment. Incorporate our culture into your boutique hotel. A replica of the traditional Igorot abode, the traditional pig sty (gongo) a mini souvenir shop, and an “Ato” replica will complete the experience. Hire locals who can weave a story about our culture. My late grandmother, Theodora Basco generates sales from her antique shop by telling stories behind the objects on sale. If your hotel is within a village, arrange for your guests to experience village life such as tagging along with villagers on their way to the rice fields, pounding rice or simply visiting the school or day care center. The possibilities are endless, your creativity is only limited by your imagination. In setting up a boutique hotel, you need at least a 1,000 sq. meter property and an investment of about 3 to 4 million pesos for the building and development of the property. A staff of 3 to 4 will do and that includes the owner who should be there on the frontlines.