Asia, Concierge ABC, India, Inspiration, Les Clefs d'Or

A Concierge’s Story

While going on a stroll through Udaipur, we met an elephant and came across this pink telephone in a streetside store. Photo by Andrew Kaufman, Udaipur, India.

While going on a stroll through Udaipur, we met an elephant and came across this pink telephone in a streetside store. Photo by Andrew Kaufman, Udaipur, India.

Concierges have the best stories to tell. At dinner parties I am always asked what is happening in the hotel. This year the Les Clefs d’Or keys have been a topic of conversation too. Some of my friends saw the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. They thought that the keys were make belief and that they originated from Wes Anderson’s magical mind. So I found myself telling stories about the keys, what being a Les Clefs d’Or member means and how we meet once a year to learn from the very best. We discuss trends in the hospitality industry, share guests’ stories, meet our mentors and become mentors ourselves, celebrate our history, are reminded of the unique position we hold in our hotels and the difference we can make in our guests’ and colleagues’ journeys, embrace our motto In Service through Friendship, strengthen our Les Clefs d’Or brand and message, enjoy good food and dance a little or a lot (in my case). Then we return to our countries, hotels, lobbies, desks and guests and recreate my favorite scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel or is it the other way around and is the scene based upon a real life Concierge story? We pick up the phone and call a Concierge somewhere in the world and ask for assistance. While we are calling, we wonder which Concierge will be calling us and how we may assist. And we wonder what fabulous Concierge story we will tell next.

P.S. I wrote this story for the Les Clefs d’Or USA writing contest. Topic is the importance of congress attendance. Three scholarships are given for the upcoming 2015 UICH Les Clefs d’Or Congress in Mendoza, Argentina. I can’t wait to see everyone in Mendoza and hopefully I win!

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Hotels always have a front and a back of the house. You can compare the back of the house with going backstage at the theatre. As the traveler you will never see the back of the house. This is where you find the employee entrance, the employee hallways (at the Fontainebleau Hotel the employee hallways consisted of a fascinating labyrinth in the hotel’s basement where I often got lost), the employee elevators, the employee uniform room, the employee locker room, the employee cafeteria, the laundry room, the loading docks, offices and lots of storage areas. My favorite storage area is where Housekeeping keeps its soaps, shampoos and body lotions. This area always smells so good. In the employee hallways you will further find all types of message boards with postings celebrating the employee of the month, employee schedules, shopper report results, announcements of upcoming trainings to hotel rules and laws.

Canang Sari, a collection of daily offerings for sale at the Pasar Badung in Den Pasar. Bali has changed so much in the ten short years since I have been there last. There are more motor bikes, cars and hotels. But the Balinese people still have their customs and rituals. Daily offerings are made to express gratitude and to honor the gods, the ancestors and the underworld creatures. It is a serene undertaking and clears the mind and heart. Photograph by Andrew Kaufman.

Canang Sari, a collection of daily offerings for sale at the Pasar Badung in Den Pasar. Bali has changed so much in the ten short years since I have been there last. There are more motor bikes, cars and hotels. But the Balinese people still have their customs and rituals. Daily offerings are made to express gratitude and to honor the gods, the ancestors and the underworld creatures. It is a serene undertaking and clears the mind and heart. Photograph by Andrew Kaufman.

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Asia, Bali, Beyond Miami, Body Mind Soul, Concierge ABC, Indonesia, Tipping, Travel Etiquette, Travel Tips

The Ladies of the Back of the House

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Concierge ABC, Service

“When you live in hotels, your native guide is the Concierge. He knows the ropes, he knows how to do things. There is nothing they can’t do. They have seen it all. No matter how good or bad you behave, they have seen it and they have seen worse and better.” Bill Murray

'The Grand Budapest Hotel' – The Society of the Crossed Keys – Video Dailymotion .

Actor Bill Murray in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. The photograph is part of a collection of stills from the production of the movie.

Actor Bill Murray in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. The photograph is part of a collection of stills from the production of the movie.

The Concierge by Bill Murray

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Concierge ABC, Etiquette, Social Media

Concierge Flair and Social Media

Social Media gives the Concierge a tremendous opportunity to highlight our cities and hotels, share our insider knowledge and promote the Concierge profession. Before you join the online travel conversation, the most important question to answer is: how do you create a professional, polished, positive online image of yourself?

A cellphone by Cuban artist Abel Barroso at the Pan American Art Projects gallery during Art Basel 2013.

A cellphone by Cuban artist Abel Barroso at the Pan American Art Projects gallery during Art Basel 2013.

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Concierge ABC

The Stellar Concierge

My friends and family often ask me what 5 star service means. I grew up in a small town, in a small country, with just a few luxury hotels. I always tell them that for the guests it means many things. For the Concierge it means many things too. We are well spoken, polite, gracious, smile and have a genuine interest and concern for your satisfaction and enjoyment of your stay. We are thoughtful and intuitive in our service and suggestions, with exceptional detailed knowledge of our cities and any local events.

During the Pan American Les Clefs d’Or Congress, Mr. Jeff Wielgopolan, Director of Executive Training at Forbes Travel Guide, shared his thoughts on what makes a five star Concierge. Mr. Wielgopolan is a graduate from Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and has worked in many different areas of the industry. In 2005, he joined Forbes Travel Guide where he worked incognito as an inspector, before he became the Director of Executive Training.

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Concierge ABC, History, Miami

Will the Role of the Hotel Concierge Become Obsolete?

Not long ago, I read an article with the catching title: Is the Role of the Hotel Concierge Going Obsolete? For a professional concierge, which I consider myself to be, this was a rather disturbing, drastic, and dramatic idea. I am going to be obsolete, why and how come? The author, a well known social media expert and hospitality writer, however, raised some very valid questions. Why, in our advanced technological times, does the modern day traveler still need a concierge? What makes the concierge service so valuable when our guests can look up everything they need on their online mobile devices? For how much longer will we find the concierge in the hotel lobby? How does the concierge justify his or her role and existence?

Ocean Drive, SoBe

Ocean Drive and Lummus Park back in the 90's, Photo Andrew Kaufman.

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Body Mind Soul, Concierge ABC

Nina’s ABC

Once I had a guest who requested I make him a hotel reservation in the Bahamas. Of course, we meet many guests from all over the world. Some visit Miami from China, Japan, France, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand, or India. Guests with German names do not cause me any difficulties. My native language is Dutch and Dutch and German are quite similar. Indonesian names are fine as well. In the past, before I became a Concierge, I used to live and work in Jakarta. Chinese names are difficult because I do not speak any Chinese. Japanese names too. Sometimes I struggle with the correct pronunciation of Spanish or Italian names. Giselle speaks both languages fluently, so I usually ask her how to get the pronunciation right. I also noticed that most guests from Latin America have very long last names and then there can be a lot of a’s in Indian names.

Exuma Bahamas Children

Exuma Bahamas, Photo by Andrew Kaufman.

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Concierge ABC, Tipping, Travel Etiquette

For Love or Money

A Concierge favorite is the movie For Love or Money. There are not too many movies where the main movie character is a Concierge. Sometimes you might see a movie scene with a Concierge; of course, always wearing the Clefs d’Or Keys or answering a phone behind the Concierge Desk in the lobby of an upscale hotel. In For Love or Money, the lead character however, is a Concierge, named Doug Ireland, who is played by Michael J. Fox.

For Love Or Money

Michael J. Fox in For Love or Money, Photo by Universal Pictures.

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