The remit of a concierge has gone far beyond booking theatre tickets. From transporting tigers to playing cupid, today’s concierges are trained to accommodate the most weird and wonderful of requests.
The position the concierge occupies within a hotel or airline is vital. As the first and last point of contact for each customer, this time-old department bears end-to-end responsibility for guest experience.
A professional concierge must be personable, discreet and able to dispense accurate information. The best concierges also possess high levels of general knowledge and a network of contacts, so that they can turn their wits to even the most outrageous whims of their guests.
On Etihad’s The Residence, a VIP concierge team manages all aspects of the experience, including booking luxury chauffeur transfers, check-in, and custom menu planning.
The term ‘concierge’ first appeared in France in the Middle Ages as a reference to the King’s palace guards. As the holder of the keys to all the royal rooms, the concierge’s responsibilities included overseeing the administration of domestic services and performing special tasks at the request of the royal court. It wasn’t until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that concierges branched out into grand European hotels.
In those times, as today, the concierge was highly relied upon and trusted.
But as the luxury travel sector matures and the number of global high net worth individuals rises, hotel concierge requests have gone far beyond the norm of booking theatre tickets or taxis.
A businessman visiting from London went to Miami, Florida to visit his girlfriend. He wanted his partner to move back to London with him. She agreed on one condition – that she could bring her pet tiger with her. The man asked the concierge for help making arrangements for the tiger to travel; she happily obliged by locating a ‘tiger-friendly’ airport and arranged for transport to the airport. The tiger and his owner both made it safely to London.
One rickshaw, please
At the Taj Mahal, New Delhi, India, a wealthy guest expressed his desire to purchase a rickshaw for his 12-year-old son. The tour guide took over the request, paid a local owner for his rickshaw, took it apart, boxed it, and had it delivered to the airport.
Love by design
A concierge at the InterContinental in Hong Kong helped a shy guest meet his eventual bride. The guest saw a woman he was attracted to but was too afraid to approach her. The concierge asked the woman out on his behalf, planned a romantic evening in the Verandah restaurant, and even arranged for the hotel’s Rolls-Royce to pick his sweetheart up. It worked. The couple later got married with the concierge as the groom’s best man.
Extravagant wedding proposals
The concierge at the Mandarin Oriental in New York City was asked by a guest to help with arrangements for a dramatic wedding proposal. The bride-to-be was flown around New York City in a helicopter. Meanwhile, two camera crews followed – one on the ground at Liberty Island and one in a helicopter flanking the couple. When they got to the Statue of Liberty the hotel staff members dropped a 100-foot long banner with the words ‘marry me’.
A Texan had spent a number of years living in London. When he moved back home he heard that London Transport, the company responsible for double-decker buses, was phasing out those particular buses. He asked his concierge friend to help him buy a bus and then had it shipped back to America.