As a hotel concierge, what does your job entail?
My key responsibility involves ensuring that our guests enjoy a memorable experience during their stay. This means in a day my job could include anything from fulfilling a last-minute request for a table in a fully booked restaurant to buying tickets to a concert that was sold out several months ago to helping guests discover unexplored hidden gems of Dubai. So, every day at work is unique.
How did you become a concierge?
My path to becoming a concierge is more a story of fate over free will. I did not train to work in the hospitality industry but rather stumbled onto it. In my homeland, Kenya, I was working in the public services when I was offered a job to join the pre-opening team of a hotel in Dubai in 2013. My actual training happened on the job as I worked with some of the best head concierges in the UAE. While at The H Dubai, I rose through the ranks from a concierge agent to the post of supervisor, then assistant manager and now the guest service manager.
What is a typical day for you?
In the life of a hotel concierge, there is no such thing as a typical day. No two days are the same. We welcome guests from all over the world from different backgrounds with unique travel requirements. Depending on my shift I either start my day in at 8am or at 3pm. The first thing I do is meet the team to discuss the previous day’s operations and plan the day ahead. Typically, as I am the first point of contact for visitors, you will find me in the hotel lobby watching over every detail of our guests’ interactions. I usually work six days a week and leave it to my guests to decide when my working day ends. In the hospitality industry you can never leave work just because your shift is over.
A concierge’s basic role is to have a wealth of knowledge and connections. So, I have to take out time to dine at the newest restaurants, see the latest shows, mix and mingle with the who’s who of Dubai’s nightlife scene to ensure I have all the connections to make the impossible possible when required.
The best part about your job is…
The opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. And sometimes those meetings become extra special when the guests happen to be my favourite celebrities such as actor Nikolaj Waldau (who plays Jaime Lannister in the Game of Thrones), songstress Rita Ora and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Is it true that a hotel concierge enjoys several enviable perks?
Yes, some of the jealousy-inducing privileges include countless invitations for complimentary tables at fine dining restaurants, concert tickets with backstage passes and fancy tours by helicopters and yachts. However, free invites do not lead to recommendations for my guests. I go on my own to these venues to review them personally without the added baggage of getting special treatment as a concierge.
Have you had any bizarre and challenging requests from your guests?
Yes, several. The most absurd incident happened when a guest brought her own king-size bed to sleep in. She later told me that as she travels frequently on business, she prefers to sleep in her own bed as it gave her a sense of being at home. It was a request which we felt obliged to honour and I had to remove the hotel bed from her suite to make space for her personal one.
Another memorable request came from a guest who gave me an hour to deliver flowers on the occasion of her mother’s birthday in Luxembourg. Fortunately, I had the contact details of the head concierge of the hotel the lady was staying in Luxembourg. With a phone call a van full of roses reached her mother’s doorstep in less than an hour.
Another time I was given the difficult task of helping one of my guests (an avid watch collector) purchase a Rolex GMT-Master II also known as the Rolex Pepsi because of its blue and black dial. It sounded like a normal request until I researched and realised how incredibly rare it is. The watch had a waiting list of over two years and there was no possibility of finding a single piece in Dubai for months. I spent the whole day making international calls and within 24 hours, found a Dutch dealer in Hong Kong who had only one such watch and was willing to sell it.
How do you cope with a bad day at work?
Being stubbornly optimistic has helped me to sail through bad days. The most challenging situations happen when I have to deal with guests who are in a bad mood. To let off the steam from interacting with such difficult people I unwind by hitting the gym. No matter how busy my schedule is I wake up at 5am and do an intensive and energising workout.
What did winning Hotelier Middle East’s best concierge award in 2018 mean to you?
It was the most exciting and exceptionally emotional experience of my life. Winning the award reinforced the belief that eventually hard work pays off. It doesn’t matter what profession you are in as long as you do it with passion and commitment. It also serves as a constant reminder of the high standards and professionalism expected of me by my colleagues and guests.
What according to you are the top qualities that a great hotel concierge should have?
The first most important quality is persistence. I recall an instance when a restaurant in Dubai was fully booked when I enquired to make dinner reservations for an important guest. I did not take no for an answer. I went to the restaurant and the surprised manager gave me the table without asking any questions. You also need to have a true commitment to your guests. Being a concierge is a lifestyle. Lastly you have to be good at networking. It is not how much you know but who you know that will separate you from the chaff. Take out time to expand your address book.