How long have you been working as Concierge at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Dubai? Where were you prior to that?
I joined Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai as the Lead Navigator in May last year. At Renaissance, the concierge team members are known as ‘Navigators’ and we are the heart and soul of the hotel. Prior to this, I was part of the pre-opening teams of Address Boulevard and Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah as the Chief Concierge.
What brought you to Dubai?
Dubai is one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities and there is always something new happening. It is exciting to work as a concierge in Dubai as the city has so much to offer; from skydiving, desert activities to water sports and water parks. So, I decided that Dubai is the place for me.
Can you look back on a long career as concierge? How did you get to work as a hotel concierge and member of Les Clefs d’Or?
I started my career as concierge in 2010 with Taj Club House, Chennai, India, and after a year moved to the Leela Palace Chennai, as part of the pre-opening team. In 2013 I received an offer of a lifetime to join the pre-opening team for the first Waldorf Astoria hotel in the UAE in Ras al Khaimah. This was definitely the turning point of my career after I earned my promotion to Concierge Supervisor and later on, to Chief Concierge.
After the successful opening of Waldorf Astoria, I received another opportunity to join the Address Boulevard in Dubai as Chief Concierge for the hotel preopening project. Thereafter, I moved to join Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai, to work with one of the world’s biggest hotel companies and iconic lifestyle brand for Marriott International.
In January 2012, I got offered the opportunity to attend the “Service Magic” training in Bangalore, conducted by Mr. Michael Romei, Former General Secretary of UICH International. His trainings inspired me to become a part of Les Clefs d’Or.
In the UAE, I have been attending the meetings regularly, and the organization offered me the chance to get involved in numerous projects; from organizing the 4th Annual General Meeting held in Ras al Khaimah, to volunteering for the 63rd UICH International Congress in Dubai, which was attended by over 700 concierges worldwide.
In July 2016 I received my official membership of Les Clefs d’Or and by March 2018, I got elected as the Public Relations Officer of Les Clefs d’Or UAE. Our objective is to maintain the highest level of standard amongst concierges across the UAE by providing our team with the necessary platforms, in order to keep up with the evolution of the ‘Homo Touristicus’, or how we like to call “the next generation of travelers.”
Do you have a particular slogan or guiding principle in your concierge role?
The great principle, which I keep in my mind, and always say to my colleagues, is to be “Passionate”. I believe if you have the right passion, you will stay motivated every day to push to your best abilities by adding that extra personalized touch to everything you strive to accomplish. In addition, I always keep our Les Clefs d’Or motto in my mind “Service through Friendship”, with my guests, as well as with my colleagues
What, in your opinion, are the biggest advantages and disadvantages concerning your profession?
One of the biggest advantages to being a concierge is the community of friends and colleagues you have on a global scale, especially as a member of Les Clefs d’Or. It helps me to create unforgettable experiences for my guests, as well as myself when I travel and is a great way to meet interesting people from different cultures. I feel great satisfaction seeing that guests enjoyed their tailor-made experiences through the recommendations we provide.
As a concierge, it can sometimes be a challenge to be up to date with what’s happening in a vibrant city like Dubai, as there are new openings and events every day. However, through the well-connected Les Clefs d’Or network, I can easily find answers for all my guests’ queries.
Do you think there is a difference between working as a concierge in Dubai compared to Europe or the rest of the world?
I believe Dubai is a hub for international travellers and the city has created its own identity on the world map. I believe as long as you are aware of cultural differences, stay up to date and create tailored experiences with a personal touch, you will enjoy working in Dubai.
What are tourists like in Dubai in comparison to other hotels you worked at in the past?
Dubai is known to be the global hub for hospitality and all-things-modern, so tourists are always curious to try the ‘newest and latest’ activities in the city. As a ‘Navigator’, my main focus is finding the authentic hidden gems of our neighborhood that only the locals know about. It is a unique program and is one of the key pillars of our brand that draws guests to stay at Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai.
What was the most challenging task you received from a hotel guest you could execute? Do you reject certain orders as well?
I once had a guest looking for a specific Japanese food item, Gyokuro Genmaicha Green Tea (a mix of green tea and roasted rice). On her behalf, we had secretly arranged for this item to be specially delivered to the hotel. The guest was extremely happy and really wowed. Even when requests go above and beyond, we try to make them happen.
Did you have any memorable experiences with a special car of a guest?
We recently had a guest that asked us to arrange four Rolls Royce Ghost cars with chauffeurs to drive them to The Dubai Mall. As we were unable to find this on such a short notice, we had a Rolls Royce Ghost, a Range Rover Vogue, a Mercedes S Class, and a Mercedes Maybach waiting for them in front of the Renaissance Downtown Hotel. The guests were extremely happy with our last-minute arrangements and the wide selection of cars.
When I worked with Waldorf Astoria, we had a Waldorf Luxury driving experience with McLaren, Lamborghini and Ferrari as part of our brand initiative. One day I noticed a small boy watching the supercars drive by. I read the excitement in this boy’s eyes and kindly asked him if he would like to go for a ride around our hotel to experience the supercars. His parents were so thankful and they said that it was one of the most unforgettable moments in their life, and this experience reminded me why I love what I do.
Have you seen the movie «The Grand Budapest Hotel»? What do you think of it?
Oh yes, I have and will never get bored of it. Would love to watch another production on our awesome profession!
The movie does very much highlight the way a concierge works, the attention to detail alongside personalization and going the extra mile to exceed expectations. This in turn creates returning guests and sometimes even long-lasting friendships. Of course, we would surely be maintaining a high level of professional relationships with our guests unlike that depicted in the movie. Nevertheless, the movie highlights the driving points in the association which is the power of a strong, dependable network. The fact that a Les Clefs d’Or Concierge can contact a fellow member anywhere across the globe and be assured of the highest quality of service, sometimes without even knowing them personally, still continues to amaze me!
How do you envision the concierge profession in 50 years? What will change?
With the development of technology and the growth of a vast number of websites, applications and social media platforms available for travellers, the life of a concierge has changed significantly. While it is a great tool for the concierge, technology will never be able to replace personal service and emotional bonds. I always like to think that a service professional should go on a partial emotional journey with the guest, just enough so that the guest feels empathy and care but not so far as to be intrusive.