Did you have any influential experiences with a special car of a guest?
I handle luxurious cars on an almost daily basis. In the Park Hyatt, I once had a guest from Dubai drive up with two Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead. Both vehicles were completely ruined due to severe damage by hail. In response to my question whether the cars were insured, the owner only answered that the insurance was only valid in Dubai. I never found out what the damages exactly resulted from and why it wasn’t repaired.
Another amusing story revolves around a Porsche GT2 RS. As an influential guest arrived at the hotel, I offered to park his car, as usual. However, the guest denied. The car had a delicate clutch made from ceramic and he preferred to park it himself. He barely parked the car when the alarm started going off and couldn’t be stopped anymore. Because the guest had to attend a meeting shortly, I took it upon myself to sort out the problem.
A call at the Porsche support center wasn’t very helpful at fist. They said that they didn’t have any employees in the area. After I told them the name of the car owner, it only took about 30 minutes for not one but three Porsche support cars to arrive. The damage was repaired immediately. This is great fun.
Have you seen the movie «The Grand Budapest Hotel»? What do you think of it?
I think the movie is extremely good. It pokes fun at the concierge profession and in my daily business, humor is extremely important as well. I like that because I think that you can accomplish more in life with a little bit fun than without. Personally, I refrain from having such intimate relationships with my guests as it is pictured in the movie. This is not exercised in that fashion anymore.
However, it is absolutely possible to develop a good relationship to regular guests. You can even call this friendship, although it doesn’t contain all the traits of it. The relationship between guest and host always remains, as the guest continues to pay for a service that he receives. A friendly relationship beyond that can be problematic. Like that, concierges learn to always act with a certain amount of diplomacy. The interests of the guests are always in the foreground for concierges, even when they partially diverge from the interests of the hotel.
How do you envision the concierge profession in 50 years? What will change?
That is hard to say as everything happens so quickly nowadays. It is certain that the needs of travelers over the past years have changed extremely. For example, there are hotel chains that don’t provide phones on their rooms because everyone has a mobile anyways. For lack of internet, you didn’t know how to get from A to B in the past. Now that’s mostly over. And restaurant recommendations lose importance as well.
I think, that the global conciergerie will be thinned out. In my opinion, there will be less hotels serving a clientele that really needs a professional concierge. The few that will have, will provide even more extensive services. The focus will lie on things that can’t be googled. For example, if the guest needs a good gastroenterologist in the morning, Google won’t really be able to help.
Even though online feedbacks from TripAdvisor and Yelp are extremely important, they don’t always project a picture that fits the reality. If I can tell a familiar manager of a restaurant what my guest sets value on, he will have a completely different experience than if he would look up the restaurant number 1 on TripAdvisor and go there by himself.
The conciergerie will exist in different forms and manifest in other things. At the moment, the principle of concierges expands to luxury lifestyle service providers like AMEX Centurion and Vertu phones. In 50 years, it will be smaller and more exclusive than today.