33 Secrets Hotel Concierges Want to You to Know
Make your concierge your best friend on your next vacation.
Concierges are like the fairy godmothers of the hospitality industry. You can ask for the craziest request, and it's a safe bet that they'll be able to grant you your wish. Exclusive dinner reservations? Check. A suite upgrade? Check. Private tours or shopping sprees? Check and check. But have you ever wondered how exactly they work their magic? Well, read on, because we talked to high-end hotel concierges around the world to find out all the behind-the-scenes secrets they want you to know.
They could be part of a secret society.
Remember the Society of Crossed Keys from Wes Anderson's cult classic, The Grand Budapest Hotel? Well, it's real. The Les Clefs d'Or, or the Golden Keys, is a group of the most elite concierges in the world. "Les Clefs d'Or concierges have a built-in network and community," says Gaby Delgado, Chef Concierge at the Fairmont Washington, D.C., who is a member herself. "There are different strengths that each desk or hotel has, and when you are thrown a curveball, you can always count on your 'In Service' family to help."
They can go shopping for you.
"One of the most over-the-top requests I have received in my 43 years in the business is a guest asked me to purchase an antique Aston Martin DB5 and have it shipped to the United Arab Emirates," says Robert Watson, Chef Concierge at the Willard InterContinental.
They can snag tickets to sold-out events or tables at booked restaurants.
"The real goal of a concierge is to cement long-term relationships with vendors that a guest might use," says Kyle Van Leeuwen, concierge at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica. "This allows us to call in favors whether that's procuring sold-out tickets to sporting events or concerts, or getting a reservation on Valentine's Day to the hottest restaurant in town."
There are specialized concierges who offer niche services.
Headed to the slopes? There may be a ski crew for you. "Guests can leave their gear with us, which will be transported to our exclusive ski concierge lounge, steps from the mountain, making it easier to fit your equipment and get around Vail Village lighter," says Victor Rossi, the Chef Concierge at Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail.
Beach bums should also check to see if their resort has a surfing concierge. "Our concierge desk [at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel] is made up of three expert surfers who can direct any traveler to some secret spots only the locals know about," says Van Leeuwen.
They can give you a history lesson.
Lise Legrand, Champagne Concierge at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in France, can tell you everything about the sparkling wine's history. "Dom Pierre Pérignon did not actually invent champagne. In fact, he probably hated bubbles! Most people don't realize that much of his story is a myth," she says. Another anecdote from the expert: "Pol Roger has been loved by bubbly drinkers for centuries—Winston Churchill drank so much of their fizz that they named a Cuvée after him—but is often overlooked by our guests in favor of the more popular houses in Champagne."
They might be able to score you a room upgrade or other hotel perks.
The golden rule to using a concierge: Ask, and you shall receive. "One of the best tips I can give is don't be afraid to ask," says Mayumi Sugai, a customer service representative at Vivere Hotel & Resort in the Philippines. "If you want your room to be upgraded, ask. If you want a complimentary drink, ask. If you need to pull off a surprise for your partner, ask. If you want a reservation in our restaurant with the best spot, ask."
They can double as bowtie butlers.
"One unexpected service our concierge team is asked for all the time: tying a guest's bow tie," says Brian Thomasson, a concierge at the Willard InterContinental in Washington, D.C. "I tie bow ties on a weekly basis, especially on the weekends when we have weddings."
They know all the hidden treasures of a city.
Don't rely on Google to unearth the best things to do in a destination. Tap into the knowledge of your concierge, who can really explain why a certain attraction or activity is superior. Take, for instance, Janice Dempsey, Chef Concierge at Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead, whose favorite spot in the city is the Atlanta History Center—a site you might've passed over if you were just browsing Yelp or TripAdvisor.
"The Atlanta History Center offers a glimpse into the city's heritage from the American Civil War to the golden age of the 1800s and 1920s to the 1996 Summer Olympics," says Dempsey. "Recently added is the Cyclorama, only one of two in America. This circular restored painting depicts the July 1864 Battle of Atlanta."
They might have done some research on you.
"I love to give advice on dining and city exploration based on guests' preferences," says Sky Wang, Butler Supervisor at the PuXuan in Beijing. He's always prepared to help as he studies guest profiles prior to check-in, so he's able to personalize their trip from the second they step into the hotel lobby.
They can plan your road trip.
Hospitality group Opal Collection offers a Road Trip Concierge program. "Now that today's travelers are opting to take it slow and enjoy the journey, rather than speed through a destination with fear of missing out on the next trip, we're proud to provide travelers with a valuable resource to help plan a Florida road trip," says Jenny Steffens, Opal Collection Concierge. "We'll help map out the best route to enjoy a romantic getaway in Clearwater Beach at the chic Opal Sands Resort, then jaunt down to Jupiter Beach Resort to catch a spring training game."
They can up your Instagram game.
"In today's social media-driven age, more people are traveling to destinations in search for the perfect Instagram shot," says W Insider Ricardo Perez. "W Punta de Mita's bright, bold, and colorful decor makes for a picturesque backdrop. To help our guests find the best places to snap a photo, we've recently launched the #InstagramConcierge program. We provide guests with an infographic map of the property marked with the most photo-worthy spots based on the overall aesthetic of their account. So far, the response has been awesome!"
They can accommodate some really outlandish requests.
"Our concierge can secure the best restaurant reservation, or they can organize experiences that money cannot buy," says Barry White, Chef Concierge at the InterContinental Dublin. "Recently, our concierge arranged to have [the city's] top luxury department store, Brown Thomas, to close privately so a famous guest could enjoy shopping in peace."
In fact, they thrive on outlandish requests.
"Being a concierge is the best job in the world; the list of what we can do to meet and exceed our guests' needs is endless," says concierge Emma Brødreskift of the Britannia in Trondheim, Norway. "We always get an adrenaline rush out of the 'impossible' request and no task is too big. For instance, we recently helped a guest arrange for the iconic Norwegian brown cheese to be exclusively imported to Kuwait."
They can offer tips on booking flights.
"We always recommend our guests explore flights to smaller, regional airports when they're booking travel," says Ernesto Correa, concierge at the Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Downtown (which will be called The Clancy when it completes a $30 million renovation in June).
"Our hotel is located a similar distance from both San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport, but due to the fact that the Oakland airport is smaller and subject to fewer fog delays, it can often be an easier travel experience," Correa says.
They can arrange religious celebrations.
"It does not matter what religious holiday a guest is celebrating, we will ensure that all tradition is upheld," says White. "Once our concierge had a very high-profile guest who was celebrating Hanukkah and only shared this information at the last minute. Our concierge not only arranged for the Hanukkah candle to be delivered to their suite (a difficult thing in a predominantly Catholic country like Ireland!) but also organized for the guest to celebrate with a local Jewish family who are regulars at our hotel."
They know all the tricks to attending popular events.
Take Washington, D.C.'s cherry blossoms, for instance. "The best time to see the blossoms is early morning around sunrise," says Jeffrey Morgan, Chef Concierge at the Conrad Washington, D.C. "If you're a runner, take your morning run to the Tidal Basin or ride a scooter. Not only is the sunrise behind the blossoms absolutely incredible, it's also the least crowded time of day, so you can walk around relatively freely to take in the view."
They study your behavior and non-verbal cues.
"Over the last 17 years at Halekulani, I have learned to study people; there is meaning in how someone removes their sunglasses and how they are placed on the counter, the style of an aloha shirt and even the restraint of their hand while applying perfume or cologne," says Frank Hernandez, Concierge at Halekulani in Honolulu. "It may sound cliché, but being able to listen with your heart is essential. This is what separates a true concierge from a travel agent or front desk clerk; we are trained to hear the intention within their expression."
They may surprise you for a special occasion.
"When you're booking, always let your hotel know if you're traveling for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary, because depending on the property, there might be special services they can offer," says Dylan Scott, a member of the guest services team at the Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Rhinebeck, New York. For example, if you're celebrating something like a honeymoon, you might end up with a bottle of champagne in your room!
They can assist with kids, too.
"We can make recommendations for activities that children will find interesting and fun, for restaurants for the younger palate, and even for babysitters so mom and dad can have a night out by themselves," says Diane Horton, Heritage Hotels and Resorts Regional Concierge.
They spend a lot of time out and about, just like tourists!
"When you are off duty as a concierge, you must go out and experience your city so you can genuinely recommend where to go and what to do for out-of-town guests," says Vanessa Torruellas, Guest Relations Manager and Chef Concierge at The Iroquois New York. "That is the fun part of being a concierge—your life is a continuous research project. There is always a new play, bar, or restaurant to discover. It is also important to create a strong network with restaurant managers and owners so you can continually [offer] unique experiences for your guests."
They prefer conversations over inquiries.
"I believe the best way for a guest to interact with a concierge is to have a conversation versus asking a specific question," says Sayaka Hishinuma, Chef Concierge at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. "We love to engage with our clientele to hear more about their likes and dislikes. Once we gather all the information and create a meaningful connection with a guest, we endeavor to create an experience or adventure that is unique and personalized. So don't just ask your concierge a question, engage in a conversation and they will be able to deliver something bespoke and specialized for you."
They hate vague questions.
"One of the most important questions to avoid is: 'What is there to do up there?'" says John Menne, the former Guest Services Manager of Hasbrouck House in Stone Ridge, New York. "You could go on forever with listing a ton of things that are of no interest to the guest. So I usually respond with some questions for them about their interests. For example, do they like outdoor activities like hiking or snowshoeing, brewery or winery tours, are they foodies or are they coming to relax and unwind with some yoga and a massage? Narrowing it down to the guests' interests helps us plan their perfect trip."
They're always looking out for you—especially if you accidentally leave things behind.
"Whenever someone asks me to get them a cab, I always write down the cab number. That way, if the guest leaves something behind in the taxi, I am already able to tell them the name and specific number of the taxi to help them track down the item later," says Jesus Braulio Zavala, a bellman at Hotel Essex in Chicago. "Similarly, if guests forget a passport in the hotel and they are already at the airport, all might not be lost. Guests should call the hotel and see if the concierge can find a way to get the passport to them. Concierges and bellmen often have a trusted network of known taxi drivers that can help deliver lost items in a pinch."
They never forget repeat guests.
"Welcoming a guest back to the hotel and asking them how they enjoyed something specific about their last stay makes them feel extra special," says Susan Cotton, Director of Marketing at the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston. "Remembering what type of amenity a guest likes, or even a specific room can go a long way."
They want you to reach out before you check in.
"We often have guests who pre-plan their vacation but do not contact the concierge services at their hotel," says Jose Pauco, Head Concierge at the Milestone Hotel & Residences in London.
Don't do that! "Always contact us at the concierge desk well in advance of your trip. We can help with everything from checking the weather forecast for your dates of stay, to advising of any major events or trade shows in town that might affect your visit, to recommending which tickets you should reserve ahead of time," adds Chef Concierge Joachim Lenk from the Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin.
They can moonlight as meteorologists.
Never agonize about whether or not to bring that sweater to dinner—your concierge can easily help you make any wardrobe decisions related to the weather. For instance, take the advice of concierge Hoon Kim from The Silo: "Cape Town can have quite unpredictable weather, which means experiencing all four seasons in one day is very possible. The solution is to remain flexible and know things may not always go as planned. We are here to assist in these instances, so leave the rest to us."
They can book local experiences, not just touristy ones.
"We have strong relationships with locals within the community to create the best excursions in the region, from a cultural experience to a full adrenaline adventure," says Ruth Murillo, a concierge at the Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa in Costa Rica.
They are masters at networking.
"Connections and relationships are key to making the impossible possible," says Roshid Milledge, a concierge at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia. "Getting that restaurant reservation might even take a little begging and pleading, but in the end when the result is a happy guest, it's all worth it."
They love their cities.
"When walking about the city, remind yourself to look up and take in all of the spectacular architecture and experiences," says Rommel Gopez, Director of Guest Relations at Hotel Edison. "As a tourist, it is so easy to get lost in city travel guides and books that you might actually miss out on the charm of New York."
They know how to cure jet lag.
"I always take long jogs or other forms of exercise when I'm trying to get back into a time zone, and it helps a lot with my jet lag," says Marcel Thoma, General Manager at The Upper House in Hong Kong.
They are expert navigators.
"As many New Yorkers know, traffic in the city can be terrible. While it's easy to hail a cab or a ride-share service, depending on traffic, it can be better to take the subway or walk if it's a short distance," says Narciso Rodríguez, a concierge at The Lowell in New York. "Working at The Lowell for 18 years, you become an expert guide to the city. Along with the rest of the Guest Services team, we're always happy to help our guests navigate the subway or provide them with walking directions, so they can get to where they're going on time."
They won't break the law for you.
"As long as it's legal, moral, and kind, we try to ask the question, 'Why can't we do it?'" says Patrick Ritschard, Chef Concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas.
There are two words you will never hear them say.
"We try to keep 'no' and 'sorry' out of our vocabulary," says Menne. "We're truly willing to help out with all questions and requests, even when that requires a little extra research and legwork."
And to get more of the insider scoop, check out the 20 Secrets Hotel Employees Won't Tell You.