Driven by consumer desires for new experiences, innovative technologies and environmental impacts – travel is changing. Host Sarah Dandashy explores the technologies and logistics that power travel and the brands that build unforgettable experiences.
Without a doubt, the hospitality industry is in an evolutionary state of sweeping change. While many in the sector are seeing transformations occur daily, others are watching from the proverbial sidelines, eager to bring back in to play the game of hospitality they’ve loved and known so well. But for those accustomed to providing high-touch service in a hotel setting, what does the future of hospitality truly look like? One of the best examples to examine is the traditional hotel concierge role.
The word concierge is French, meaning the ‘keeper of keys’, and during the Middle Ages, a concierge did just that. When castles across Europe hosted visiting nobility, the concierge kept the keys to the castle rooms while ensuring that guests had everything they needed during their stay. Fast forward to more recent times, and the concierge has become the ‘go-to’ person with the connections, resolve and composure to execute any request, regardless of how peculiar. A position within a hotel that is more than just customer-facing, the hotel concierge is the guest’s liaison to the property itself, as well as the neighborhood and community that lies beyond the front doors.
When considering the future of both hospitality and the concierge profession, no one is better qualified to discuss the topic and offer insider insights than Robert Marks, former President of Les Clefs d’Or USA and current Director of the Americas Les Clefs d’Or International (also known as UICH). Based in San Diego, a city reliant upon convention business, Marks has seen first-hand the challenges that the industry faces. With a convention center that’s been temporarily transformed into a shelter to help house the homeless—indeed, a noble effort by the city’s leadership—this move is unquestionably indicative that San Diego is not expecting convention business any time soon.
Beyond his immediate community, Robert also provided his unique perspective on what the reopening of hotels will look like globally. There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to hotel recovery and reopening, so each property will be influenced by its own market and demographics, the identifiability and financial strength of the brand, and many other varying details.
As far as the concierge profession goes, the most significant change—which lends itself perfectly to the nature of a concierge—is the need to wear multiple hats. Around the world, we’re seeing changes in what concierges are being asked to do—from helping at the front desk to night audits to room service and even to housekeeping—many concierges are rolling up their sleeves and doing whatever it takes to keep the hotel afloat and functioning.
Yet, at a time when so much of hospitality depends on having the right technology, Marks predicts that at some point, the pendulum will swing back to the days of “the human touch”. More than just craving travel, people are craving personal interactions, reliable sources, and trustworthy guidance. Queue the hotel concierge—a role that will continue to be the hospitality guest’s beacon of knowledge, as well as a luminary of reassurance moving forward.
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the hospitality industry and travel in general, there may be a lull before properties are able to bring concierge’s back to their stands. However, once we’re on the other side of the pandemic, the role concierges have played as far back as the Middle Ages will be as essential and sought after as ever before. After all, as great as technology is, it simply can’t compete with the nuances of human connection and interaction.
For more on Les Clefs d’Or, the organization that both Robert and I are part of, feel free to check out these websites:
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