In an era of AI chatbots, self-service kiosks and digital check-in, the concept of a traditional hotel concierge may seem somewhat antiquated.
But with demand for dedicated concierge staff far outpacing supply in the U.S., it appears that the role is anything but obsolete.
According to Sean Slattery, concierge at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa in Florida and a member of the national association of professional hotel concierges Les Clefs d’Or USA, demand for highly qualified concierge personnel has grown more geographically widespread in recent years, and it’s pushing beyond five-star hotels into other tiers.
“In the past, the majority of Les Clefs d’Or USA members were mainly concentrated in bigger cities, like L.A. and New York,” Slattery said. “However, in places across the West and Midwest there are now some very luxurious hotels.
And those hotels bring in the high-end clientele that expect concierge service.”
Slattery cited Big Sky, Mont., as just one example of a market where an influx of luxe hotels has led to spiking demand for hotel concierges.
“Rates play a factor, as well,” said Slattery.
“With rates at some [Big Sky hotels] going for $1,500 to $3,000 a night, you need to have a Les Clefs d’Or member or concierge on staff.
“And some two- and three-star hotels in Big Sky are also implementing concierges, because even those properties are now charging $700 to $800 a night,” Slattery added.
Indeed, Montana’s Residence Inn Big Sky/The Wilson Hotel, for instance, advertises “concierge desk service” as an available amenity on its website.
According to Montage Big Sky general manager Victorio Gonzalez, the Preferred Hotels & Resorts network resort’s “high-touch concierge service has become more popular” since the property’s 2021 debut.
“Our team has grown as we see a higher demand for pre-arrival planning,” said Gonzalez.
Other concierges indicated that smaller leisure markets — for example, those in the Western U.S. that cater to upscale and luxury clientele but are outside of the traditional, marquee cities — have emerged as hot spots for concierge hiring.
“We didn’t previously have a lot of members in states like Colorado and Utah, but we’re now seeing a great increase in requests there,” said Leigh Anne Dolecki, president of Les Clefs d’Or USA and chef concierge at the Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena, Calif.
Hard to find good help
Finding an experienced concierge to bring on board, however, has become a challenge for some hotels.
According to Les Clefs d’Or USA member Regena Falling, chef concierge at the St. Regis New York, most hotel concierge teams across New York are currently in what she describes as a “rebuilding phase.”
“Based on every desk that I’ve talked to, literally everyone’s looking [to fill concierge roles] in Manhattan, and almost all of the top hotels have concierge jobs posted,” she said. “After Covid, hotels came back with smaller desks because they were just starting back up, but now they’re really trying to build back to pre-Covid staffing levels.”
As with most hospitality-related professions, the pool of qualified candidates across most U.S. markets has shrunk significantly since the pandemic.
Dolecki estimates that Les Clefs d’Or USA’s membership base has declined from approximately 600 concierge professionals pre-Covid to around 400 today.
“When the pandemic hit, many of the concierge teams were the first to be laid off indefinitely,” said Dolecki. “And so, some took early retirement because they didn’t see other options on the horizon, and many moved on to other jobs during the pandemic. It’s very tough now to find high-level concierges.”
Replenishing those ranks will take time. Les Clefs d’Or concierges — identifiable by a pair of crossed gold keys pinned to their lapels — must meet a variety of requirements to gain membership, including working full time as a hotel lobby-level concierge for a minimum of five years.
Fulfilling guests’ requests
And far from relying on Internet guides and self-booking tools, guests appear to be utilizing the concierge desk more frequently.
“Looking at our numbers for this year over last year, we’re probably up by a couple thousand entries in our online notebook, which is where we input an entry for every request we get from guests,” said the St. Regis New York’s Falling. “And right now, we have just six people, whereas back in the early 2000s and 2010s, we probably had eight or nine, or sometimes 10.”
Laura Madrid, founder of Atlanta-based luxury agency Resort to Laura Madrid, reports that amid the current travel boom, she and her clients rely on hotel concierge support “now more than ever.”
Madrid brought up dining as an example. “It’s not like the old days where you could easily walk in and grab a table somewhere,” she said. “Even if a restaurant isn’t booked, they may not be taking reservations to full capacity because of staffing levels. So, concierges are definitely being called into action.”
Les Clefs d’Or USA’s Dolecki has similarly noticed new layers of complexity when it comes to booking restaurants, attractions and other activities in the wake of the pandemic.
“The concierge is needed even more now, because the landscape has completely changed,” said Dolecki. “And it’s not really the job of the front desk to keep up with all the restaurants and museums and transportation and everything that comes with visiting a destination.”
Meanwhile, Michelle Woodley, president of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, pointed out that heightened guest expectations are also in play. “Rates are higher than ever,” said Woodley, citing the fact that ultraluxe properties within Preferred’s Legend Collection have recorded a year-over-year ADR increase of about 15%.
“And because of that, the demand for delivery on the experience is much more intense than it was before, and rightfully so,” said Woodley. “We’re seeing that [translate into] more demand for concierge service and other personalized services during a stay, from beginning to end.”
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