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“When a guest leaves smiling, I’m a happy man”
Elected “Concierge of the Year” in 2016, José has been at the helm of the concierge service at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace for ten years. Together with his team, he handles requests from the hotel guests. Portrait of an exceptional man.
When you enter the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, José is often the first person you see. Or to be more accurate, his magnificent smile that illuminates the main lobby. He has been Head Concierge of this luxury hotel for ten years and his office stands opposite the entrance. This is where, day in day out, he and his team strive to satisfy every request, big or small, from the hotel guests. As long as it
is legal, of course. The lapels of his uniform bear the famous golden keys which inform the guests that this is indeed a place where luxury reigns supreme. It is the highest possible distinction awarded to only the most deserving of concierges in luxury hotels. José has proudly worn his since 1992. What training did he follow to reach these dizzying heights? “The hotel business live!” he exclaims. No prestigious schools just the good fortune to learn in situ. He climbed the ranks one by one, slowly but surely.
A team leader with a big heart
When asked what qualities are required to do this job, he answers that, above all, you have to like contact with people as well as show an interest in everything that is happening around the world. When he looks at the members of his team, he can immediately see who is likely to follow in his footsteps. “You see, that valet is only interested in cars. That one, however, is more curious. Whenever he gets the chance, he stands behind the desk to help the guests. When I see that a member of staff is keen to learn other things than those he was initially employed to do, I help them develop their potential.” Other necessary qualities include the utmost discretion, the ability to get on with people, a sense of hospitality and, in particular, the versatility to cope with every situation. And let’s not forget languages. Three is the bare minimum. José speaks six: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German and English.
Details are the key
Today, everyone has a personal assistant with them 24/7 thanks to their smartphone; so you’d be forgiven for wondering why guests in a luxury hotel still turn to the concierge. “It is the details that make us different from Google,” smiles José. That is why it is very important for a concierge to have an intimate knowledge of the region he works in so that he can recommend addresses that aren’t as well known to the general public or to ensure he knows which doctor to call in an emergency. What this 57-year-old prefers are guests who enjoy hiking or cycling, his two great passions. So when a guest needs some information about one of these two activities, José is the man
they ask. “It is very important to be able to provide information that is clearly based on first-hand experience.”
Some guests have become friends
When it comes to pleasing a guest, this big-hearted sports fan is willing to “sacrifice” a day’s holiday. “Once, a customer wanted to go cycling. I mentioned that I had a day off the next day and suggested cycling up to la Gruyère. We had a bite to eat while we were there, then returned to the hotel. Sometimes I do things like that.” For José, nothing is more important than a satisfied guest. “When a guest leaves smiling, I’m a happy man.”
He has even become friends with some of the hotel’s regular guests. “Some guests often suggest I visit them during my holidays, but I’m too embarrassed. In that respect, I’m a little shy. I need to keep a certain distance. They might be friends, but they are guests first and foremost. I call them my guestfriends.”
A little shy, but above all modest. As we were waiting beside his desk while he dealt with a guest who had just arrived with his family, an Englishman who is a regular visitor to the hotel told us that José was elected “Concierge of the Year” in 2016. José keeps the precious certificate out of sight in his office. “It is the guests that are important, not me,” he concludes, treating us to one of his most stunning smiles.