When a Qatari sheikh asked a concierge at the Raffles Dubai hotel to deliver a present to his wife, the concierge nodded. “Of course, sir. What gift?”
A Rolls Royce Ghost, the latest model, the sheikh replied. To be delivered to Qatar by the following evening.
The year was 2012. Harold Abonitalla, now chief concierge of Habtoor Palace, considers this his most challenging request in his 14 years as a concierge.
“I was in hot water,” he recalls. It was a Thursday evening, and with Friday being holy day in Dubai, most shops and services would be closed.
He raced to the Rolls Royce showroom, and by 8pm he had collected the Ghost. But how would he transport the $300,000 vehicle 400 miles by sunset the following day? Through his network of contacts he found a fellow concierge with an uncle who worked in cargo. The uncle helped him to secure a plane that could carry the car – at a price.
“It’ll cost 350,000 dirhams (approximately $95,000),” Abonitalla told the guest. “Don’t give me rates, just do it,” said the sheikh.
The golden keys
Going above and beyond to fulfill a guest request is a key quality of any member of Les Clefs d’Or, an international association of elite concierges.
Recognizable by a pair of golden keys pinned to their lapels, the network spans 80 countries and has approximately 4,000 members. They pride themselves on making the impossible possible.
Ela Lanzanas, chief concierge of five-star Fairmont Dubai and member of Les Clefs d’Or, once had to locate a Lebanese hair stylist, persuade him to drop his appointments, and charter a boat to take him out to a guest on a three-day cruise.
“She said she would not have time to go to the salon after their cruise for the fancy dinner in the evening,” Lanzanas recalls.
The Clefs d’Or network made it possible. “The most important thing to me is to fulfill a last-minute request and make the guest happy,” says Lanzanas. “The lady was very pleased with the way her hair was done.”
Providing “pure luxury”
“Concierges will accommodate every request so long as it is morally, legally and humanly possible,” reads the group’s LinkedIn page.
Dubai attracts 15.8 million overnight visitors yearly, thanks in large to business travelers and its reputation as a tourist hotspot. Expectations run high.
“Luxury is in the blood of Dubai,” says Abey Sam, president of Les Clefs d’Or UAE. “And as a Les Clefs d’Or concierge, it’s about (providing) pure luxury.”
Guests once handed Sam an unlabeled and almost empty perfume bottle. They had bought it in Dubai some years ago but couldn’t remember where exactly where.
According to Sam, Dubai has more than 200 perfume shops – none of them claimed it. So he took the dregs to a manufacturer, who took the chemical readings and recreated the perfume.
“When I gave it to the couple, they were blown away – they had spent four days looking for it,” says Sam. “These are the challenges that come to you; and if you are a good concierge you can do it for them.”