Local Knowledge - Global Reach: InterContinental Uses Concierge Expertise in Marketing

By Marjorie Silverman Honorary President, UICH, Les Clefs d'Or | August 09, 2010

In late 2006, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts (IHG) launched an "evolved brand positioning dedicated to providing local, authentic and enriching travel experiences to guests around the world ". Who better to deliver this message but the chains' 1000 concierges, who were elevated to serve as "In the Know" brand ambassadors. In a recent letter to Robert Watson, Chief Concierge of InterContinental - The Willard, a leader of the rollout of the program, Steve Porter, President, The Americas, InterContinental Hotels Group, said "....it is the impact and presence of you and your global concierge colleagues that have given our InterContinental brand the confidence to focus our position on "In the Know" and to differentiate our brand on the foundation of our concierge service." In this article we will explore why InterContinental is spot on in identifying the professional hotel concierge as perfectly suited to this mission.

Company press releases emphasize validated research. Contemporary travelers in the luxury market are searching for a safe haven and are time-challenged. These guests seek unique, memorable and local experiences that reveal the culture of the country and city they are visiting. They want to capture the "Spirit of Place" - that magical intersection of culture, monuments, cuisine - which defines a locale without taking the time to read the great travel writers like Lawrence Durrell, Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson, or Evelyn Waugh. Who, within the hotel, could serve as the guides, filter the overload of information and tailor it to individual guests' desires and needs?

As industry professionals, you know that this research is not unique to InterContinental and the current "travel mantra" is one-of-a-kind, authentic experiences. When Simon Cooper, President and COO of Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company addressed the International Les Clefs d'Or Concierge Congress in Washington DC in January of 2006, he described the psychographic changes of the affluent travel consumer: "Guests want one-of-a-kind experiences. Create that immediate impact, that "wow" factor, for your guests and you guarantee repeat business for your hotel".

In an article entitled "Top Ten Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Trends for 2008", Hotelmarketing.com identified saving time as the greatest luxury in our 24/7 world. In addition, the author, Karen Weiner Escalera, observed that "Concierges are king. A lack of time and overload of information for the affluent to sort through mean they will pay for an expert..."

Some hotel brands took aspects of the above information and decided to tap into it with more "do it yourself" solutions such as 24 hour internet access to a virtual concierge or providing hotel-generated lists of information to local attractions and events. InterContinental Hotels & Resorts,which has a portfolio of over 140 luxury hotels in 65 countries, went a step further by adding the human touch. They looked at their own staff and realized that their concierges had the neighborhood smarts and international contacts to curate this brand initiative.

Consider the following attributes of skilled professional hotel concierges:

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