The Hotel Concierge in Scandanavia

By Anders Ruggiero President, Clefs d'Or Denmark | December 01, 2013

Probably not many of you know this, but the Concierge society in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark) has a long and glorious history. In Sweden the Swedish Hall porters Association (SHPF) dates back to 1926 and were for many years also a national union for their members. SHPF countrd more than 200 members in the 60's and 70's. The association was, at that time also an important member of UICH Les Clefs d'Or.

Unfortunately, during the end of the 1990's the profession was changing, with hotels looking more at numbers than service. In 2001 the Swedish Section came to the conclusion to no longer be an active member of the society of Les Clefs d'Or. Today they have started rebuilding and reorganizing and have members at some of the best hotels in Stockholm and Gothenburg.

In the rest of the Scandinavian countries the times have not been as hard as for our colleagues in Sweden but the membership numbers have been falling as well.

Denmark, where I am from and where I work, is one of the founders of the UICH Les Clefs d'Or, also with a history dating back to 1937. The society has changed through time. In the beginning only full members were allowed in to the society. Then it was known as a secret society for cigar smoking men. Today Les Clefs d'Or Denmark also allow front office staff into the society, but only as local members. Only a hotel concierge can wear the famous crossed keys, seen on concierge uniforms across the world. We do this to promote the profession to the hotels and hopefully, in time to create more concierge positions around the country.

In Copenhagen we have six 5 star properties and not all of them have a concierge. Since the economic crises hit Scandinavia in 2008, many hotels have looked into new possibilities to turn around the business. It is very expensive to run a hotel in Scandinavia, compared to other countries, as we have extremely high taxes and salaries are much higher when compared to other countries. Even so, the service industry is not paid very well. Compared to our colleagues around the world, when traveling in Scandinavia a hotel guest will most likely be assisted by a young concierge, often a male as there can be other duties, such as assisting with luggage handling on busy days.

At the property where I worked in 2008, there was a cut back in staff in many positions around the hotel. However it ended up with one concierge left to serve a 500-room hotel and up to 1000 conference guests. You've guessed right, it was only me. Of course I had some assistance from part-timers, but there was no focus on the individual guest at all. I also learned a lot. In the end, we as concierges are here to serve the guests and hotel visitors with all their needs, prior to, during and even after their stay.

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There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.