Thank You from Daisaku Vondran

Thank you very much to Les Clefs d’Or USA for my scholarsLCD INT QThip to attend the 61st annual UICH International Congress in Queenstown, New Zealand (April 7-12, 2013).  I have had the honor of attending every international congress since my first in Vienna in 2007, and each one has been unique.   Queenstown was such a magical place that it really brought everyone together, making it a wonderful congress.

As the plane started to get near, the view was spectacular and the Kiwis took great care of us from the moment we arrived.  I had the pleasure of staying at the Crowne Plaza. My room had a wonderful view of the lake with a private balcony.  As I arrived a day early, I was able to explore Queenstown.  I took a tour out to a secret place and spent much needed quality time with friends who I only get to see once or twice a year, if that.

Once the Congress began, our days were filled with tours, gala dinners, educational seminars, and networking. We all went on a day trip to the wine country and historic Arrow Town — where gold was first found in New Zealand.  That day, there was a group participation contest with the dancing local children. I won the contest and it was such great fun!

We also did things I have never before done in my life, like bungee jumping and shoot-over jets.  Both were amazing.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever bungee again; but I would do the shoot-over again in a heartbeat.  It’s a thrilling speedboat ride that whisks you right up to the edge of a cliff at top speed before it u-turns away at just the last second.

Forbes (formerly AAA) had an educational seminar that included a list of “secret” questions and comments they use when rating properties. I learned that they want concierges to offer at least three options for any recommendation requests. We also broke up into groups of major hotel chains.  The international Board and the New Zealand delegation really gave us an educational and exciting congress.

I even met Tom Wolfe, our first LCD USA member and the first President of the LCD USA section.  He is an icon!

Our gala dinner was situated on top of the world, at the Skyline Center.  We took gondola rides up and the view was spectacular!

I’ll always remember my special time in New Zealand and will be forever grateful to the Board of Les Clefs d’Or USA, who made it all possible for me.

I highly encourage each and every one of you to attend an international congress. You will not regret it!

In Service through friendship,

“Dai” Concierge, Daisaku Vondran


UICH announces newly elected Executive Team

UICH Exec Committee

At our most recently 60th UICH International Congress in spectacular Queenstown, New Zealand our UICH Board of Directors elected our new UICH Executive Team.   Featured in the above photo from Left to Right:  Roderick Levejac, 3rd VP, Chef Concierge Four Seasons George V Paris, Simon Thomas, 2nd VP, Chef Concierge, Browns Hotel London, Colin Toomey, 1st VP, Chef Concierge, Shangri-La Sydney, Virginia Casale ,Immediate Past President,Concierge, Sofitel Montreal, Michael Romei, General Secretary, Chef Concierge The Waldorf Towers New York City, and Jean-Roland Boutille, Treasurer, Chef Concierge Hotel Bel Ami, Paris. Our newly elected International President Emmanuel Vrettos (Greece) is not featured in the above photo.  Also announced at our Queenstown General Assembly:  Mr. Robert Watson, former Immediate Past President has now been admitted into the UICH Comite des Sages.   The following Zone Directors were elected: Jeanne Mills (USA) Americas, Franz Staufer (New Zealand) Oceania, Anders Ruggiero (Denmark) Scandinavia, Edwin Saldanha (India) Asia, Tamas Ungar (Hungary) Central Europe and Simon Delcomminette (Luxembourg) Western Europe.   We also awarded the special title of Goodwill Ambassador to our Sage Aldo Giacomello (Switzerland).   We also wish to thank the following members who served for many years with distinction on our Executive Team:  Shujaat Khan (USA), Maurice Dancer (USA), Michael Anderson (Australia), Sami Joutsenvuo (Finland), Federico Barbarossa (Italy), and Fred Lui (Hong Kong).

Discount hotel prices a bad idea, hotel boss warns

Hotel hotshots: (from left) Sofitel Queenstown general manager Vincent Macquet, Sofitel Worldwide chief executive officer Robert Gaymer-Jones and Sofitel Asia Pacific senior vice president Markland Blaiklock

Hotel hotshots: (from left) Sofitel Queenstown general manager Vincent Macquet, Sofitel Worldwide chief executive officer Robert Gaymer-Jones and Sofitel Asia Pacific senior vice president Markland Blaiklock

A warning against hotels discounting prices comes from one of the world’s leading luxury-brand hoteliers.

Englishman Robert Gaymer-Jones – Sofitel Worldwide’s chief executive officer – was in Queenstown this week to address an international conference of Les Clefs d’Or concierges.

Told that local hotels often discount to attract guests, particularly in shoulder seasons, Gaymer-Jones says it’s not a good strategy.

“Hopefully you don’t ever get to the situation where you’re discounting because as soon as you start discounting, it’s a spiral that you just continue to go down.”

It sends a signal that “we’re desperate” and “gives a perception that, ‘What’s the true value of the hotel?’”

Gaymer-Jones says Queenstown is a perfect location to chase group and meeting business in the shoulder seasons – “then you’re able to have a base piece of business and you’re able to maintain your rates”.

Queenstown’s proposed convention centre “will really enhance the meeting and incentive business and will be very important for that shoulder season period”, he adds.

Like many hoteliers, Gaymer-Jones doesn’t agree with bed taxes – an idea sometimes mooted as a way for Queenstown Inc. to raise funds from visitors.

“Anywhere in the world where there’re resort taxes or special additional taxes, when you have your rate and then you go ‘plus, plus, plus, plus’, it has a tendency to scare people away.”

He’s very happy at how Queenstown’s Sofitel is performing: “It’s a beautiful hotel, it’s elegant and it meets the brand’s requirements.”

Gaymer-Jones also addressed Queenstown Resort College hospitality management students.

“I said the first six months are usually difficult in the hotel business.

“Suddenly you leave college, you’re asked to work at night, then you’re asked to work on Friday night and a Saturday night, then you’re asked to come in on the Sunday morning – it’s really a dramatic change to your normal life pattern.

“If you get through the first six months and have a real passion for this business, you will stay in the business and you will develop your careers around the world.”

Concierges gather in Queenstown

Queenstown is playing host to the top professional hotel concierges in the world with the 2013 Union Internationale des Concierges Hotels congress opening at the Skyline Gondola last night.

It is the first time New Zealand has hosted the congress, which represents the world’s top 3 per cent of professional hotel concierges.

This year’s event will celebrate 60 years of the union, also known as the International Congress of Les Clefs d’Or.

Top concierges from hotels and resorts from more than 50 countries are in Queenstown to mark the milestone.

The opening ceremony featured Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden, UICH president Virginia Casale, of Montreal, and New Zealand Hotel Concierge Society Les Clefs d’Or president Franz Staufer.

Ms Casale said it was the first time the event had been held away from a capital city and she called the resort town “paradise”.

“No wonder this location was chosen for filming The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings,” she said.

Other Les Clefs d’Or presidents from across the globe including Qatar, Australia, United States, China, Russia, Canada, Brazil, India, and Europe also took part.

Tomorrow the concierges will discuss social media, guest preferences and experiences, and the future of the concierge profession, at a Trends and Innovation in Hospitality education conference.

– © Fairfax NZ News

Concierge conference set to start tomorrow

The word concierge is thought to come from the Latin word conservus – translating roughly as to slave.

However the 300-plus world class top-of-their-game concierges visiting Queenstown this week would quickly dispute this definition.

The Union Internationale des Concierges Hotels will hold its 60th international congress between three of Queenstown’s top hotels, The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Sofitel and Novotel.

Starting tomorrow ”The best of the best in the game” would network and run an educational symposium, congress chairman Franz Staufer said.

Doubling as president of Les Clefs d’Or New Zealand, Mr Staufer said top concierges from Dubai, New York and London would be present. All had had to apply and sit an examination.

”It is exclusive, but you work hard for it.”

The group will be treated to outdoor activities this week including winery tours in the Gibbston Valley, the Shotover Jet, the Canyon Swing and a tour into Skippers Canyon.

The Les Clefs NZ branch put in their hosting bid in four years ago at the intranational congress in China and Mr Staufer was delighted to bring it home for the first time in the organisation’s 80-year history.

Queenstown Lakes District mayor Vanessa van Uden will open the conference at a cocktail evening up Skyline tomorrow night.

It will continue through to Friday as the annual meeting will be held, along with a board of directors meeting and a gala dinner to close, he said.

The Hotel Concierge Society Les Clefs d’Or NZ is a non-profit, non-political association of tourism industry professionals. The international society has 3500 members in 42 countries.

Otago Daily Times

Virginia Casale conducts seminar in Tokyo for LCD Japan

Virginia - Tokyo
Dear colleagues and friends of the Union Internationale des Concierges “Les Clefs d’Or“,
We are delighted to announce that we Les Clefs d’Or Japan have held on Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 a “Concierge seminar by our UICH International President Virginia Casale, under the joint sponsorship of Japan Concierge Association. The seminar was held at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo, ( Mr. Anthony COSTA General Manager) The theme was A “Rendez vous” to Capture our Potential in Japan, based on three chapters.

Chapter 1
60 questions (our current circumstance which concierge are surrounded in the world (discussion)

Chapter 2
Network for concierge

Chapter 3
U.I.C.H International “Les Clefs d’Or” history (discussion).

About 100 participants joined the seminar, three participants from abroad, Tim GAN (hotel operations / Galaxy Macau), Julian LEONG (Chief concierge / Galaxy Macau), Kevin Colarusso (concierge / Sofitel Montréal Golden Mile).
We are waiting for you in 2015 for the Asian Congress in JAPAN!!! Les Clefs d’Or Japan members

(Text and Post by Philippe Muller-LCD Japan – Originally featured in the UICH Blog)

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Fahad Al Thani , from Doha, Qatar

Virginia with RobertaHis Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Fahad Al Thani , from Doha, Qatar in the Middle East, being honored as the new Les Clefs d’Or International Honorary Member presented by Mme. Virginia Casale – Les Clefs d’Or International President from Montreal Canada, Emmanuel Vrettos – Les Clefs d’Or Vice President from Athens, Greece along with Robert Watson – Past President from Washington DC, Randy Santos, Founder and President of Qatar Concierge Society and Roberta Nedry, President of Hospitality Excellence Inc

International President Virginia Casale and Roberta Nedry in the Middle East.

The concierge must play an increasingly strategic role in the overall guest experience since that person serves as an extension of the general manager or senior executives of leading hotels, Hospitality Excellence Inc president Roberta Nerdy said yesterday.
She was addressing a workshop on training of concierges from leading five and four star hotels from GCC countries at the Intercontinental Doha yesterday.
The day-long training session titled ‘Professional Concierges of the Middle East: Inspiration in Doha, Qatar’ involved over 30 participants from Qatar, UAE and other GCC countries.
Nerdy said the hospitality industry is expected to create thousands of job opportunities in the Middle East as countries invest heavily in the tourism industry. This in turn has made it imperative for concierges to widen their skill sets even more and focus on leaving a lasting impression on guests who visit them.
Qatar is investing heavily in the tourism sector. According to a recent report, the Qatar Tourism Authority plans to invest $20bn on tourism infrastructure development as it prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Around 45,000 additional hotel rooms are expected to be added in the country and some 21 new hotels are planned to open between 2012 and 2017.
In her training sessions, Nerdy said the ability to truly deliver exceptional service does not automatically appear by simply adding the word concierge.
She stressed on the importance of being polite to requests made by guests and be wary of having an indifferent attitude. Little things like having an improper tone can turn a potential loyal guest into an angry customer.
Also, she stressed that one must not forget the last leg of a guest’s stay at a hotel. “I’ve heard people say that they had a great experience until the time they had to check out,” she said. She said check-out actually provides an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the guests.
She used a quote to highlight the fact that a guest will always remember how they made them feel. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
President Les Clefs d’or International Virginia Castle and vice president Emmanuel Vrettos flew in from Paris especially for the event.
Sheikh Mohamed bin Fahad al-Thani is a supporter of the Qatar Conceirge Society founded by chief concierge Intercontinental Doha Randy Santos. Intercontinental’s general manager Andreas Pfister, the society’s executive committee members, Nizar Saidi, Ritz-Carlton’s Mohamed Rabie and Andrew Ferrer were among those who were present in the workshop.