Traditional Concierge: luxury or necessity in the classic deluxe hotel market?

Luxury travel writer Anisha Shah checked in to Vienna’s regal Hotel Imperial Palace, renowned for its authentic concierge.  

A cigar-sized leaden gold bullet is placed in the palm of my hand. ‘Your room key, Madame,’ proclaims an assertive and well-spoken man. Impractical?  Ah yes, but the Imperial Hotel in Vienna understands its clientele unlike any other.  Chief Concierge, Mr Moser, hotel legend and major reason that many guests return, explains that the weighted key guarantees face-to-face interaction with each hotel guest.  Too heavy to carry out, it ensures guests stop by Concierge to drop off and collect it. What better way to organically encourage conversation and build rapport? In this way, long-standing relationships have been built. And with Hotel Imperial’s large collection of return guests, such links develop into lifelong friendships. In fact, Mr Moser has travelled the world upon the invitations of his guests, being asked to dinners and theatre performances all over the globe. A legend in himself, he represents all that the hotel stands for.

Traditional concierge concept – There is great beauty in traditional Concierge; always immaculately groomed, perfectly polite and a wealth of insider information. They hark back to timeless traditions of etiquette, manners and courtesy. As a traditionalist at heart, I am slightly biased. But it couldn’t be any more fitting for a hotel that occupies a former palace of Austria’s Prince Philip of Wurttemberg in the 1860s.

Not only does Concierge hold the key to your suite but also the golden key to unlock any wish. Mr Moser can make the impossible reality for his guests. At a hotel acclaimed as one of the three ‘grandes dames’ in Vienna; timeless, luxuriant and intimate, this service plays a vital role in maintaining the bespoke tailored & personal touch so key for this market.

What is grand classic luxury as a hotel?   Whilst some boast a celebrity clientele, the guest list at one of the ‘Best Hotels In The World,’ boasts a breath-taking list of the world’s Royalty and dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth II, Charles and Diana, Indira Gandhi, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Jacques Chirac, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hugo Chavez, Adolf Hitler, Muammar Gaddafi to name a few of the thousands. Calling it a ‘hotel’ is almost an injustice. The Imperial is an age-old tradition. This has been enhanced by the fact that it occupies its own block, with no immediate neighbours. This exclusive element of security played a huge role in making it the residence of choice. After monarchs, come the musical icons and legends who’ve not only chosen to stay here but have serenaded guests in impromptu performances.

Music legends such as Billy Joel enchanted stunned guests on the piano in the infamous ‘Maria Theresia’ bar, Prince held a sudden mini-concert in the lobby and Rod Stewart tried to buy (to be promptly turned down) an original hand-crafted antique bowl.
Then we proceed to the height of current music Royalty, the arguable Queen of pop, Lady Gaga who recently took up residence.

As I enter the old-fashioned lift to my suite, I bump into Riccardo Muti, iconic Italian conductor and Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I almost feel compelled to curtsey (thankfully, I don’t!) I’m told he’s typical of the regular musicians and composers who stay here whilst performing at the infamous Opera House that draws culture-lovers from across the globe to Vienna.

What do guests think?  For a hotel of this ranking and intimacy, a traditional Concierge service is a major pull for guests. They visit Vienna frequently, enticed by new productions and exhibitions such as Gustav Klimt’s 150 years at Belvedere Palace. They boast the luxury of time to savour a very select choice of upmarket activities, dine at the grandest restaurants in town and have the finances to fund luxurious residency in the finest hotels. Butlers, maids and chandeliers, for guests here, are home from home. Entering my suite, I can see why.

The beautifully high ceilings, living room adorned with paintings and antique furniture and grand bathroom and walk-in wardrobe create a very spacious comfortable area, entirely banishing the ‘hotel’ feeling.

These guests rely on Concierge to fulfil their ambitions of each visit. Mr Moser and the team can ‘make anything happen’ in the city. And here, only the best seats in the house will do.

The Chief Concierge – The man behind the legend grew up in a family of hoteliers.

His parents owned a hotel. So the industry has been unwittingly infused in his lifeblood from early age. A self-confessed aficionado of the arts, Mr Moser is at the theatre and exhibitions at least once a week. His reasoning? His guests rely on his knowledge, opinion and contacts to book shows. Vienna’s theatres are undergoing an evolution, with a great influx of nouveau modern styles. Some of his clients, he knows, would not enjoy that. So his role is to advise based on his own experience using his background knowledge of guests.  Tickets to shows and events are charged with an added premium through Concierge. But this knowledge makes little difference to the calibre of guests who claim it to be, as I speak to several, worth the money in hassle alone.

The evolving role of concierge has changed drastically since he started working at Hotel Imperial and in his 40 years in the hospitality industry. He fondly reminisces on the nostalgia of days spent as Concierge at The Dorchester in London. Decades ago it was arguably at its height of grandeur and elegance, for which it remains esteemed. He describes the lavish balls, floating gowns, royalty, aristocracy and demands. Then, a guest would write a letter of requests in advance of their visit, as the primary form of communication. Now, he describes, being overloaded with paperwork; ironic in this digital age. E-mails need to printed and stored for records, copies made for the team, ticked off as each demand is met, replied to instantly…. It’s a whole new world. And on occasion, Mr Moser tells me, with the Internet and information available through digital platforms, on every avenue and alleyway of Vienna, his guests sometimes have knowledge about an aspect of the city that Concierge simply doesn’t. But, he agrees, the best solution is to be honest and willing; honest in admitting little knowledge and willing to research quickly to become a master of it (much like being a Journalist!) I like this. This is admirable. And in fact, he teaches me that such a skill is useful in life generally. I agree wholly.

Time flies speaking to Mr Moser; I’m fascinated by his wealth of experience and expertise. He’s perfectly presented, beautifully spoken and a source of endless life-experience. I’m an apprentice with an insatiable appetite for learning. He’s the Grandfather everybody needs. And, as such, he has invariably become the legend of the iconic Hotel Imperial.

Concierge in the classic luxury market – For me, this Vienna trip is my first taste of Solo Travel.  I’ve scoured much of the globe; always accompanied. My stay at Hotel Imperial has been a significant aide in making the most of the best of the city, both in luxury and style. Accessible Concierge who always has time to assist and will go to every length to advise and suggest, only makes this experience more invaluable. And it’s a luxury that proves inimitably enriching for uber-luxury hotels in this niche market.

This was a guest post from Anisha Shah – for more information, please visit Anisha’s website by clicking here or follow her on Twitter: @anishahbbc  Hotel Insight would like to thank Anisha and we look forward to further posts in the future.

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4 thoughts on “Traditional Concierge: luxury or necessity in the classic deluxe hotel market?

  1. This is a really excellent post, thanks for sharing. As you know, I’ve been a follower of Hotel Insight for years now and I love the idea of bringing in a professional (and ex-BBC non the less) journalist to contribute. You are right Simon, it’s important for hoteliers and sellers of hospitality to look at things from a travellers mindset now and again and I truly believe your choice to bring a respected journalist on board to share her experiences of travel is a real bonus for your blog. Congratulations.

  2. What a wonderful review and excellent consumer thoughts about the role of the concierge, which has and is changing each year (hotels seem to forget this). Thank you Simon for bringing a clearly talented journalist onboard – great addition and look forward to reading more soon from Anisha x

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