Going the extra mile

Going the extra mile

SINGAPORE - Gone are the days when hotel concierges had to deal only with standard requests for restaurant recommendations and spa bookings.

The growing number of ultra-wealthy tourists visiting Singapore has meant that the types of requests hotel concierges receive have also grown progressively more outrageous. Think guests wanting an out-of-production toy or insisting on jumping a two-year waiting list for a designer handbag.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board's fourth-quarter report on the tourism sector's performance last year, hotels in the luxury tier were the top performers in the hotel industry, posting increases in average room rate, occupancy rate and revenue generated per room, despite all other hotel tiers posting declines.

Ms Evasusanti Abdullah, club manager of The Club at Capella Singapore, says that unusual requests among its hotel's guests have definitely become more common in recent years.

"People today are more well travelled and they are exposed to more varied service experiences. As such, it is natural that there are expectations that they bring along with them," she says, adding that the concierge team at Capella receives "large-scale requests once or twice a month".

Mr Hussain Khan Omar Khan, head butler of the Shangri-La Hotel's exclusive Valley Wing, says he receives unique requests monthly. "The frequency may be higher if we are hosting VIPs in the Valley Wing," he adds.

He adds that it is important to remain unfazed in the face of such unexpected requests.

"I remain neutral and listen carefully to the details so that I do not miss the guest's requirements," he says.

MR Ali Alsagoff, chief concierge of the Four Seasons hotel here, adds experience helps when dealing with a guest with an unusual request.

"It will be overwhelming when you are new to the job, but with a veteran concierge, you know to just take a deep breath, focus and get ready to work on those requests," he says.

Concierges from all hotels approached say they draw the line at requests that are illegal, immoral or unethical.

While most say that they have not had any questionable requests yet, one five-star hotel here revealed that its concierges had been approached for "exotic drugs", which they refused to help procure.

While the requests are becoming more challenging to meet, concierges here say the pay-off is the guests' delight and their own satisfaction at completing a request well.

Adds Mr Ali: "It validates your career as a concierge - the magician who can pull rabbits out of the hats."

SundayLife! talks to seven high-end hotels and rounds up 10 of the most unusual requests concierges here have been asked to fulfil.

jennanid@sph.com.sg

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