No request is too ridiculous when it comes to hospitality at these hotels (provided you can pay).
A bored businessman requested that the staff imagine and draw a portrait of him prior to his arrival; a head butler at a hotel in London was once asked to fill a guest’s bathtub with goat’s milk for bathing; a hotel room in Berlin was given a £15,000 makeover for a pop superstar—a hotel’s concierge team may sometimes have to pull off outrageous requests. In the hospitality industry, concierges are trained and prepared to make anything possible for their guests. Here’s a look at what a few of the five-star hotels around Manila have to offer.
Forty-two years since it first opened, The Peninsula Manila—or “The Pen” as it is fondly called—is one of the last grand dames in the metro. Known for its fountain, and its grand lobby with its spiral staircases and its statement Sunburst ceiling sculpture created by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, The Pen was built to coincide with the International Monetary Fund conference held in the city four decades ago.
Historic importance aside, The Pen offers bespoke tours that allow guests to pick mangoes in Zambales or visit a pearl farm in Palawan. And the transportation of choice? Helicopters.
Called The Peninsula Academy, the tours were “created to give guests an insider’s introduction to key aspects of local culture, lifestyle, cuisine, arts and history through individualized classes, tours and activities.”
The Academy, first concocted at The Peninsula Hong Kong in 1997, proved to be a “tremendous success” and thus was made into a group-wide initiative, said Mariano B. Garchitorena, director of public relations, in an e-mail interview with High Life.
The Pen Manila’s programs started in 2006 with bespoke Intramuros tours with Carlos Celdran and visits to the atelier of Filipino fashion designer Patis Tesoro. Currently, the Pen Academy offers 10 programs, including a tour of the grand old houses of Taal town in Batangas, and the aforementioned helicopter tours to Zambales, Palawan, and Corregidor (which can take anywhere from six to nine hours), among others.
Acknowledging that guests might not be able to spare nine hours for touring, the hotel is developing a pared-down Fly-and-Dine program where guests will be sent off with canapés before going on an hour-long aerial tour of Metro Manila, Corregidor, Nasugbu, Taal, and Manila Bay followed by breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea (depending on the guests’ preferred flight time).
“Some guests can’t commit a huge chunk of their time to a bells-and-whistles Peninsula Academy program, but they still want something extraordinary,” said Mr. Garchitorena of the new program which will launch in a few months.
Nüwa City of Dreams Manila
No request is too ridiculous for the butlers at Nüwa, City of Dreams Manila: perhaps this is the reason it achieved a five-star rating from the 2018 Forbes Travel Guide. It is understood, of course, says resident manager Chris Joo, that none of these requests are “immoral and illegal.” Otherwise, it’s carte blanche for everyone in the hotel, provided that you can pay the fees for your requests.
The butlers, according to him, have as their main responsibility to become a link between the guests and the hotel, covering all its departments, from food and beverage to engineering and housekeeping. A bowl of bulalo from Tagaytay? No problem, Nüwa’s butlers can provide.
Even requests from the heart are entertained. Butlers are expected to know if their assigned guests are in the hotel for a special occasion. When called for, butlers can wave their wands and transform a stay into a fairy tale: couples on their anniversary are treated to romantic surprises—of the tasteful sort—in their room while birthday celebrants are greeted with flowers and 30 employees singing “Happy birthday.”
Butlers can also contact chef de cuisines from the City of Dreams Manila’s numerous food outlets to serve as personal chefs, while the butlers themselves can serve as personal shoppers: again, no request is too ridiculous, so if you’re looking to acquire, perhaps, a certain jewel from a specific boutique, all one has to do is ask. Lilibeth Victorino, the hotel’s Butler Manager, assured High Life that her team was capable of researching an item and informing the guest of availability.
Butler training takes about two months, and includes immersions in areas around the city—say, hanging around nearby malls and restaurants for prime information beneficial to guests. “We are here to make sure the guests are happy,” said Mr. Joo.
Nobu Hotel, City of Dreams
In the Japanese aesthetic-inspired Nobu Hotel at City of Dreams Manila, the chief concierge wears crossed golden keys on the collar of his suit, a sign that he is a member of Les Clefs d’Or, an international organization of hotel concierges. It is also a symbol of quality service.
You may recognize the crossed keys from The Grand Budapest Hotel, the Wes Anderson film about “master concierge” Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes). While over-the-top, the movie does drive home the message that Les Clefs d’Or—caricatured as the Society of Crossed Keys—will go to great lengths to serve guests.
As stated on its website: “Concierge Clefs d’Or handle all duties with zeal: mail and messages, recommendations and reservations, travel and meeting planning, personal shopping and professional communications. They are also supreme social advisors, business expediters, and personal confidantes. On those rare occasions when guests’ requests cannot be fulfilled single-handedly, Les Clefs d’Or Concierges have the necessary backup: a never-ending network of acquaintances, friends, and colleagues from around the world to see to it that guests’ demands are met.”
Leo Hidalgo, chief concierge of Nobu Hotel at City of Dreams Manila, explained to High Life in an e-mail: “The concierge head is in charge of training the team members. He encourages his team to go the extra mile to ensure guest satisfaction. Concierge staff will do anything as long as it’s morally and legally right. Not all requests can be met at all times, of course. However, the concierge will exhaust all possibilities and always offer alternatives.”
Such was true for the notable request of a blind in-house guest to be assisted during his stay at the hotel. “The Nobu team had a brief familiarization of the room with the senses of touch and properly communicated this to the blind guest. The guest was also given special attention and care for a comfortable and enjoyable stay,” Mr. Hidalgo said. “A dedicated officer was assigned to assist the guest. He made sure that the guest was able to order his preferred dishes for breakfast at Nobu Manila restaurant and assisted him for his appointments on property.”
It has been 11 years since Sofitel Manila has welcomed and served guests with its French art de recevoir. Its elegant monochromatic interior and dim lighting exude a perfect atmosphere for romantic moments.
In February 2016, Sofitel Manila began offering a package called “Sky High Engagement,” a romantic experience for couples who wish to seal a lifelong commitment with an unforgettable helipad proposal.
The offer includes a limousine ride for the guests from their homes to the hotel’s main entrance. The guests are welcomed by a private butler and they are escorted to the helipad located at the canopy overlooking a 360-view of the city and the Manila bay skyline where the couple agree to a lifelong commitment.
The private butler then assists the couple to dine on a special set menu which include: a cheese platter, a creuse de Bretagne dish with pickled cucumber and Roquefort cheese, and grass-fed veal tenderloin, complete with a bottle of champagne and wine pairings. The meal romance is heightened by a string quartet playing in the background. A colorful fireworks display tops the evening, making it a night to remember.
Solaire Resort and Casino
The concierge team of Solaire Resort and Casino can be of service from the simplest requests to accomplishing requirements outside the country. At the 8.3-hectare integrated resort, the head concierge can handle “a mail or parcel delivery, sightseeing tours inquiry, giving out directions, providing shopping recommendations, to more complex requirements such as securing tickets to a sold-out concert or sports event, reserving a table in a fully booked restaurant, or a request to purchase an item that is not easily found in the Metro,” Solaire Resort and Casino chief concierge and current vice-president of Les Clefs d’Or Philippines Neil Norman Reyes told High Life in an e-mail.
Living by the code “In Service through Friendship,” their team seeks assistance from colleagues from the Concierge Society and connections around the globe for tasks which cannot be accomplished independently.
“Having access to the Les Clefs d’Or global networks makes it more efficient for us Concierges to deliver not only local guest requests but also take care and handle their requirements overseas by simply getting in touch with our colleagues in other properties or countries,” said Mr. Reyes. “Although concierges are generally expected to be the local experts that are well exposed and knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the city, it is sometimes not only about what you know but who you know to make things happen for your guests.” — High Life staff